Mini Cards are a convenient, versatile and low cost solution for adding additional interfaces to an Embedded System. Popularised in Laptop Computers they now have a home in Embedded Systems providing very compact expansion solution. The two common formats are Mini-PCI and Mini-PCIe with M.2 rapidly gaining in popularity. These mini cards provide a simple means of adding additional interfaces to a system. Adapters are available to allow Mini-PCI and Mini-PCIe cards to be installed into a full size PCI or PCIe slot.
What is a Mini-PCI card?
As its name implies, a Mini-PCI card has a PCI interface which generally feeds into a PCI device on the module. This can provide peripherals such as:
- Network Adapters
- Serial Ports
- Frame Grabber
What is a Mini-PCIe card?
Mini-PCIe or Mini-PCI Express cards were more recently introduced and replace Mini-PCI in newer applications. A Mini-PCIe module has a single PCIs lane which provides a simpler yet more powerful interface. PCIe modules are available in two sizes, full size (length) and half size. Many industrial motherboards offer one, two or more Mini-PCIe slots. Within the specification of Mini-PCIe are a number of interface pins that are used for other purposes. For example USB is generally available and is often used for 3G Modems, 4G Modems or GPS. Other pins are defined for use with a SIM card for a GSM Modem.
The range of cards is quite extensive including:-
- Network adaptors
- Frame grabbers
- Video capture and compression
- 3G and 4G modems
Later Developments: M.2
More recently the M.2 specification was introduces initially as a replacement for mSATA modules but is now becoming popular in a number of different applications. The M.2 specification amongst other things provides up to four PCI Express lanes and one logical SATA 3.0 interface. The possibilities are enormous and we are gradually seeing new products being released. A Mini PCIe to M.2 adaptor is available.
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