Intel has shown off some tiny mini-ITX motherboards compatible with Sandy Bridge CPUs, including a surprisingly thin cooling fan which should allow even smaller PCs.
These two motherboards are a "premium" and "value" configuration for Sandy Bridge CPUs (Intel's second generation Core processors, due for release in about three months).
The premium motherboard, below, has SATA 3 (6Gbit/s) ports on it, as well as a PCI Express slot for you to plug a graphics card into if you like.
The premium board has a good selection of I/O ports on the back including USB 3.0 -- though on this board, it was provided by a third party NEC USB 3.0 chip like all the current boards that are out there with USB 3.0. It looks unlikely at this stage that Intel will build USB 3.0 into its chipsets for Sandy Bridge, as its optical Light Peak technology is in direct competition with it. (Read our analysis of Light Peak vs USB 3.0.)
Two shots of the premium board itself follow:
Intel was keen to focus on its thin cooling fan for Sandy Bridge. Despite Sandy Bridge's capability to boost all its cores at once using Turbo Boost, it only needs this tiny fan to keep cool enough.
An Intel spokesman explained that Sandy Bridge's Turbo Boost was a bit like putting a pot of water to boil on the stove -- it doesn't boil right away. Intel is saying it can boost up all the cores in a Sandy Bridge CPU for at least 25 seconds before the chip starts to get too hot and it has to back off.
Here's the Sandy Bridge "value" board prototype from MSI. Note the skanky VGA and PS/2 connectors -- we're sad to see these hanging around, matched up with state-of-the-art CPUs, but evidently there is still plenty of consumer demand for boards with PS/2 and VGA, or hardware makers wouldn't be making them. At least there is USB and HDMI there as well.
Dan Warne is attending IDF San Francisco as a guest of Intel.