What is the PCIe Mini Card & Why Now?

PCI Express (PCIe) Mini Card slots have begun cropping up on Mini-ITX mainboards ever since the Santa Rosa platform made its debut. However, the PCIe Mini Card has been kicking around for quite some time, being used in custom-ordered laptops as wireless devices. Most of the documentation I have read about the PCIe Mini Card dates back to 2005, which, in the technology industry, seems like a decade ago. So, why is it making its entrance into the Mini-ITX arena now?

The PCIe Mini Card is a replacement for the Mini PCI card found on many Mini-ITX mainboards. It is half the size of a Mini PCI card, measuring 30 mm x 51 mm. It has a 52-pin edge connector as opposed to the 100-pin stacking connector of  Mini PCI Type I & II cards and the 124-pin edge connector of Mini PCI Type III. The new card is modeled after the Mini PCI Type III, but is sans side retaining clips.

The slot on a mainboard must support both an x1 PCI Express link and a USB 2.0 link because the PCIe Mini Card can utilize PCI Express and/or USB 2.0 connectivity. The PCIe Mini Card has a 2.5Gb/s serial bus, providing a significant improvement in connectivity.

As I mentioned above, the PCIe Mini Card is not new news. So, why the introduction now? From what I can tell, it appears that it has something to do with getting the most from Windows Vista.  Intel Turbo Memory (code-named Robson) is a flash memory add-on component for the PCIe Mini Card slot. Without having to become too technical here (which is certainly not one of my strengths), the Turbo Memory can perform two jobs (ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive—caching features of Windows Vista) in one small, internal package.

So, now that we have Mini-ITX mainboards boasting full Vista Premium support, it makes sense that these same boards also would provide PCIe Mini Card slots. There could very well be other reasons, as in the fact that Mini PCI is being phased out by the PCIe Mini Card standard; this is really due to PCIe replacing PCI.

The small form factor products I have seen thus far sporting the new PCIe Mini Card slots are the MSI GM965 (MS-9803) and the AOpen MP965-DR. Unfortunately, we don’t have much to offer in the way of cards, but I am sure if there is demand for them, we will provide.

About Kristina Bond
Kristina Bond was the Marketing Director for Logic Supply from 2007 to 2012. She graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia with an M.F.A. in photography and a B.F.A in photography and communication from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV. While technology and Logic Supply remain close to her heart, she moved on from the company in June 2012 to do marketing for the restaurant industry. To get in touch with Kristina, please contact kristina@kristinadrobny.com.
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9 Responses to What is the PCIe Mini Card & Why Now?

  1. Andrew P says:

    Any chance of offering an adapter/flex-riser to attach regular x1 PCI Express cards to the PCIe Mini slot(s)? That could open up some more options to use the GM965 or MP965-DR instead of the older 945GM2.

  2. Kristina Bond Kristina says:

    It seems that there are no current solutions out there to attach a PCIe card to the PCIe Mini slot.
    However, the MSI GM965 offers both a PCI (32-bit) slot and a PCIe x16 slot for people to choose which device best suits their application. The AOpen MP965-DR only has PCIe Mini Card slots, so you are somewhat limited there.

  3. Joe says:

    What I want to know is if you can plug a mini PCIe card into a x1 slot like on a full sized motherboard.

  4. Kristina Bond Kristina says:

    Hi Joe,
    To be honest, I don’t know. I checked around with some of the engineers and build team and they all don’t have a solid answer.

    The PCIe Mini Card is x1, but it doesn’t have the edge connectors that secure PCIe cards into the slots. Not to mention, it is positioned a little differently on the board and is mounted differently in the case. So, even if does work in a PCIe slot on the mainboard, it might not be as secured as you would like. This has to do with the position of the screw holes on the card and what the card is being secured to.

    I did notice that some sites have PCIe Mini Card to PCIe adapters. So, it seems that that might be required. Also, the connector pins could be different, too.

    I apologize that I can’t give you a straight answer. If I find out more, I’ll keep you informed.

  5. Intel pre N draft 2.0 says:
  6. Mike Hanssen says:

    We only have High Speed USB, can we interface to a PCI Express Mini Card such as Intel WiFi 4965AGN or do we have to have PCIe ? Reading the datasheets on various PCI Express Mini Cards, none indicate if you need PCIe and/or USB, and yet the standard indicates this.

  7. Forest Bond Forest says:

    Hi Mike,

    It sounds like you’d like to be able to use PCIe Mini Cards connected to a standard USB 2.0 port via some sort of adapter. I’m not sure if such an adapter exists, but if it does, you’d have to be sure that the device you are using does not require any of the other signals that the PCIe Mini Card standard includes. This includes PCI Express signals, as well as SMBus, SIM, and 1.5V and 3V power lines (plus a few more less important signals).

    It doesn’t surprise me that device data sheets don’t always specify which of the PCIe Mini Card signals they require. Standards exist so that manufacturers have a concise way of saying what their devices require. Adapting devices designed for one standard to another one is probably not a use-case the manufacturer had in mind.

    If all you have is USB 2.0, I’d recommend looking for an equivalent USB device. There are plenty of USB 2.0 WiFi modules available.

  8. salvatore says:

    come si configura?

  9. adrian says:

    for thinkpad x240 Lenovo proposes an optional 16GB SSD memory, but this replaces the mini-PCle. can someone make me understand what is the trade off?

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