How to Save $$ With COM Express

Win With Open Standards

Written by
Kathleen Conroy
Published on
September 7, 2021 11:50:28 AM PDT September 7, 2021 11:50:28 AM PDTth, September 7, 2021 11:50:28 AM PDT

Before I can start saving you money, I have to give you a history lesson. Stay with me! It is fascinating! 

The first COM Express standard was released in 2005 by the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG). PICMG is a group of about 140 companies that specialize in all sorts of design: mechanical, computer, software, thermal, backplane, networking… the list goes on. They aspired to create standardized module interfaces with specific pinout configurations and sizes that would be attractive for both military and commercial small form factor applications. PICMG succeeded, and has since defined several COM Express module types across three different form factors. New module types are defined rarely, as technology and system design philosophies demand. 

Because COM Express is an open standard, any COM Express module can be interchanged with any other COM Express module of the same type ~ even if they come from different manufacturers. Allow me to unpack some of the benefits of this for you as a customer. First, your system is future proofed! If you need more processor power down the road, you can just swap out your COM Express module! Second, open standards are explicitly defined so that many manufacturers can build COM Express boards. They are competing against one another to increase performance and decrease price in order to win your business! How could you not win?

COM Express modules integrate core CPU and memory functionality, common PC I/O, USB, audio, graphics, and Ethernet. All I/O signals are mapped to two high density, low profile connectors on the bottom side of the module. COM Express modules can be used as standalone single board computers or as a processor module that can be plugged into a carrier board that brings out your application specific I/O. You can choose to use an off-the-shelf carrier board to speed development if you don't have any exotic I/O requirements. Or you can design your own carrier board so that you only pay for the I/O your application requires. ADLINK Technologies, a member of the PICMG consortium, estimates that you can design a COM Express carrier in less than half the time it would take you to do a full custom single board computer design. That is why ADLINK recommends COM Express to anyone who is looking at 500 to 10,000 systems a year.

We have found COM Express Type 6 Basic and Compact to be the most popular modules we sell. We offer several versions with long life expectancy Intel CPUs, and they support PCI Express Gen 3, 10GbE, SATA, USB 3.0, and high resolution video. COM Express Type 7 is also very interesting as it provides for four 10 GbE interfaces and it brings out a whopping 32 PCI Express lanes for a tremendous number of connectivity and interface options, including using GPGPUs on board. Think of Type 7 as your server-class modules. COM Express Type 10 is a mini form factor (84 x 55mm) and is designed for ultra-small applications. Coming soon is COM HPC which is designed to blow the barn doors off with computational power. That will have to be a different blog.

If you are responsible for bringing out a system design that will only require 50 to 10,000 systems a year, you will certainly save time and money by using an off-the-shelf COM Express module. If you are at the lower end of that annual usage, you will save time and money by using an off-the-shelf COM Express carrier board. And you will save time and money down the road when your processing requirements increase, and all you have to do is swap out your COM Express module. Remember, all those companies that design and manufacture COM Express modules are competing for your business! Reap the rewards of their work to maximize performance and minimize cost by choosing COM Express.

You can learn more about PICMG and all the open standards they develop and maintain at

Watch our products-of-the-day at and our social media posts for the rest of the week for some of our favorite COM Express modules and off-the-shelf carriers.