The launch of Braswell, to replace Bay Trail-D, is going to slowly emerge over the next few months. We reported on the initial launch of SKUs as leaked, but it would seem that MSI is taking point by formally announcing three motherboards in the ECO line. We reviewed the B85M-ECO at the end of last year and came away relatively impressed, stating that this is a market that MSI could seize. At the time I did not know what the next product would be, but Braswell is MSI’s answer.

The three motherboards are all in the mini-ITX form factor, differing only in the SoC under the hood. At the high end is the MSI N3700I ECO with a quad-core Pentium N3700 at 2.40 GHz, followed by the Celeron N3150 (quad-core, 2.08 GHz) and the Celeron N3050I (dual core, 2.16 GHz).  All the boards are reported to support H.265 (HEVC) hardware decoding, and support for 4K via HDMI 1.4b, via the Gen 8 graphics on the Cherry Trail based 14nm SoC.

All the boards have two DDR3L-1600 SO-DIMM slots for support up to 8GB of DRAM along with two SATA 6 Gbps ports, a PCIe 2.0 x1 slot, gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0. The cooler is passive, which for a 6W SoC sounds about right. Judging by the images, we’re looking at a 2.1 audio codec on board (probably the ALC662 normally found in laptops) as well as a COM port and VGA/HDMI ports.

Unfortunately all my MSI contacts seem to be out of office right now, so getting more detailed images for analysis, release dates and pricing is on hold. I will update with more information as we get it.

Source: MSI

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  • Valantar - Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - link

    Even considering this, I think it's just bad product design. The SoC has 4 PCIe lanes, so adding a 2x/4x SATA3 controller would be pretty trivial (given that the board has 1 PCIe x1 slot and no other controllers, and would add, what, $2 to the BOM? All the while adding features easily justifying a $10 or more price premium.
  • Morawka - Thursday, April 9, 2015 - link

    performance wouldnt be great but it's do-able. 3rd party sata controllers are much slower than the Native Intel Ones. At least they were a year or two ago.
  • Mumrik - Sunday, April 12, 2015 - link

    SuperMicro and Asrock seem to be aware of the desire for more SATA on these type of products. At least they took care of it with Bay Trail-D.
  • Namisecond - Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - link

    The SuperMicro and Asrock offerings you're talking about are also server motherboards with a server SoC and price tag
  • KateH - Thursday, April 9, 2015 - link

    I'm curious to see what MSI prices these at. Intel doesn't officially list prices for Braswell yet, but lists the Pentium N3700 at 161$ which seems awfully high. That's up in i5 retail territory, and as much as a Haswell Pentium (or even i3) + motherboard.

    I hope MSI is getting a huge discount on the chips and can price the motherboards at under 150$, because they'd make great budget systems. Quad-core Bay Trail was already "good enough", so higher-clocked Braswell ought to be great for small/cheap/quiet office & home computers.

    The legacy ports make a lot of sense if MSI does price these low enough to build a complete system for ~300; many people still have legacy peripherals such as PS/2 devices and monitors without DVI. And the serial port will be useful for businesses- wasn't that long ago that things like scales / UPC scanners / dongles used legacy serial.
  • BrokenCrayons - Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - link

    It's possible that OEMs will get substantial volume discounts that will lower the per CPU cost, but I'm every bit as concerned as you are about the listed prices. One of the attractions of Bay Trail-based platforms is the very practical sub-$200 dollar total system price for a lot of the computers currently shipping with them and their "good enough" performance. Braswell is even more interesting for the Gen8 graphics and (I'm hoping) for the potential for 7-8 inch tablets to more commonly ship with 2-4GB of RAM instead of the 1-2GB that seems the norm with Bay Trail. The listed prices from Intel worry me because I've been waiting for this generation to hit the market before buying a new system and I don't at all like the idea of a low end CPU accounting for $160 of the system's price.
  • trivor - Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - link

    Also, unless it is prebuilt with Windows 8.1 with Bing, you're stuck with no operating system that is still exorbitantly expensive in OEM form unless you're a linux fan. The best ultra mini PCs right now are the HP Stream (@ 179 with 32 GB M.2 SSD, 2 GB RAM with one SODIMM slot open, a Celeron 2957 (dual core @ 1.4, turbo 2.0) with HD graphics and 2 USB 2.0 and 4 USB 3.0 ports, built in Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi and Gigabit ethernet. Stepping up to the Pavilion (@329) gets you an i3 but also a spinning HD (a downgrade in my book. The self built micro desktop market is not economical at this point because if you want Windows it is still exorbitantly expensive.

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