Why does Motherboard Cost So Much

How many layers does the motherboard PCB have? Is it different on different CPU configs?
This may justify the enormous cost of one ($1K), despite the chip (1185G7) weighing in only $426 MSRP, especially since Intel never charge OEMs the MSRP for bulks.

Edit:
Seems like this thread is No. 11111. Interesting.

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I would be very surprised if it was the PCB itself that was costly in the framework laptops. 6 layer motherboard PCB’s were $10 to the piece decades ago. Manufacturing has gotten better and cheaper. I would still be surprised if the cost per piece was ridiculously expensive with even 20+ layers.

Probably consider the global silicon shortage instead for being the cause of the price. Framework also clearly isn’t purchasing in large enough bulk to get the market’s cheapest prices (evident by the sales method of batches, if they had bulk there would be storage and direct sale from a warehouse).

Also consider there is much more to a motherboard than just the CPU. There is licensing fees (especially for vPro which framework is licensed for, thunderbolt 4 certification, etc). Other component costs (CPU cooling), material acquisition, assembly, assembly logistics, post-assembly testing and QA, and finally shipping logistics.

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If you do not want your motherboards to be made of FR4 (which is not the best material, in any respect), and choose HDI with blind/buried vias (without any “via-in-pad” options) and you will pay $31 apiece. Granted it’s still cheap but it’s more than double than a FR4 board with no “via-in-pad”, which cost $11.

HOWEVER, you have to also remember that we have a CPU which runs at a maximum of 4.8 GHz, and if we choose the “high speed/frequency board” 1-5GHz option then our pricing becomes:

These prices are quoted at PCBway at qualtities of 1000. Board size is 300mm*200mm. Thickness is default 1.6mm, 6 layers, copper is 1oz, minimum spacing is 6 mils, hole size (including via) is 0.3mm, and surface color does not matter at this point.

I suspect that because the price for desktop motherboards have also gone to $300 for modern, good consumer-grade boards like Asus prime z690.

Yes, we are still in silicon shortage even if the manufacturing had gone back up (due to the large demand) but I believe the cost must go somewhere. Yes, you have 4 thunderbolts, but no, a single board does not cost a thousand dollars. Let alone a board without ram, storage, or network.

It least with respect to the 1185G7- its a halo product. The cost doesn’t translate as linearly from the BoM as it would for the lower skus. For the density of the board and immense amount of development I think the pricing for the lower ones is fair, and the 85 subsidizes those further.

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what that was annoying that the 85 is not even a very effective upgrade. Granted it’s a generation higher but it doesn’t actually offer anything too special. Unlike the “Intel 10” which have the new architecture and seemingly better performance.
And it is very intriguing because I would assume that the 85 would pack the same pins but …
Well here is the 65 and here is the 85 and as you can see they are identical save for clock speeds (and a single “image processing unit 6.0”), which suggest that the 85 is just cherry picked from the 65.
However, the 85 support VPro, Trusted Execution (which is actually somewhat important) and “total memory encryption” which the 65 lack, and the fact that they are MSRP at the exactly same price.

So why the $400 jump (wtf) is just intriguing and I need to understand why.

Currently the MSRP of CPUs are fictional. The real world prices may be very different. Framework is surely paying a lot more for the 1185G7 than for the 1165G7, Probably not enough to account for the entire $400 price difference, but I wouldn’t be at all shocked if they are paying $200 more.

Given the price difference, it’s hard to recommend the 1185G7 unless you need the vPro features.

There is yet another part in the family, the 1195G7, that Framework is not currently offering. That is binned for even higher clock speeds than the 1185G7 but lacks the vPro features.

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In defense of framework, it takes a LOT of time to design a motherboard, even longer to validate, and then you have to order a batch to validate the design, etc.

Hardware design is not cheap, the reason you can buy a “better” motherboard from ASUS cheaper is because of economies of scale, anyone who has designed PCBs before can tell you the difference in price per unit between 10 and 10,000 units is an order of magnitude.

Add to that they have 6 layers and to keep things modern must use materials and standards that can support GHz computing, it’s really not that outrageous.

Compared to similar items e.g. SBCs and SMARC boards, they’re a little bit less expensive.

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I will certainly be running virtual machines. In fact, I should be already but get tired to transfer windows licenses (and maybe risk losing the ability to transfer it), and I do not NEED to.

which is exactly why I am asking this question.

It’s more of a beefed up 65 than the 85 since it also doesn’t have vPro.

Yes. But it does not justify the cost difference because one, they use the same exact socket, and two, if the cost of the boards is significant then all the other boards would be crazy expensive.

Exactly as I shown above it’s expensive but not that expensive. Yes there are overheads and they need to earn, but again, the price difference between identical chipsets and sockets is …

technically we can only blame it on the chip, which is the only thing that should had changed.


In this case I will be patiently waiting for the 12th gen until … well it was already here. i7-12700K.
Intel does not seem to be interested in releasing a mobile chip anytime soon, however.
I will probably live with my two shabby systems for another year, I guess. I hope framework is … erm, working toward that. That will take quite some effort consider the “8+4” core in the desktop versions, but I hope it eventually gets there.

At least it’s reasonably comforting to know that the 1135G5 have good performance. Albeit, not any more performance than the current two systems I have, so there’s not any upgrade.

We can’t just gloss over the shortage though.

There are chips I can’t get in China and I can’t just have half a board soldered in China and half here either, the components all have a set number of reflows, so if there’s a shortage of a chip overseas I have to either pay extra for the chip, swap out for a clone (impossible for modern CPU), send my own in (very costly + export regulations out the whazoo), or do the entire assembly here at a higher cost.

I have personally had to spend $18 on an STM32 uprocessor in China that I can buy here in the states for $3 because it would have cost more to reflow my boards in house. When everything is in a shortage, the cost adds up very quick.

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vPro is not required for virtualization.

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@Xavier_Jiang, As I understand it, vPro is mainly for hardware enabled remote management IT of the device. If you’re not a business sending Framework Laptops out to employees, you really shouldn’t need it.

I think you’re mistaking vPro for VT-x, which is the technology required for more advanced virtualization features on Intel chips. Any current gen Framework has these for sure. On my i5 Linux install:

$ lscpu | grep -e Virt -e name
Model name:                      11th Gen Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-1135G7 @ 2.40GHz
Virtualization:                  VT-x
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Why does Motherboard Cost So Much

Framework right now is a small operation. They can’t get the same pricing as the big players, and don’t have the same economies of scale. Still, one of @nrp’s blog posts mentions they own the tooling themselves. That’s a significant expense upfront.

Customers opting for i7-1185G7 are not going to be very price-sensitive anyway. There isn’t much reason to choose it over the i7-1165G7 except for very specific reasons those people are willing to pay for. As others have mentioned, you don’t need it just for virtualization.

Yeah, it’s suprising there isn’t a motherboard variant with this CPU. I’d consider getting it if there were one.

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No I am not. I am just taking vPro by its descriptions, which is pretty broad.

Quite literally. Even my entry-level Pentium 6405U have it.

But then why did you say this? vPro isn’t required for virtual machines, but that’s what your reply was implying…

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As per Wikipedia:

Intel vPro technology is an umbrella marketing term used by Intel for a large collection of computer hardware technologies, including VT-x, VT-d, Trusted Execution Technology (TXT), and Intel Active Management Technology (AMT). When the vPro brand was launched (circa 2007), it was identified primarily with AMT, thus some journalists still consider AMT to be the essence of vPro.

So it’s kinda easy to be confused whether you need vPro or not. According to the official specs [1] i5 has the same virtualization capabilities as i7 (with vPro) and only lacks a couple of security ones, vPro certification itself and a couple of totally unknown to me features. I’d say that nobody needs vPro version, until you are explicitly aware that you definitely need these features.

[1] Intel® Product Specification Comparison

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In these situations I find it easier to look at the price as more of a support gesture to the company and their vision - it could be several few years before the economies of scale reach a point where prices are more reasonable.

A Fairphone 3 camera costs ~£50 and screen costs ~£90. While those prices are pretty reasonable, you probably won’t be paying that much - as they have a forum section allowing existing Fairphone owners to advertise their spare parts for sale. It’s likely to see some Framework owners taking a similar approach and purchasing a replacement mobo from other users for much cheaper than $1000.

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As someone who is running a few Hyper-V and Virtual Box VMs (with enough power to run such that I don’t always think to see what they’re doing, I can tell you unequivically that you do not need VPro for VT-X or any other tomfoolery. vPro is a marketing term, the latest in a line, designed to confuse you into spending $300 more on features that you will likely never use. Unless you plan to do some remote admin/management on the system you’re spinning up labs on, you don’t need vPro.

If you want a historical example of Intel messing with people through marketing, look at the 2002 version of Centrino, which was literally a wifi card coupled with specific Intel CPUs and chipsets. It was years later when they redefined it by referring only to specific WIFI adaptors.

Here’s VirtualBox (showcasing my snazzy 5.15.3 kernel with Paragon’s NTFS support, which way the heck faster than the old NTFS driver)

…Granted, this is a nested VM situation. Here’s the parent Windows installation, running a Rocky VM:

Save the $300 and put it towards a sweet SSD that will host your awesome VM library (and enough RAM for them all to live in!)

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Yes, but I seem to be looking forward to cut corners to that, too (which is by utilizing my other 7 sticks of existing SSDs). And so far the Framework have only one slot kind of put me off.

RAM is on the “ehh” edge. I got myself 2 8GB Samsung sticks at a price similar to that Framework offers (which also offers similar quality products).

However, I think I can agree on that I don’t need vPro since my i7-8550U machine runs those just fine (although I didn’t get to play with the more fancy things, like VT-D). My reasoning behind I maybe don’t need vPro is because vPro contain these several elements, and invalidate one (or more) of them can result in not qualifying for it. (so say it might lack all the virtualization but keeps the management piece) But the product details on said fields (e.g. VT-D) likely can ensure those chips themselves will support it.

I’m not comparing FrameWork’s price on this stuff though. I ended up using GSkill RAM because I wanted the most bang for the buck, just like you did.

As for the NVME thing: Yeah, that’s gonna be a matter of what suits your needs best. If you don’t think FrameWork is the solution you need, then you should look around until you find the best solution for you. I’m on the fence with the 1TB expansion card, but truth be told I don’t need storage badly enough. I’d like another NVMe slot, but that’s also a luxury and not a deal breaker for me, as it might be for you and others.

In any case, good luck :slight_smile: