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Linux-ready COM mates an i.MX6 SoC with an FPGA

May 5, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 1,133 views

Armadeus has launched a Linux-equipped module that integrates a Freescale i.MX6 SoC with a Cyclone V GX FPGA, and offers SATA, CSI, DSI, and optional WiFi.

French technology firm Armadeus Systems has been selling Freescale i.MX based modules for years, including the circa-2009, i.MX27 based APF27. For the new “APF6_SP” computer-on-module, Amadeus has turned to Freescale’s Cortex-A9 i.MX6 SoC, which it had previous adopted for its APF6 COM. The feature set on the APF6_SP is very similar, with one major exception: the addition of an Altera Cyclone V GX FPGA.

Armadeus APF6_SP front (left) and back views
(click images to enlarge)

Armadeus is pitching the 90 x 50mm APF6_SP as a competitor to modules based on the Altera Cyclone V SX SoC and the the Xilinx Zynq-7000. The APF6_SP has a greater range of peripherals than such modules, including SATA, CSI (camera), and DSI (display), and it also offers the advantage of a SoC with a GPU (Vivante) and an H.264 video codec, says Armadeus. The combination of these multimedia interfaces with an FPGA makes the module “especially well-suited for video/ flow signal processing and industrial automation,” says the company.

Armadeus allows that modules based on the Cyclone V SX or Zynq have the advantage of a faster AXI interconnect between the ARM and FPGA subsystems. By comparison, the APF6_SP uses PCIe to connect its two separate i.MX6 and Cyclone V GX processors.

However, due to Linux overhead, this throughput advantage is smaller than it looks, claims Armadeus, which says the maximum useful bandwidth on the SPF6_SP is 200Mbps under Linux. Latency is also claimed to be about the same due to the overhead of Linux. Further comparisons with Cyclone V and Zynq platforms may be found in this comparison page (PDF), which includes the pair of diagrams below.

APF6_SP SBC compared to a typical Zynq SBC
(click images to enlarge; source: Armadeus)

The APF6_SP expresses its ARM I/O via a pair of 120-pin connectors, and it connects to the FPGA via a 140-pin HSMC connector. You can choose from single, dual, or quad-core versions of the i.MX6. The FPGA defaults to a Cyclone V 5CGXC4 FPGA, but you can order faster C5-C9 versions for post-mounting on special request. Industrial temperature support on this 3.3V module is available on volume orders.

The module is equipped with 512MB to 2GB DDR3 of 800Mbps (32-bit) or 1066Mbps (64-bit) RAM, and up to 64GB of eMMC flash. A gigabit Ethernet controller is provided, and WiFi and Bluetooth are optional.

The APF6_SP supports HDMI, LVDS, and DSI display connections, and also offers a CSI camera interface and a Parallel video input. You get the usual long list of peripherals found on i.MX6 based modules, including SATA, CAN, and USB host and OTG ports.

The module is supported with an open source Linux BSP based on Linux 3.10 or 3.19+ with Xenomai real-time Linux, Qt 5, custom rootfs, or Debian/ArchLinux. An “APF6_Dev” carrier board is also available (see farther below).

Specifications listed for the APF6_SP include:

  • Processors:
    • Freescale i.MX6 (1x, 2x, or 4x Cortex-A9 cores @ 1GHz); Vivante GPU, etc. (OpenGLES/CL/VG with H.264 codec)
    • Altera Cyclone V 5CGXC4 FPGA (C5, C7, and C9 available on request)
  • Memory:
    • 512MB to 2GB DDR3 800Mbps or 1066MBps RAM (ARM)
    • Optional up to 768MB 24-bit DDR3 RAM for FPGA
    • 2-64GB eMMC flash
  • Display/camera:
    • HDMI
    • LVDS
    • DSI 24-bit parallel LCD
    • MIPI-CSI camera interface
    • Parallel video input
  • Wireless — Optional 802.11b/g/n with Bluetooth 4.0 (LE)
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet with PHY
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 OTG
    • USB 2.0 host
    • SATA II (3Gpbs)
    • 3x MMC/SD
    • 5x UARTs (1x for debug)
    • 2x audio
    • SPDIF
    • 2x CAN
    • 3x I2C
    • 5x SPI
    • 4x PWM
    • JTAG
    • Up to 83x GPIO
  • Power– 3.3VDC 5%
  • Operating temperature — -0 to 70°C; optional -40 to 85°C support available in volumes of 100+
  • Dimensions — 90 x 50mm
  • Operating system — Open source BSP with Linux3.10 or 3.19+ and U-Boot pre-installed

Development carrier board

The APF6_SP can be bought with an APF6_Dev board, which also supports the non-FPGA APF6 module. The 12V, 160 x 110mm carrier board is equipped with a gigabit Ethernet port, a microSD slot, a SATA connector with power, and USB 2.0 host and OTG ports.

APF6_Dev carrier board photo and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

An HDMI port is available, along with a 4-wire resistive touchscreen controller for use with the separate LCD interface. LVDS and MIPI-CSI connections are also available, along with audio jacks, SPDIF out, a CAN port, and JTAG. Three 20-pin connectors open up most of the other I/O, and GPS and 3G cellular modems are optional.

Further information

The APF6_SP is available now at a unit price of 212 Euros ($236), and the APF6_Dev will ship later this month for 255 Euros ($285). More information may be found at the Armadeus Systems APF6_SP module product page, as well as the APF6_Dev page.

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One response to “Linux-ready COM mates an i.MX6 SoC with an FPGA”

  1. BFU says:

    The Zynq ultrascale+ is armv8 and has GPU, OpenCL etc etc, so there’s no benefit in this board I’d say …

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