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Low-power x86 SoCs arrive on Qseven and SMARC

Jan 28, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 1,431 views

ICOP is prepping its first Qseven and SMARC form-factor COMs based on the x86-based, 800MHz DMP Vortex86DX2 SoC. The Linux-ready COMs support GbE and HDMI.

With the advent of Internet of Things applications, ICOP Technology appears to be enjoying fresh demand for its energy-efficient boards based on DMP’s x86-based Vortex processors. There’s enough anyway to justify a newly announced line of ICOP modules based on modern Qseven and SMARC form factors instead of PC/104. At Embedded World, to be held Feb. 24-26 in Nuremberg, Germany, the company will reveal what appears to be its first modules built to industry standard COM formats — one Qseven, one SMARC. Meanwhile, ICOP has released photos and some basic details about the modules.

ICOP’s new Qseven (left) and SMARC modules

“We see a strong trend towards small form factor system designs requiring a dedicated set of individually located I/O interfaces,” stated ICOP Technology European headquarters president and CEO, Yin-Chen Chou. “Both QSeven and SMARC Computer-on-Modules deliver a sophisticated platform to meet this demand in a most efficient and highly cost effective manner. DMP Vortex processor technology is a perfect fit for both the long tail x86 deployment as well as all the new upcoming Internet of Things-connected ultra- low-power appliances.”

ICOP Technology, a subsidiary of chip designer DMP, which also goes by the name DM&P Group, has been churning out modules and SBCs based on low-power, x86 Vortex processors for years. The DMP processors have shown up in the past on SBCs such as the circa-2009 PC/104-compatible VDX-6354 and the 3.5-inch ICOP-6326, introduced in 2011. Both boards used the DMP Vortex86DX SoC. In Nov. 2013, DMP launched an Arduino-compatible 86Duino Zero open-spec SBC based on its 300MHz Vortex86EX processor.

ICOP’s new SMARC and Qseven modules will be equipped with soldered DMP Vortex86DX2 SoCs clocked at 800MHz. The DX2, which was featured in the Adlink CoreModule1-86DX2 PC/104 module, updates the DX version by boosting the clock rate to 1GHz, integrating a 2D GPU on-die, and doubling RAM support, among other changes. Power consumption on the Adlink module was cited as 6 to 6.5 Watts, which compares nicely with COMs based the lowest power Intel Atom or AMD G-Series x86 SoC models.

The unnamed SMARC and Qseven COMs are ICOP’s first Vortex86DX2-based modules. Both will feature 1GB of soldered DDR2 RAM, and support SD, eMMC, and 1.5Gbit/s SATA interfaces. The COMs will support resolutions of up to 1280 x 1024 pixels via VGA, LVDS, and HDMI connections.

The new modules will provide a gigabit Ethernet controller, as well as USB 2.0, PCIe x1, audio, SPI, I2C, and GPIO interfaces. Extended temperature support will range from -20 to 70°C. As usual with DMP processors, embedded Linux is supported along with X-Linux, QNX, VxWorks, FreeBSD, and DOS. The modules will also support Windows CE 6.0, Embedded Compact 7, XP Professional, Embedded Standard (XPE), and WePOS.

The 70 x 70mm Qseven form-factor was launched by the Standardization Group for Embedded Technologies (SGET) in 2008, and is now widely used by Linux-based COMs, especially those using ARM processors. Qseven uses a 314-pin MXM golden finger connector.

SGET launched SMARC (Smart Mobility ARChitecture) in 2013 in 82 × 50mm and 82 × 80mm formats. Both SMARC versions use MXM3 connectors, which also feature 314 pins, but are not compatible with MXM. SMARC is more specifically focused on modern ARM-Cortex SoCs, aiming to efficiently pass along ARM benefits such as low power consumption to COTS designs. Last year, however, we saw the first x86-based SMARC module with Kontron’s Atom E3800 based SMARC-sXBTi.

“By 2017, VDC predicts a CAGR (combined annual growth rate) of approximately 15 percent for the entire Computer-on-Module and COM carrier market,” stated Engelbert Hörmannsdorfer, Chairman of SGET, which oversees the Qseven and SMARC standards. “As SMARC and Qseven are the latest form factor standards in this area, here we expect to see a much higher CAGR within this period. ICOP Technology’s designs with DMP Vortex processor technology will make a valuable contribution to this growth.”

ICOP’s existing Linux-ready COMs

In addition its two new COMs and earlier line of Vortex86SX- and VortexDX-based SBCs, ICOP also manufactures a range of Linux-ready modules based on DMP’s SoCs in several proprietary formats, ranging in size from 52 x 52mm to 70 x 70mm. Four currently available models support the 800MHz DMP Vortex86DX and four more support the older 300MHz Vortex86SX. The company has yet to release one based on DMP’s newer Vortex86DX2. Development boards for each of these modules are also available.

SOM304RD-VI and headless SOM200RD-PC COMs
(click images to enlarge)

The top-of-the-line SOM304RD-VI measures 70 x 70mm and combines the Vortex86DX with an XGI Volari Z9s chipset with 32MB of onboard VGA Memory. The 52 x 52mm SOM200RD-PC is essentially identical to the SOM304RD-VI, but omits the video controller.

Both modules support up to 512MB of DDR2 RAM, and include a 4MB SPI flash disk. An EmbedDisk flash module starts at 512MB and can be expanded to up to 4GB. They’re further equipped with a Fast Ethernet controller, as well as I/O including USB, UART, GPIO, and IDE expansion. Other features include a watchdog timer and both extended and industrial temperature support.

Further information

ICOP’s first two DMP Vortex DX2 SoC modules, based on SMARC and Qseven respectively, will be launched at Embedded World in Nuremberg (Hall 1, Booth 1-117). More information should eventually appear on ICOP’s System on Module page.

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