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Miniscule i.MX7 module is also offered in SBC format

Feb 24, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 999 views

[Updated: Feb. 25] — Phytec has spun a Linux-friendly 50 x 41mm “PhyCore-i.MX7” COM featuring extended operating temps and availability as part of a sandwich-style SBC.

NXP’s low-power, Cortex-A7 based i.MX7 system-on-chip, which includes a Cortex-M4 MCU for real-time processing and motor control, appears to be heading for the same popularity as the i.MX6. Size matters with an IoT-focused chip like the i.MX, and Phytec has announced the smallest i.MX7 computer-on-module yet.

The 50 x 41mm PhyCore-i.MX7 beats both the 67.6 x 36.7mm CompuLab CL-SOM-iMX7 and this week’s 68 x 42mm Colibri iMX7 from Toradex.

PhyCore-i.MX7, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

Like the CL-SOM-iMX7, the module can be purchased alone or as part of a sandwich-style SBC, in this case the PhyBoard-i.MX7 Zeta. Both the COM and SBC are available with Phytec’s Linux BSP based on Yocto Project code.

Phytec’s COM and SBC are aimed at IoT gateways, industrial HMI, factory automation, machine vision, building automation, networking, medical imaging, and portable test and measurement. Previous PhyCore modules include the recent TI Sitara AM57x based PhyCore-AM57x.

The PhyCore-i.MX7 features up to 2GB DDR3 RAM, up to 8GB NAND, and up to 128GB eMMC. It also supports dual GbE ports, with one PHY on the module itself, compared to one or two 10/100 ports for its rivals. However, it lacks the CompuLab module’s onboard wireless radios.

PhyCore-i.MX7 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Instead of using a SODIMM-style edge connector, the PhyCore-i.MX7 has a pair of underside connectors that combine for 240 pins of I/O. The range and number of interfaces are fairly similar to the other two i.MX7 COMs, especially the more feature rich CL-SOM-iMX7. Like that module, it includes MIPI-CSI and PCIe. It also adds three I2S interfaces and includes an RTC and a tamper detection circuit.

Specifications listed for the PhyCore-i.MX7 module include:

  • Processor — NXP i.MX7 Solo or Dual (1x or 2x ARM Cortex-A7 cores @ 1.0GHz) Cortex-M4 MCU; 2D image processor; NEON SIMD and VFPv4 support
  • Memory:
    • 1GB to 2GB DDR3 RAM
    • Up to 8GB NAND flash
    • 4GB to 128GB eMMC
    • 16MB QSPI NOR flash
  • Display – MIPI-DSI (2-lane, TTL, 24bpp) with external touch support
  • Networking — 2x Gigabit Ethernet (1x PHY on COM)
  • Other I/O (via 240-pin 0.5mm connector):
    • 3x MMC/SD/SDIO
    • 2x USB 2.0 OTG
    • USB 2.0 host
    • Analog audio I/O
    • MIPI-CSI 2-lane camera
    • 7x UART
    • 4x I2C
    • 3x I2S
    • 4x SPI/SSP
    • 2x CAN bus
    • GPIO, JTAG, PWM, ADC, SAI, keyboard, tamper detection circuit
  • Other features — RTC
  • Power — 3.3V
  • Operating temperature options — 0 to 95°C or -20 to 105°C
  • Dimensions — 50 x 41mm
  • Operating system — Linux (Yocto Project) BSP with bootloader, kernel, file system, source

PhyBoard-i.MX7 Zeta SBC

The PhyBoard-i.MX7 Zeta is available as a standalone carrier board for evaluation or as an SBC with the PhyCore-i.MX7 module pre-installed via its dual connectors, “enabling integration into end user applications,” says Phytec. The default configuration of the COM is a dual-core i.MX7 with 1GB DDR3 RAM, and 4GB eMMC.

PhyBoard-i.MX7 Zeta, front and back

The 100 x 72 mm carrier board is limited to real-world coastline ports including dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB host port, a micro-USB OTG port, and a microSD slot. The board is further equipped with headers for CAN and RS232.

The HDMI, MIPI-DSI, resistive touch, and audio interfaces are enabled via a separate A/V adapter. If you want capacitive touch, you need an additional LCD adapter. An expansion connector provides signals including USB 2.0 host, 2x I2C, 5x UART, CAN, SDIO/SD/MMC, 2x eCSPI, 4x ADC inputs, 3x tamper, 2x PWM, GPIO, 3×3 Keypad, MIPI-CSI, MIPI-DSI, and JTAG. Other features include a mini-PCIe interface, an onboard RTC battery backup and a single user LED.

The board is available in a kit form with a dual-pin Phoenix power plug, as well as RS-232 and CAN adapters. A separate Evaluation Module provides an RS-232 port, 3x buttons, 3x LEDs, and JTAG debug support. Schematics are available via registration.

Further information

Sample quantities of the PhyCore-i.MX7 module and PhyBoard-i.MX7 Zeta are immediately available, and production quantities are expected in during Q2, depending on availability of the final version if the silicon. More information may be found on the PhyCore-i.MX7 and PhyBoard-i.MX7 Zeta product pages.

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