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Open-spec i.MX6 Quad SBC is bursting with wireless I/O

Dec 17, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 1,918 views

[Updated: Dec. 21] — Code has launched a compact “PixiePro” SBC that runs Linux on a 1GHz i.MX6Quad SoC, and offers extensive I/O including WiFi, BLE, NFC, GPS, and 3G.

At first glance, $130 may seem a lot these days, for yet another SBC based on the well-worn NXP (formerly Freescale) quad-core i.MX6. Yet, the PixiePro SBC stands out with its extensive wired, and especially wireless interfaces squeezed onto a compact 91 x 52mm board. It’s a bit cheaper than the i.MX6Quad based, $135 Udoo Quad, which has a larger (110 x 86.5mm) footprint, half the RAM at 1GB, and WiFi as the only standard wireless interface. It’s also lower cost than the larger (102 x 69mm) i.MX6Quad based version of SolidRun’s sandwich style HummingBoard-Gate SBC.



PixiePro angled view
(click image to enlarge)

The open spec, Arch Linux supported PixiePro is said to target a wide variety of applications, including rich multimedia applications, embedded web servers, digital entertainment systems, industrial control systems, and high definition video. The SBC’s small size, wireless functionality, accelerometer, and wide operating temperature (0 to 80°C), also suggest mobile applications, although there’s no battery option mentioned with this 5V board.

The PixiePro was developed by a Mexico City engineering services firm called Code Ingenieria, but is manufactured in the U.S. According to an email from Code’s Alfredo José Cabral Hinojosa, the PixiePro spans both the high-end hacker market and traditional commercial embedded systems. He added that the PixiePro is based on an earlier, beta-only PixiePre board, and will be followed by a Pro+ model built around an NXP QuadPlus processor with a “better GPU,” and featuring 4G LTE support. The Pro+ will be sold through channels like DigiKey and Mouser.



PixiePro front (left) and back views
(click images to enlarge)

The current product is available at the Treats4Geeks online store. Schematics are available for everything except the wireless modules, which are “currently under manufacturer NDA,” says Code.

The PixiePro backs up its quad-core, 1GHz i.MX6 SoC with 2GB of DDR3 RAM. Dual microSD slots are available for storage along with a SATA-II interface. The board’s wireless features include standard 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4 with BLE, NFC, GPS, and 3G. A Gigabit Ethernet interface is also available.



PixiePro edge views
(click image to enlarge)

Multimedia features include HDMI, RGB, optical Toslink, and both MIPI-DSI (display) and MIPI-CSI (camera) interfaces. Other I/O features include dual USB 2.0 host ports, a micro-USB OTG port, and the usual wide array of i.MX6 supported serial and industrial interfaces including CAN and GPIO connections, plus PCIe expansion.


PixiePro details (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

To accommodate all these signals without burdening the board’s size and connector cost, Code limited the PixiePro’s real-world connector set to what were deemed to be the most popular functions, and routed the remainder to a pair of high-density, rear-mounted expansion connectors (see block diagram, above). Consequently, to tap its full potential you can stack the PixiePro like a computer-on-module, on top of a custom designed or third-party I/O expansion baseboard.

Specifications listed for the PixiePro include:

  • Processor — Freescale i.MX6 Quad (4x Cortex-A9 cores @ up to 1.0GHz); Vivante 2D/3DGPU, video accelerators etc.
  • Memory — 2GB DDR3 RAM (in x64 config)
  • Storage:
    • 2x microSD slots
    • SATA-II (available via expansion connectors)
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz, 5GHz) with 2×2 MIMO
    • Bluetooth 4.2 (w/BLE), also supporting 2.1 + EDR
    • NFC (ISO 14443A/B, 18092, 15693, NFCIP-1, NFC Forum)
    • UMTS/HSPA+ 3G with Nano SIM holder
    • GPS/GLONASS
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet (available via expansion connectors)
  • Real-world multimedia I/O connectors:
    • Micro-HDMI 1.4 for up to 1080p 60Hz 
    • 3.5mm audio out/Mini TOSLINK optical port
    • MIPI CSI, MIPI DSI (available via expansion connector)
  • Real-world USB connectors:
    • 2x USB 2.0
    • Micro-USB OTG with power support
  • Other I/O available via expansion connectors A and B:
    • PCIe x1
    • SDIO
    • RGB666
    • USB 2.0 Host
    • CAN
    • SPI
    • 2x UART
    • 2x I2C
    • GPIOs
    • Vcc and Gnd
  • Other features – 9-axis IMU  (accelerometer, gyro and magnetometer); reset button; boot jumpers; optional cables and antennas
  • Power — 5VDC input or micro-USB; requires user-supplied power supply of at least 7.5W
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 85°C
  • Dimensions — 91 x 52mm
  • Operating system — Arch Linux

 
Further information

The PixiePro is available now for $129.95 from the Treats4Geeks online store. More information may be found in this PixiePro Wiki, and more on Code Ingenieria may be found at the Code Ingenieria website.
 

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