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Shrunken SODIMM-style Cortex-A9 COM delivers the goods

Nov 13, 2014 — by Rick Lehrbaum — 1,165 views

Variscite announced a reduced-sized, Linux friendly COM based on Freescale’s i.MX6, featuring extensive I/O including HDMI, GbE, WiFi, Bluetooth, and more.

In September, Variscite refreshed its i.MX6 COM line with a VAR-SOM-MX6_V2 model that added built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, and eMMC flash. Now, the company has introduced a “VAR-SOM-SOLO” that provides nearly all of the V2’s features on a significantly smaller board.

VAR-SOM-SOLO (left) compared to VAR-SOM-MX6_V2
(click images to enlarge)

The VAR-SOM-SOLO is built around Freescale’s 1GHz single-core i.MX6 system-on-chip, accompanied by up to 1GB DDR3 RAM, up to 512MB NAND flash for boot code, and up to 64GB eMMC flash for storage. The module includes a built-in gigabit Ethernet controller, plus TI’s WiLink8 module, which integrates radios for both 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi and BT-BLE, along with optional MIMO support.

All of the VAR-SOM-SOLO’s interface signals are expressed via the board’s SODIMM edgecard interface. These include HDMI, DSI, and dual-channel LVDS video, both digital and parallel camera interfaces, and audio outputs in digital (S/PDIF) and analog format. The module ships with SDIO and USB 2.0 Host and OTG interfaces for storage and other peripherals, and also provides serial interfaces for CAN, SPI, I2C, and three UARTs. A PCIe v2.0 channel enables external expansion. Like the VAR-SOM-IMX_V2, the -SOLO supports commercial, extended, and industrial (-40 to 85°C) temperature versions.

Block diagrams: VAR-SOM-SOLO (left) and Freescale i.MX 6Solo SoC
(click images to enlarge)

Summary of SOM-VAR-SOLO specs

Specifications listed for the VAR-SOM-SOLO include:

  • Processor — Freescale i.MX6 SoC:
    • CPU — 1x ARM Cortex-A9 core @ 1.0GHz
    • GPU — 2D/3D graphics acceleration via Vivante GC 880 + Vivante GC 320; supports up to 1080p30 H.264 decode, up to 1080p30 H.264 encode
  • Memory:
    • 256MB to 1GB DDR3 RAM
    • 128MB to 512MB NAND flash
    • 4GB to 64GB eMMC flash
    • 1x SD/MMC
  • Display:
    • HDMI 1.4 (1920 x 1080)
    • 2x 24-bit LVDS (1920 x 1080)
    • 1x MIPI DSI (24-bit, 1920 x 1080)
    • 4-wire resistive touch support
  • Wireless — TI WiLink8 module with 802.11a/b/g/n 2.4/5GHz (with optional MIMO) and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet PHY
  • Other I/O:
    • SDIO/MMC
    • USB 2.0 — 1x Host, 1x OTG
    • Audio — line-in, line out, digital mic-in; S/PDIF
    • Camera — CSI; 2x CPI
    • 3x UART (up to 3.6Mbps)
    • 2x I2C
    • 2x SPI
    • 2x CAN bus
  • Expansion — PCIe Gen2 interface
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 70°C, -20 to 70°C, or -40 to 85°C
  • Power — 3.3V DC
  • Dimensions — 68 x 33 x 4mm; uses SO-DIMM edge connector
  • Operating system — Yocto (Dora); Ubuntu 11.10; Android 4.4

Differences between VAR-SOM-MX6_V2 and VAR-SOM-SOLO

Unlike its larger sibling, the VAR-SOM-SOLO omits the larger COM’s SATA interface, as well as the Freescale EIM (External Interface Module) that is designed to interface with an external FPGA. Other differences between the VAR-SOM-SOLO and VAR-SOM-MX6_V2 are tabulated below:

CPU cores up to 4 1
CPU Clock (max) 1.2 GHz 1 GHz
Integer performance 12000 DMIPS 3000 DMIPS
RAM (max) 256 – 4096MB DDR3 256 – 1024MB DDR3
Storage 128 to 1024MB NAND
128 to 512MB NAND
GPU Vivante GC 2000 + Vivante GC 355 + Vivante GC 320 Vivante GC 880 + Vivante GC 320
Video Acceleration 1080p60 H.264 Decode
1080p30 H.264 Encode
1080p30 H.264 Decode
1080p30 H.264 Encode
SATA SATA II @ 3.0 Gbps no
EIM expansion bus yes no
Windows CE support yes no
Dimensions 51.5 x 68 x 4.5mm 35 x 68 x 4mm

Development baseboard

Variscite offers a convenient development baseboard that supports both the VAR-SOM-SOLO and the VAR-SOM-MX6_v2. The board provides convenient real-world interface connectors for most of the COMs’ interfaces, and can also be used as a “sandwich-style SBC” for appropriate applications.

VAR-SOM-MX6 baseboard photo and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

Further information

The VAR-SOM-SOLO is available now, starting at $42, says Variscite. More information may be found on the company’s VAR-SOM-SOLO product page. Details on the module’s development baseboard are available on the VAR-MX6CustomBoard product page.

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