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Signage player packs SSD and wireless, takes the heat

Jul 15, 2013 — by Eric Brown — 717 views

Blue Chip Technology announced a Ubuntu-ready “digital signage player” based on a 1GHz AMD G-Series processor with AMD Radeon HD graphics. The Vario-A2 is packaged in a polished stainless steel enclosure, runs from 0 to 40° C, accommodates internal SATA HDDs and SSDs, and has a mini-PCI Express card socket for functions such as WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, GPS, and 2G/3G modems.

Blue Chip Technology, which built its first Vario signage controller 13 years ago, touts the Vario-A2 as an entry-level digital signage controller and says the device is designed to run 24/7 reliably. The Vario-A2 is built inhouse in Chester, U.K., says the company.

Vario-A2 signage controller


The Vario-A2 runs on AMD’s 1GHz, G-Series T40E APU (application processor unit), which features a dual-core 64-bit x86 CPU along with an integrated AMD Radeon HD 6250G GPU, supplemented by an external AMD Fusion I/O controller hub chip. The Radeon GPU enables 2D/3D acceleration, with support for DirectX 11, Open GL 4.0, OpenCL 1.1, and HD video acceleration.

The Vario-A2 can drive either a DVI-I or VGA display. The latter is obtained via an adapter that plugs into the DVI port. A composite TV out port is also available as an option, says Blue Chip.

Customers can choose between 2GB or 4GB of DDR3 RAM. A SATA bay supports hard drives of up to 2TB in capacity, and solid state storage can be supplied via either 2.5-inch SSD or CompactFlash devices. A Mini-PCI Express slot supports optional wireless options including WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, GPS, or a 2G/3G cellular modem. Additionally, the company offers customization services.

Vario-A2 controls and connections
(click image to enlarge)

The box’s I/O includes dual gigabit Ethernet ports, four USB 2.0 ports, audio ports, and an optional RS232 serial port. While the T40E APU has a relatively low, 6.4 Watt TDP, the entire Vario-A2 system consumes between 14 and 20 Watts, says Blue Chip.

Specifications listed for the Vario-A2 include:

  • Processor core — AMD G-Series T40E SoC:
    • Dual 64-bit x86 CPU cores @ 1GHz
    • Radeon HD 6250G graphics
  • AMD Fusion I/O controller
  • Memory — 2GB to 4GB DDR3 (800-1966MHz)
  • Storage — SATA bay for 250GB and 2TB HDD or optional 2.5-inch or Compact Flash SSD module
  • Expansion — Mini-PCIe slot for optional WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, GPS, or 2G/3G cellular modem
  • Networking — 2x gigabit Ethernet
  • Other I/O:
    • DVI-I with adapter cable for VGA
    • Composite TV-out (optional)
    • 4x USB 2.0 host
    • RS232 (optional)
    • Audio line-out
    • Audio line-in (optional)
  • Other features — watchdog timer; polished stainless steel enclosure with a black brushed aluminum front panel
  • Power — 12 Volt DC input; 14-20W consumption
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 45° C
  • Dimensions — 200 x 113 x 52mm (7.9 x 4.5 x 2.0 inches)
  • Operating system — Ubuntu Linux; Windows 7, XP Embedded, XP Pro

No pricing or availability information was listed for the Vario-A2, but Blue Chip says it will be “lower cost.” More information may be found at the Vario-A2 product page.

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