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Tiny IoT-oriented COM debuts new i.MX6 UltraLite SoC

Jun 2, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 3,528 views

A new model of TechNexion’s PICO-IMX6 COM uses Freescale’s new Cortex-A7 i.MX6 UltraLite SoC, and can similarly plug into Intel’s Edison IoT module carrier.

The PICO-IMX6UL joins a new family of PICO-IMX6 computer-on-modules announced in March that runs on various Cortex-A9-based Freescale i.MX6 SoC models. The modules, which are set to ship in the coming weeks, have now been more completely documented, as shown in our combined family spec list (see farther below).

TechNexion’s tiny PICO-IMX6 module

The PICO-IMX6UL is the first product we know to adopt the i.MX6 UltraLite SoC announced last week by Freescale. Like its siblings, it runs Linux 3.x or Yocto, but it lacks their Android and Ubuntu support. Like the other PICO-IMX6 modules, the PICO-IMX6UL measures 36 x 25mm and plugs into TechNexion’s PICO-DWARF carrier board (shown farther below), thereby converting the COM into a sandwich-style SBC.

Rather than providing Arduino compatibility, as found on TechNexion’s LS1021A-IoT Gateway Reference Design, the modules offer expansion connector and mounting hole compatibility with Intel’s Edison IoT module, along with a superset of its features. As a result, you can fit a PICO-IMX6 module into the 70-pin Hirose connector “Edison socket” on an Edison carrier board, as long as the extended length of the TechNexion module — 40mm, versus 25mm for the Edison — doesn’t interfere with any of the baseboard’s components. (See our IMX6-COM vs Edison comparison for more details and photos.)

PICO-IMX6 module, front and back
(components on specific IMX6-COM models may differ)

TechNexion had previously announced Solo, Duallite, and Quad i.MX6 versions of the PICO-IMX6 clocked to 1GHz. The Solo version ships with 512MB of DDR3 RAM, whereas the Duallite version ships with 1GB, but both can expand to 2GB. The Quad PoP version uses a package-on-package (PoP) design that bakes 1GB of LP DDR2 RAM into the PoP package, with an option to upgrade to 2GB.

TechNexion has now announced the PICO-IMX6UL version, and has slipped in another POP model that runs on an i.MX6 Dual SoC with a better Vivante GPU than is found on the Duallite. The Dual model has a similar RAM configuration as the Quad PoP. All the modules except the new PICO-IMX6UL are available in versions that either have 4GB of onboard eMMC flash or a microSD slot.

PICO-IMX6UL details

The PICO-IMX6UL differs significantly from the other PICO-IMX6 modules due to its i.MX6 UltraLite SoC, which shifts from Cortex-A9 to the more power-efficient Cortex-A7. The UltraLite is the fourth single-core i.MX6 model after the Solo, the SoloLite, and the i.MX6 SoloX. The latter combines the same single, 1GHz Cortex-A9 core found on the Solo and SoloLite with a Cortex-M4 MCU.

PICO-IMX6UL block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The tiny i.MX6 UltraLite SoC, which is claimed by Freescale to be “the smallest and most energy-efficient ARM-based processor,” has a stripped down WXGA display interface and new security, tamper detection, and power management features. It will be available in a tiny 14 x 14mm, and eventually, tinier 9 x 9mm BGA package.

The version of the i.MX6 UltraLite SoC available on the PICO-IMX6UL module has a single core clocked to 528MHz. The SoC lacks a GPU, but offers a PXP video co-processor. You get up to 1GB of DDR3 RAM, but the only other memory available is 256MB of QSPI.

Since the i.MX6 UltraLite lacks a GPU, the PICO-IMX6UL foregoes the HDMI and LVDS support found on its siblings. Instead, it depends on TTL for displays and I2S for audio. Unlike the other models, there’s no PCIe support, and unlike the Dual- and Quad POP modules, there’s no SATA.

The I/O available via the Edison-compatible, 70-pin Hirose connector is identical to the other COMs, with nine GPIO, four PWM, and varying quantities of USB OTG, SDIO, UART, SPI, I2S, and I2C connectivity. The additional higher-speed I/O on the other two Hirose connectors is more limited, however, with 24-bit TTL RGB, USB host, CAN, and Ethernet, which is 10/100 on the UL model rather than gigabit.

The PICO-IMX6UL offers the same Broadcom BCM4335 wireless module as its family members, which provides 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0. The PICO-IMX6UL also offers the same three temperature ranges, including a -40 to 85°C option. The vibration and shock resistance and 3.3 to 4.5 VDC power input is also the same.

Other PICO-iMX family members

As mentioned above, all of the PICO-iMX modules other than the new PICO-IMX6UL model are offered in versions with either 4GB of onboard eMMC flash or a microSD slot. In this section we provide a table that compares the key features of all current PICO-IMX6 models, plus block diagrams of the additional PICO-IMX6 models. Information about the PICO-DWARF carrier board, and a detailed listing of PICO-IMX6 family specifications appear farther below.

PICO-IMX6 model features compared
(click image to enlarge)


PICO-IMX6-SD and -EMMC versions
(click images to enlarge)


PICO-IMX6POP-SD and -EMMC versions
(click images to enlarge)

Summary of PICO-IMX6 COM family specs

Combined specifications listed for the PICO-IMX6 modules, including the PICO-IMX6UL are:

  • Processor (Freescale):
    • PICO-IMX6-SD/PICO-IMX6-EMMC — i.MX6 Solo or Dualite available on either (1x or 2x Cortex-A9 cores @ 1GHz) Vivante GC880 GPU
    • PICO-IMX6POP-SD/PICO-IMX6POP-EMMC — i.MX6 Dual or Quad on either (2x or 4x Cortex-A9 cores @ 1GHz) Vivante GC2000 GPU
    • PICO-IMX6UL — i.MX6 UltraLite (1x Cortex-A7 @ 528MHz)
  • Memory/storage:
    • PICO-IMX6-SD — Up to 2GB DDR3; microSD slot
    • PICO-IMX6-EMMC — Up to 2GB DDR3; 4GB eMMC flash
    • PICO-IMX6POP-SD — Up to 2GB LPDDR2; microSD slot
    • PICO-IMX6POP-EMMC — Up to 2GB LPDDR2; 4GB eMMC flash
    • PICO-IMX6UL — Up to 1GB DDR3; 256MB QSPI
  • Wireless — WiFi/Bluetooth 4.0 module on EDM1-CF-IMX6SX (Broadcom BCM4335 with 802.11ac)
  • Edison I/O (1.8V via 70-pin connector):
    • 9x GPIO
    • 4x PWM
    • 2x I2C
    • I2S
    • SPI
    • 2x UART
    • 1x USB 2.0 OTG
    • SDIO
  • Other I/O on all five modules (3.3V via 2x 70-pin connectors):
    • 1x USB host
    • 24-bit digital TTL RGB
    • Gigabit Ethernet (10/100 Ethernet on PICO-IMX6UL)
    • CAN (Flex CAN on dual/quad POP models)
  • Other I/O on all except PICO-IMX6UL (3.3V via 2x 70-pin connectors):
    • Single-channel LVDS
    • HDMI 1.4
    • MIPI-CSI Camera
    • MIPI-DSI Display
    • PCIe
    • SATA II (dual/quad POP models only)
  • Power — 3.3 to 4.5 VDC; PMIC (dual/quad POP models only)
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 60°C; -20 to 70°C; -40 to 85°C (w/o WiFi)
  • Shock resistance — 50G / 25ms
  • Vibration resistance — 20G / 0-600Hz
  • Weight — 8 g
  • Dimensions — 40 x 34mm
  • Operating system — Linux 3.x and Yocto Linux on all; Android 4.2/4.4/5.0 and Ubuntu on all except PICO-IMX6UL

PICO-DWARF carrier board

As noted, the new PICO-IMX6UL plugs into the 95 x 95mm PICO-DWARF carrier board. The Dwarf features coastline gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, audio, SD, debug, and USB host and OTG ports, in addition to other onboard I/O. It also includes a battery charger, gyroscope altimeter, and a 6-axis sensor.

PICO-DWARF carrier board, top and bottom

For more details on the PICO-DWARF refer to the board’s updated block diagram (below), as well as to our earlier PICO-IMX6 coverage.

PICO-DWARF block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Further information

The PICO-IMX6UL will ship later this year, when Freescale begins volume shipments of the new i.MX6 UltraLite SoC. The other PICO-IMX6 models appear to be shipping now, at undisclosed prices. More information may be found at TechNexion’s PICO SoM page.

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