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Toradex preps first Freescale i.MX7-based COMs

Sep 9, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 1,377 views

Toradex is prepping two Linux-ready Colibri branded COMs, based on Freescale’s single- and dual-core Cortex-A7 i.MX7 SoCs, for release early next year.

Last week we were intrigued by a vague pre-announcement from Toradex about its plan to develop one of the first computer-on-modules built around the i.MX7 system-on-chip, which Freescale announced in June. The Swiss embedded board maker said it would be among the few hardware partners showcasing the Cortex-A7-based i.MX7 when the SoC launches in early 2016.

Typical Toradex Colibri i.MX module

In response to our queries, a Toradex spokesperson confirmed that the new COMs would support Linux and extend the Colibri COM family brand, which tapped the popular Cortex-A8-based i.MX6 in the aptly named, SODIMM-style Colibri i.MX6 module. According to Toradex, the modules will be form-factor (67.6 x 36.7mm) and pin-out compatible with earlier Colibri modules, and can therefore run on the same carrier boards.

The spokesperson went on to detail the names of the first two products: the iMX7S 256MB and Colibri iMX7D 512MB. The names reflect the two i.MX7 model versions, as well as the amount of RAM available with each module.

i.MX7S and i.MX7D at a glance
(click image to enlarge)

The single-core, 800MHz i.MX7 Solo (i.MX7S) and dual-core, 1GHz i.MX7 Dual (i.MX7D) were announced only a month after Freescale unveiled the single-core i.MX6 UltraLite, which at the time was the first i.MX SoC to move to a Cortex-A7 architecture. The 28nm fabricated i.MX7 SoCs are claimed to have much higher power efficiency than i.MX6, and instead of embracing a wide range of embedded applications, including multimedia signage, they specifically target low-power Internet of Things gizmos.

i.MX7D (left) and i.MX7S block diagrams
(click images to enlarge)

Like the single-core Freescale SoloX, the i.MX7 includes a Cortex-M4 microcontroller unit (MCU) core for offloading processing. The Cortex-M4 is supported with an asymmetric multi-core architecture somewhat similar to ARM’s Big.Little, and can run an RTOS such as Freescale’s own MQX, at up to 266MHz, compared to 200MHz on the SoloX.

Toradex says it is considering supporting the Cortex-M4 with “MQX and/or eCOS.” The press release states, “Using this COM, designers can leverage the asymmetric multi-core architecture on Freescale i.MX7 to develop products with excellent user-experience without compromising on real-time constraints.”

The i.MX7 appears to lack the Vivante GPUs of the i.MX6, getting by on a simple 2D image processing engine. But combined with the 28nm fabrication and other power efficiency enhancements from Freescale, as well as ARM’s Cortex-A7 architecture, the Cortex-A7 and Cortex-M4 cores are claimed to boost core efficiency levels to 100 μW/MHz and 70 μW/MHz, respectively. The overall power efficiency is 15.7 DMIPS/mW, and a new Low Power State Retention (LPSR) mode runs at 250 μW, according to Freescale, which will soon merge with NXP.

Further Information

The Toradex iMX7S 256MB and Colibri iMX7D 512MB will be available in conjunction of the official launch of Freescale’s i.MX7 SoC early next year, says the company. More information may be found in the Toradex i.MX7 COM announcement.

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