Computer/Embedded Technology


Top-end CPU options for industrial PCs

21 September 2005 Computer/Embedded Technology

Industrial PCs or single board computers (SBCs) come in various physical sizes. Unlike normal PC motherboards they are compact, have extra features, often run fan-less and aim to offer a five year availability lifetime.

Offering this long lifespan becomes difficult when components are taken from the market.

Currently the Socket 478 P4 family of processors is difficult to find locally. Especially the older generation Northwood type Socket478 processors as used on the older type SBCs (such as the PSB-4710 or the NOVA-8890) are very scarce. To supply its clients, Centurion MicroElectronics often has to import these processors directly from the Far East or from the USA.

Some newer SBCs (such as the Rocky-4786 or the Rocky-6161) support the newer Prescott or even the latest socket 478 CPU options called the Celeron-D. Both these CPU options however, are also becoming hard to source. In less than a year's time possibly, these CPUs will also be virtually unavailable.

Centurion MicroElectronics is currently not aware of any Socket 775-based SBC being offered by its suppliers. However, it does expect its suppliers to start offering Socket 775-based SBCs towards the middle of 2006.

A good alternative at the moment is an SBC based on the Pentium-M (mobile) processors. These are not quite as fast as the top-end P4 processors, but they are still fast enough for most applications. Popular is the 600 MHz Celeron-M processor, which is normally fitted onboard the SBC, thereby alleviating the problem of sourcing the CPU altogether. A power consumption of less than 10 W is low enough to allow fan-less operation. The processor is available in two variants, one with 512 KB L2 cache and the other without. The latter is quite a bit cheaper and compares favourably with the P3 class 400 MHz ULV Celeron-based SBCs.

Some SBC options based on the 600 MHz Celeron-M processor is the Juki-6770 (half size), Nano-7270 (EPIC size, ie, 165 x 114 mm), PCM-938x family (3,5" size, ie, 146 x 101 mm) and the PCM-958x family (5,25" size, ie, 202 x 146 mm). All of these boards have onboard VGA, LCD, sound, LAN, multiple USB, multiple serial and CompactFlash sockets for the option of using a solid-state CompactFlash for program storage instead of a hard disk drive.



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