Computer/Embedded Technology

Quad-core COM Express modules

27 April 2011 Computer/Embedded Technology

Parallel to the launch of the second generation Intel Core processor family, Kontron introduced the COM Express basic form factor ETXexpress-SC computer-on-module (COM) family.

It incorporates an Intel Core i7 2715QE quad-core processor, Intel Mobile QM67 I/O Hub and USB 3.0, as well as the fastest Intel graphics on the market.

The new COMs are available with the Type 2 or Type 6 Pin-out of the PICMG COM Express rev. 2.0 specification, increasing the speed of new designs and upgrades. With new features such as enhanced Intel Turbo Boost technology, Intel Advanced Vector Extensions and Kontron Embedded Application Programming Interface (EAPI) middleware, OEMs can expect improved performance and simplified application development.

The new devices integrate the new monolithic Intel microarchitecture with a CPU, graphics and ECC memory controller, as well as a PCI Express controller, all on an energy-efficient 32 nm die. First benchmarks show a performance gain of 205% for the CPU (Dhrystone Alu MIPS) and a 170% graphics performance improvement (3DMark06) as compared to platforms with the previous Intel Core i7 processor and comparable core speed. Additionally, users benefit from a 20% performance/Watt ratio improvement on average compared to designs with the previous processor architecture.

With the new Intel iGFX Gen6 graphics, 2D and 3D graphics performance, now on par with dedicated graphics cards, is readily available. Applications that are built around the ETXexpress-SC will be able to simultaneously utilise two high-quality HD video streams, enabling multidisplay solutions with one platform supporting several displays. Technologies, like the latest 3D BluRay for infotainment solutions, will also be supported.

With PCI Express 2.0, the data transfer rates to external components are doubled as compared to previous solutions. The Kontron ETXexpress-SC features up to seven PCI Express lanes and the PCI Express graphics port (PEG) can be split variably into dedicated lanes (x8, x4, x1) to link extra peripheral components. This makes the new COMs an ideal fit for feature-rich, graphics-oriented applications such as digital signage servers running several displays, gaming systems and high-performance medical appliances.

The Kontron ETXexpress-SC is based on the Intel Mobile QM67 chipset combined with the Intel Core i7 2715QE processor running at 2,1 GHz. Further dual core and entry level processor versions are scheduled. All versions will support up to 16 GB dual-channel DDR3 SODIMM RAM with ECC. The computing power and thermal needs of the new modules are very well balanced. With support for Intel Turbo Boost technology, they can produce more computing power on peak loads. By using Intel Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel AVX), solutions built around the computer-on-module will experience faster floating-point operations and scalar calculations. The S5 eco microampere mode and the variable clocking of the graphics unit supported by the ETXexpress-SC save energy in low workload phases. This is in addition to the onboard Intel 82579 GbE Ethernet controller that supports the new 802.3az standard for an energy-efficient Ethernet.

Based on the COM Express Type 6 Pin-out, the ETXexpress-SC is the first Kontron COM to hit the market featuring three digital display interfaces for SDVO, DisplayPort and DVI/HDMI besides VGA (2048 x 1536) and dual-channel LVDS (1600 x 1200). Optionally, customers can also upgrade two of the eight USB 2.0 ports to SuperSpeed USB 3.0. The Type 2 Pin-out differs from Type 6 by offering PCI and PATA. SDVO, Display Port or DVI/HDMI is brought out by the Type 2 version with one DDI multiplexed with the PEG port.

Both the Type 2 and 6 versions use VESA DisplayID to automatically indentify the connected displays, which simplifies integration. All versions feature 4x Serial ATA (2 x SATA 2 and 2 x SATA 3). Application developers that want to make use of leading edge SSD technology will benefit from the new SATA3 interfaces with 3 Gbps by full bandwidth and highest transfer rates. Furthermore, the new modules feature one x Gigabit Ethernet as well as Intel high-definition audio.

In line with the terms of the COM Express Rev. 2.0 specification, the new COMs offer a serial peripheral interface for external firmware boots. A trusted platform module is assurance of maximum data security with hardware-based encryption in real-time, which is required in many medical, military and gaming applications. Furthermore, the new modules feature high-quality solid capacitors (POSCAP), increasing the thermal resistance and long-term stability. Support for a wide-range 8,5 V d.c. to 18 V d.c. power supply rounds out the feature set.

Standard operating systems such as Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows Embedded Standard 7, Linux (including Red Hat Enterprise, SuSE, Red Flag, Wind River Linux) and VxWorks are supported. Kontron also offers COM Express Type 2 and Type 6 evaluation carrier boards.


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