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Atom-based PC/104 SBC runs Linux hot or cold

Aug 28, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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EMAC announced a fanless, Linux-ready PC/104 format single-board computer built around Intel’s 1.6GHz Atom N270 processor, available in a wide temperature (-40 to 80°C) model. The PCM-1812 SBC ships with 1GB of DDR2 RAM and a CompactFlash socket, supports dual VGA and LVDS displays, and offers a variety of interfaces including IDE, dual SATA, dual gigabit Ethernet, four serial, and four USB 2.0 ports.

The five-year-old Intel Atom N270 once seemed to be everywhere in the mobile world, including in dozens of netbooks, but is rarely seen anymore outside of board-level embedded applications. The clock speed on this single-core 45nm “Diamondville” CPU is still respectable at 1.6GHz, but the Intel GMA 950 graphics are primitive by today’s standards. Yet, the N270’s 2.5W TDP remains fairly impressive for an x86 chip, and allows the PCM-1812 SBC to run on 11 Watts.



PCM-1812 PC/104 SBC top and bottom views
(click images to enlarge)

 

The N270’s greatest calling card right now is affordability, enabling EMAC to sell the wide-temperature version of the PCM-1812 for a modest $456 in single quantities. The SBC is designed for fanless devices in medical treatment, numerical control, traffic management, data acquisition, and industrial automation “where low power in a limited space is required,” says EMAC.



Intel’s venerable Atom N270-based “Navy Pier” architecture
(click image to enlarge)

 

The N270 is paired with the usual Intel ICH7M northbridge/southbridge I/O chipset, and backed up with 1GB of onboard DDR2 RAM. There’s also a CompactFlash (CF) socket. All the other features are expressed via various I/O headers and the PC/104 legacy ISA expansion bus.

Both VGA and LVDS are available, and the two can be used simultaneously. SATA and IDE storage interfaces are provided, along with dual gigabit Ethernet ports. The PCM-1812 is further equipped with four USB 2.0 ports, dual RS232 ports, dual RS-422/RS-485 ports, and GPIO.

Specifications listed for the PCM-1812 include:

  • Processor — Intel Atom N270 (1x x86 core @ 1.6GHz or 533MHz); 512KB L2 cache; FCBGA8-437 package
  • Chipset — Intel Mobile Intel 945GSE + ICH7M (formerly “Navy Pier”)
  • Memory — 1GB DDR2 RAM (533MHz)
  • Storage:
    • 2x SATA
    • IDE interface (44-pin header)
    • Type I CF socket
  • Display:
    • VGA interface
    • Dual-channel, 36-bit LVDS interface (single channel supports 18-bit)
    • Dual display support
  • Networking — 2x gigabit Ethernet interfaces (RTL8111)
  • Other I/O (via expansion interface, headers):
    • 4x serial ports — 2x RS-232; 2x RS-422/RS-485
    • 4x USB 2.0
    • 8-bit GPIO
  • PC/104 expansion interface (legacy ISA bus)
  • Watchdog timer
  • Power — AT supply; 11W consumption
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 60°C (standard) or -40 to 80°C (wide)
  • Dimensions — 116 x 96mm
  • Operating system — Debian-based Linux 2.6; Windows XP; Windows Embedded 2009

Overall, the SBC offers “a convenient connector layout and easy assembly,” says EMAC. The company’s website lists a wide variety of accessories, including numerous PC/104 expansion modules.

The EMAC PCM-1812 appears to be available now, starting at $456 for the wide-temperature version without a CF card. More information, including a manual, may be found at the PCM-1812 product page.
 

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