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Mini-ITX systems run Linux on Intel Haswell CPUs

Aug 26, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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Portwell unveiled four Linux-friendly embedded computers built around its WADE-8015 Mini-ITX board, which is powered by Intel’s 4th Generation (Haswell) Core i7/i5/i3 processors clocked at up to 3GHz. The new Shoebox, Desktop, 2U rack mount, and fanless embedded computers all provide for triple displays and support legacy ISA and PCI expansion cards.

The new Portwell embedded PCs, which are distributed by Arrow Electronics and Avnet, build on the company’s previously announced WADE-8015 Mini-ITX board. Customers can “simplify their operation and inventory efforts by offering various product solutions built with one and the same board,” suggests Portwell. In addition, “customers who need ISA and PCI support can achieve that with Intel’s latest Core processing performance and some minor modification to the board, and still maintain the cost effectiveness of a short development schedule,” says the company.



Four Mini-ITX based systems: Shoebox WEBS-8015S; Desktop WEBS-8015D; 2U Rack Mount WEBS-80152U; Fanless WEBS-3583
(click images to enlarge)

 

The WADE-8015 offers a different expansion strategy from several other Mini-ITX boards announced around the same time that are based on the same 4th Generation Core “Haswell” processors. Instead of using a riser card to add ports or PCI and PCI Express (PCIe) slots, the board integrates an extension board equipped with a gold finger. The WADE-8015 ships with a PCIe x16 Gen. 3, an mSATA ready Mini-PCIe, and a PCIe gold finger offering dual PCIe x1 capability.



WADE-8015 Mini-ITX board and its Haswell QM87 architecture
(click images to enlarge)

 

At the time, Portwell noted that the gold-finger design enabled two-slot-added FlexATX or three-slot-added Micro-ATX motherboard configurations. Indeed, Portwell’s new 2U Rack Mount WEBS-80152U unit supports ATX and Micro-ATX (uATX) legacy boards.

All four of the WADE-8015-based computers take advantage of the WADE-8015′s support for the full range of 4th Generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3 processors, combined with the Intel Q87 chipset. The systems range from 35W to 45W power consumption, according to Portwell, although it’s unclear whether these are real-world numbers from Portwell or based on Intel’s somewhat skewed “Scenario Design Power” (SDP) alternative to TDP. According to Intel, the 4th Gen. processors are up to 50 percent more power efficient that previous “Ivy Bridge” Core CPUs. Although they are minted with the same 22nm fab and Tri-Gate 3D technologies, they deliver around 15 percent higher performance, claims Intel.

Another Haswell advantage exploited by all four systems is their support for triple simultaneous displays, using DisplayPort, HDMI, and VGA ports. In addition to supplying these ports, all four computers support up to 8GB of DDR3 1333/1600MHz SDRAM on dual 240-pin slots. They also support operating temperatures of 0 to 50°C, says Portwell.

Datasheets are available on all these systems from the product page links at the end of the story, but there are several ambiguities in the materials, noted below, so make sure you know what you’re getting before you buy. Here we give a brief summary of each, listed in the order provided by Portwell.
 

Shoebox WEBS-8015S

The WEBS-8015S is designed for space-constrained applications that require high-end graphic cards, including gaming, medical, and surveillance applications, says Portwell. The standard configuration is one PCIe x16 and two PCIe x4 slots, but configurations said to be “optional, by project” include the PCIe x16 slot combined with dual PCI slots, or one PCIe x16 and two ISA slots. All three configurations also include a Mini-PCIe slot.



Shoebox WEBS-8015S
(click image to enlarge)

 

Portwell has also found room to squeeze in three RAID-ready 2.5-inch hard disk drive (HDD) bays and a slim-type CD-ROM bay into the 340 x 236 x 175mm, “Full Size Node” chassis. The Shoebox WEBS-8015S includes dual gigabit Ethernet ports, four USB 3.0 ports, and four apparently internal USB 2.0 interfaces. The presentation of the number of serial ports is confusing, but it would appear there are two real-world ports – an RS232/422/485 port and an RS232 port — as well as four more internal RS232 interfaces.
 

Desktop WEBS-8015D

The compact, 251 x 221.8 x 86.3mm Desktop WEBS-8015D is said to support embedded applications including automation, medical, and digital signage. The system ships with a Mini-PCIe slot and PCIe x16 slot, as well as a single 3.5-inch HDD/SDD slot. Other features include dual gigabit Ethernet ports, four USB 3.0 ports, and both an RS232/422/485 and an RS232 port.



Desktop WEBS-8015D
(click image to enlarge)

 

Powered by a 150-Watt power supply, the system is ventilated via its mesh-style front panel, and can be opened without a tool, says Portwell. Although the system is designed primarily for the desktop, “a rackmount tray is specially designed to hold two units side-by-side and converts them to the rackmount platform,” says the company.
 

2U Rack Mount WEBS-80152U

This 2U rack-mount system is similar in functionality to the Desktop WEBS-8015D, but is larger (482 x 429.2 x 88.6mm), offers a more muscular, active PFC 550 Watt power supply, and is capable of supporting ATX and Micro-ATX boards. It’s said to be ideal for military, network communication, and surveillance applications.



2U Rack Mount WEBS-80152U
(click image to enlarge)

 

The WEBS-80152U offers a slim CD-ROM bay, and dual hot-swap, 3.5-inch slots that support RAID HDDs. Expansion options include a choice of:

  • PCIe x16, 2 x PCIe x4, and Mini-PCIe
  • PCIe x16, PCIe x4, 2x PCI, and Mini-PCI
  • PCIe x16, 2x ISA, Mini-PCIe (optional by project)

The WEBS-80152U is further equipped with dual gigabit Ethernet ports, four USB 3.0 ports, plus another four apparently internal USB 2.0 ports. Although it’s a bit unclear, it seems to offer single, external RS232/422/485 and RS232 ports, as well as four more internal RS-232 interfaces. External audio jacks, and onboard 8-bit GPIO are said to be standard issue, along with a Tumb lock and front-replaceable air filters and fans.
 

Fanless WEBS-3583

The WEBS-3583 can go fanless with the help of its external heat sink. It’s further touted for providing high reliability and mean time between failures (MTBF), although no details are provided. The compact (253 x 190 x 115mm) computer is designed for automation, medical, and digital signage markets.



Fanless WEBS-3583
(click images to enlarge)

 

The Fanless WEBS-3583 provides a 2.5-inch storage bay along with a choice of two expansion configurations: 2x PCIe x1 with Mini-PCIe, or else PCIe x1, PCI, and Mini-PCI slots. Two gigabit Ethernet ports, four USB 3.0 ports, and four more internal USB 2.0 connections are supplied. Both an RS232/422/485 and RS232 port are available, and are apparently backed up by four more internal RS232 interfaces.

The system is further equipped with audio jacks and 8-bit GPIO, and is notable for its dual antenna holes. One of these supports 3G or GPS modules, and the other supports WiFi. The computer runs on DC 12V ~ 36V power.
 

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the four new WADE-8015 systems. Neither did Portwell mention OS support, but Linux and Windows should run just fine since both OSes are supported by the systems’ WADE-8015 Mini-ITX motherboard.

Further details on all four systems may be found on Portwell’s website, at the following product pages: Shoebox WEBS-8015S; Desktop WEBS-8015D; 2U Rack Mount WEBS-80152U; “Fan-less” WEBS-3583.
 

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