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Rugged SODIMM-style COM family adopts i.MX6

Feb 7, 2014  |  Eric Brown
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[Updated Feb 11] — Toradex tipped a new Apalis-family COM that runs Linux on a Freescale i.MX6 SoC, and offers 10-year availability and industrial temperature range operation.

The Apalis iMX6 computer-on-module (COM) is a close cousin of the Nvidia Tegra 3-based Apalis T30 module announced last March. This time, Toradex has chosen a system-on-chip that is more commonly used in the embedded world: the similarly ARM Cortex-A9-based Freescale i.MX6. Key differences from the Apalis T30 are that the module is available with 10-year availability, offers industrial-grade support for -40 to 85°C temperatures, and can be configured with both quad- and dual-core processors. The new i.MX6-based module will be available with free BSPs for Linux, as well as support for Windows Embedded Compact 7 and 2013.



Apalis iMX6
(click image to enlarge)

Toradex will more fully reveal the new Apalis iMX6 at Embedded World later this month. In the meantime, we know that the module is “fully pin compatible” with the company’s Apalis form-factor COM specification [PDF], and supports all Apalis compatible carrier boards [PDF], according to Toradex VP Daniel Lang. The 82 x 42mm Apalis COM form-factor uses an SODIMM-style MXM3 edge connector.

 
Apalis compatible

Like the Apalis T30, the Apalis i.MX6 includes two categories of interfaces: standard and specialized. Standard interfaces are compatible across all Apalis family COMs. “The Apalis iMX6 does have other features on the type-specific pins than the Apalis T30,” Lang informed us in an email interview. “We recommend customers to use these pins if they do not to plan on changing the module,” he added.

While the Tegra 3-based Apalis T30 enjoys scant competition, the Apalis iMX6 faces a crowded market for i.MX6 COMs, with recent entries including Advantech’s Qseven-based ROM-7420. According to Lang, the Apalis iMX6 will be more affordable than the Apalis T30, but will run somewhat slower. Both quad- and dual-core versions of the 1.2GHz i.MX6 will be available. The SoC also offers a variety of accelerators including 2D and 3D graphics, imaging, and 1080p video.



Generic Apalis block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Apalis modules can be secured to the carrier board with either M3 screws or with the retention mechanism provided by an “MXM Snaplock” connector. The latter is best for a project’s development phase, or for use in non-rugged applications, says Toradex.


Apalis T30

The earlier, Tegra-based Apalis T30 ships with 2GB each of DDR3 SDRAM and NAND flash memory, as well as PCI Express channels in x1 and x4 configurations. It offers a wide variety of A/V interfaces, including HDMI, LVDS, and analog outputs, as well as camera interfaces, most of which are likely to be seen on the i.MX6 version, as well. The Apalis T30 also supplies a variety of serial interfaces, as well as SATA, gigabit Ethernet, USB, GPIO, PWM, and more. (For full details and specs, see our earlier Apalis T30 coverage.) Toradex also offers the Tegra 3 SoC on a slightly smaller Colibri COM form-factor. The Colibri T30 runs Linux, and uses a 200-pin edgecard connector.

Asked if other embedded board makers were adopting Apalis for their COM designs, Lang replied that an unnamed third-party company is working on a Linux-supported, Apalis form-factor COM using Samsung’s Exynos 5 SoC. “However, the module will not comply 100 percent with the full Apalis specification, and will only support a subset of the standard feature set,” he added.

 
Apalis iMX6 details emerge

Subsequent to our initial post, Toradex released the Apalis iMX6 module block diagram and specs that appear below.


Block diagrams: Apalis iMX6 COM; Freescale i.MX6 Quad SoC
(click images to enlarge)

Toradex lists these specifications for the Apalis iMX6 COM:

  • Processor — Freescale i.MX6 quad, dual, dual-lite, or single SoC:
    • 4x, 2x, or 1x ARM Cortex-A9 cores @ 1.2GHz
    • Integrated Neon “Media Processor Engine”
    • Integrated 2D/3D graphics accelerators
  • RAM — 1GB / 512MB DDR3 (64Bit)
  • Storage:
    • 1x SATA interface
    • Onboard 4GB eMMC NAND flash module
  • Interfaces on edge connector:
    • 1x PCIe x1 lane
    • 3x 8-bit SDIO/SD/MMC
    • Gigabit Ethernet
    • USB — 4x Host; 1x OTG (High Speed)
    • Display:
      • Dual-independent display support
      • LVDS — 2x 1366 x 768 single / 1x 1920 x 1200 dual-channel
      • HDMI (full HD v1.4a, 1080p)
      • VGA (1920 x 1200)
      • RGB (2048 x 1536 x 24bpp)
    • Audio I/O:
      • Digital audio — 2x AC97 or I2S / 1x ESAI
      • 1x S/PDIF in/out
    • 4-wire resistive touch interface
    • Camera inputs — 2x 8-bit parallel; 1x Quad Lane serial
    • Other interfaces — 3x I2C; 3x SPI; 5x UART; 2x CAN; 1x IrDA; 4x PWM; up to 134 GPIOs; 4x analog inputs
  • Operating system support — Linux BSP; Android (on request); Windows Embedded Compact 7.0; Windows Embedded Compact 2013 (Q3 2014)
  • Physical:
    • Size — 82.0 x 45.0 x 6.0 mm; Apalis form-factor
    • Temperature 0 to 70°C (industrial); -40 to 85°C (extended)
    • Power consumption — “tbd”

 
Further information

The Apalis iMX6 will be formally announced at Embedded World, Feb. 25-27, in Nuremberg, Germany. More technical details, including an extensive preliminary datasheet, are available at this Apalis product comparison page. The Apalis iMX6Q model with 1GB DDR3 RAM and 4GB NAND will be priced at EUR 68 in 10k volumes, with other variants (e.g. dual-core) available at other prices, says the company.
 

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