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Linux-ready SBC debuts tiny stackable PCIe bus

Jan 24, 2014  by  Eric Brown — 1,035 views

[Updated Jan 20, 2015] — Diamond Systems has launched “Atlas,” a rugged PCI/104-Express SBC with an Atom N2800 SoC and expansion connectors for stackable PCI- and PCIe-based modules.

Proposals for stackable PCI-Express (PCIe) modules emerged in 2006, and resulted two years later in the PC/104 Consortium’s release of the PCIe/104 standard. Customized implementations can be found, for example on the recent ADL Embedded Solutions ADLQM87HD single board computer (SBC).

Diamond Systems Atlas
(click image to enlarge)

New miniature stackable-PCIe connector

Diamond’s Atlas SBC appears to conform to the PC/104 Consortium’s 4.6 x 3.8-inch PCI/104-Express form-factor (with wings), but debuts a “new miniature, cost-effective, high-speed expansion connector” that scales the form-factor’s three-part PCIe/104 bus connector back to a single, high density, 52-pin Samtec connector, with four PCIe x 1 lanes and several other signals.

According to Diamond Systems, although this new PCIe/104 bus subset remains to be ratified by the PC/104 Consortium, the board’s form-factor and PCIe/104 subset expansion connector support “most PCIe/104 I/O modules,” including PCIe/104 Type 1 and Type 2. The module also provides stackable-PCI expansion through its 120-pin PCI-104 expansion bus, and additionally includes a PCIe MiniCard expansion location. (More on the range of PC/104 family of standards, including PCIe/104, may be found here.)

Update on Jan. 20, 2015: The Atlas SBC’s downsized PCIe/104 bus was eventually adopted by the PC/104 Consortium, under the name “OneBank,” and will be announced publicly on Jan. 22, 2015.

Other features

Atlas heat spreader

With its thermally conducted heat spreader, the Atlas is said to support industrial temperature ranges of -40 to 75°C. It also provides shock and vibration resistance, all of which make it suitable for “harsh applications including industrial, on-vehicle and military environments,” says Diamond Systems. The bottom-mounted heat spreader provides a convenient mounting platform, reduces case interior temperatures, and simplifies the installation of I/O modules and cables by eliminating interference from heat sinks, says the company.

The Atlas board is built around a dual-core, 1.86GHz Intel Atom N2800 processor from the 2012 “Cedar Trail” generation. The 32-nanometer fabricated N2800 features integrated Intel 3650 graphics, a 1080p video accelerator, and hyperthreading technology for parallel processing.

The Atlas SBC is further equipped with either 2GB or 4GB of soldered DDR3 RAM, and provides a SATA port and a combined mini-PCIe/mSATA socket that supports up to 64GB of storage, including ruggedized SLC and MLC flashdisks. An optional 8GB flashdisk offers a choice of Linux or Windows Embedded Standard 7. A Linux software development kit is available with bootable images and drivers.

The board has a gigabit Ethernet controller, as well as support for dual VGA and LVDS displays. Other available I/O includes four USB ports, six serial ports, audio I/O, and GPIO.

Atlas SBC specifications

Specifications listed for the Atlas include:

  • Processor — Intel N2800 (2x cores @ 1.86GHz); NM10 chipset
  • Memory — 2GB or 4GB 64-bit soldered DDR3 SDRAM
  • Storage — SATA port; mSATA/mini-PCIe socket for up to 64GB storage
  • Display:
    • VGA (up to 1280 x 1024)
    • 18-bit LVDS (up to 1366 x 768)
    • Dual independent displays
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet (Intel 82574IT)
  • Other I/O (via connectors):
    • 4x USB 2.0
    • USB keyboard/mouse
    • 4x RS-232/422/485
    • 2x RS-232
    • HD Audio line-out, line-in, mic (Realtek ALC892)
    • 8x GPIO
  • Expansion:
    • PCI-104 stackable PCI expansion bus
    • PCIe/104 subset stackable PCI Express expansion bus
    • PCIe MiniCard socket
  • Other features — programmable watchdog; “Complete Development Kit” with 8GB flash disk with pre-loaded OS, cable kit, AC adapter, and software CD
  • Power — +5VDC +/-5%; 7.53 W idle consumption
  • Ruggedization:
    • Operating temperature — -40 to 75°C; thermally conducted heatspreader
    • Shock resistance — IEC68-2-27
    • Vibration resistance — MIL-STD-810E 514.4
  • Dimensions — 4.6 x 3.8 inches (116 x 96mm); PC/104-Plus form factor (with wings)
  • Operating system — Linux or Windows Embedded Standard 7 available pre-installed; also supports Windows Embedded CE

Further information

The Diamond Systems Atlas ATLN2800-4G (4GB RAM) and Atlas ATLN2800-2G (2GB RAM) are available now, with the latter’s single-unit pricing starting at $645. More information may be found at Diamond’s Atlas product page. Customization options are also available. The Atlas will be shown at Embedded World, Feb. 25-27 in Nuremberg, Germany at Stand #2-346.

(With additional reporting by Rick Lehrbaum)

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