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Linux-ready SBC debuts tiny stackable PCIe bus

Jan 24, 2014  |  Eric Brown

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.)

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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