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COMs run Linux on Skylake, support temperature extremes

Dec 18, 2015 — by Eric Brown 890 views

Adlink unveiled COM Express Type 6 Compact and Basic modules based on Intel’s 6th Gen Core “Skylake” CPUs, with up to 32GB DDR4 RAM and -40 to 85°C support.

In early September, Adlink announced its intention to produce a family of Skylake-based COM Express modules in conjunction with Intel’s announcement of the 6th Generation “Skylake” Core i7/i5/i3 processors. Since then, we’ve seen a flurry of announcements of Skylake-based single board computer (SBC) and computer-on-module (COM) products in a range of form-factors. These have included a handful of COM Express modules from Aaeon, Advantech, Congatec, and Kontron, a pair of Mini-ITX SBCs from Arbor and Advantech, and a 3.5-inch SBC from Advantech. Adlink has now published full specifications for its first Skylake COMs: the cExpress-SL and Express-SL/SLE, implemented according to the COM Express Type 6 standard’s Compact (95 x 95mm) and Basic (125 x 95mm) formats, respectively.

Adlink cExpress-SL (Compact, left) and Express-SL/SLE (Basic)
(click images to enlarge)

The Skylake chips generally offer higher performance and lower power consumption than the similarly 14nm Intel 5th Gen “Broadwell” Core CPUs announced at the beginning of the year, although the exact mix depends on which of the over 48 models you choose. The Intel Gen9 graphics is far superior to that available on earlier Core chips, and the processors provide configurable TDP (cTDP), which enables developers to adjust TDP and performance.

The new Adlink COM Express modules support image-intensive applications in automation, medical, and infotainment, as well as transportation and defense applications, says Adlink. BSPs are provided for 64-bit Linux and various Windows flavors. Both modules are equipped with Adlink’s Smart Embedded Management Agent (SEMA) software.

Block diagrams: cExpress-SL (Compact, left) and Express-SL/SLE (Basic)
(click images to enlarge)

Both the cExpress-SL and Express-SL/SLE are available with 6th Gen Core i7, i5, or i3 processors and Intel QM170 and HM170 chipsets. The Express-SLE adds options for Intel’s Xeon E3-15XX v5 processor and CM236 chipset, as well as for ECC memory. The SL supports a Celeron with a 15/10W cTDP, while Celeron support is listed as TBD for the SLE.


The three listed SKUs for the SL model are the Intel i3-6100U, Intel i5-6300U, and Intel i7-6600U. The eight SKUs listed for the SLE are all Core chips, as well, ranging from a Core i7-6820EQ to a Core E3-1505L v5. (See the product page links at the end of the story for more details on processor options.)

Up to 32GB of DDR4 1867/2133MHz RAM is supported on both models, and the SLE model adds ECC support. DDR4 is not only faster than DDR3, but has lower power consumption and heat dissipation, notes Adlink.

Angle views: cExpress-SL (Compact, left) and Express-SL/SLE (Basic)
(click images to enlarge)

The COMs offer H.265/HVEC hardware codecs with Intel Gen9 graphics, and support three independent UHD/4K displays. The modules are available with up to three DDI channels (HDMI, DisplayPort, or DVI), and either a single/dual channel, 18/24-bit LVDS interface or four lanes of eDP. Intel HD audio is also provided.

The modules provide a gigabit Ethernet port (Intel I219LM) with AMT 11.0 support, as well as support for four USB 3.0 ports and four USB 2.0 ports. You also get four SATA III (6Gbps) storage interfaces, a pair of serial UARTs with console redirection, and GPIO (4x, in, 4x out). There’s support for Super I/O on the carrier, as well as a TPM 1.2 chipset.

Aside from the different footprints and selections of processors, the key difference between the modules is in their PCI Express Gen 3 expansion features. The lower-end cExpress-SL offers a total of five PCI Express lanes, which can be configured as PCIe x1, x2, and x4 links. In contrast, the Express-SL/SLE supplies a whopping 24 PCIe lanes — 16 directly from the processor chip and eight from the companion chipset. These PCIe lanes can be gathered into various combinations to create x16, x8, x4, and x1 links (see Adlink docs for details). LPC, SMBus and I2C expansion are available on both models.

The modules come standard with 0 to 60°C support, but are also available with an industrial -40 to 85°C range. The boards also provide HALT support as well as shock and vibration resistance as per IEC 60068-2-64 and IEC-60068-2-27, as well as MIL-STD-202F standards. The modules support standard 12V and 5V ATX input, plus wide 8.5 to 20V input.

“This latest CPU tock not only brings lower power envelopes but also doubles memory capacity, which is an important feature for space-constrained systems with increased density and reduced power consumption,” stated Dirk Finstel, EVP of Adlink’s Module Computing Product Segment. “In addition, support for Ultra HD 4K further strengthens GPGPU capabilities that are necessary in today’s embedded applications.”

Further information

The cExpress-SL (Compact) and Express-SL/SLE (Basic) are listed as preliminary in the Adlink product pages, but they appear to be due soon. Adlink’s email blast says: “Our new COM Express modules are the first of many form factors that we plan to upgrade to 6th Generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3 processors, with most products coming available in late Q1 or early Q2, 2016.” More information may be found at the cExpress-SL and Express-SL/SLE product pages.

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