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Tiny mini-PC runs Linux and Android on i.MX6 SoC

Jul 15, 2013 — by Eric Brown 13,887 views

CompuLab announced a tiny mini-PC based on a 1.2GHz, single-, dual-, or quad-core Freescale i.MX6 system-on-chip. Supported with Ubuntu and Android, the 5.3 x 3.9 x 0.8-inch Utilite offers up to 4GB RAM and up to a 512GB internal SSD, as well as dual gigabit Ethernet ports, dual serial ports, five USB 2.0 ports, and dual-head HDMI and DVD-D, all starting at $99.

In 2011, CompuLab helped spawn a new genre of ARM-based mini-PCs with its remarkable Trim-Slice, the first mini-PC to offer a smartphone-class Cortex-A9 processor. The company now offers five versions of the dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2-based Trim-Slice ranging from $213 for a barebones version to $338 for a high-end H250 model with a 250GB hard drive. The company also sells a range of x86-based Fit-PC and Intense-PC mini-PCs.

CompuLab Utilite ARM powered mini-PC
(click image to enlarge)


Now, CompuLab is promoting the Utilite as the next-generation heir to the Trim-Slice. Just slightly larger than the Trim-Slice, the Utilite is designed for applications such as media players, IPTVs, infotainment systems, digital signage, and thin client and small-footprint desktop replacements, says CompuLab.


Block diagrams: Utilite mini-PC and i.MX6 SoC
(click images to enlarge)


The Utilite moves up to the Freescale i.MX6 SoC, which is available here in single-, dual-, or quad-core versions. Like the Tegra 2, the i.MX6 uses Cortex-A9 cores, but it’s a newer generation that also includes support for ARM’s NEON extensions. In addition, the i.MX6 provides better integrated graphics with its Open GL ES 2.0 ready Vivante GC2000 GPU, as well as improved video processing that supports multi-stream 1080p H.264, VC1, RV10, DivX decoding. All told, the dual-core, 1.2GHz i.MX6 should be somewhat faster than the older Tegra 2, and in most applications, the quad-core model should be considerably zippier.

The Utilite supports up to 4GB of DDR3 RAM instead of the 1GB available with the Trim-Slice. It dispenses with the earlier full-sized SD slot, but it offers a microSD slot that can be loaded with up to 128GB of flash memory, as well as an optional SATA solid state drive (SSD) of up to 512GB. As before, there are HDMI and DVI-D ports that can be operated in dual-head mode, both offering resolutions of up to 1920 x 1200 pixels.

Utilite front and rear controls and connections


Compared to the Trim-Slice (pictured at right; click to enlarge), there are a pair of gigabit Ethernet and RS232 ports instead of one each, enabling it to support a wider range of vertical applications, such as signage and in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems. The other I/O is similar, including WiFi, Bluetooth, S/PDIF audio ports, and five USB ports. Two USB 2.0 host ports and a micro-USB OTG are located on the front, while two more USB 2.0 ports are on the rear.

Power consumption is listed at 3-8 Watts instead of the Trim-Slice’s 3 Watts, although it’s unclear how much of that range is attributed to the quad-core version. The tiny desktop device implements a “zero-screws” housing, enabling easy access. Utilite will be offered with “fully featured, desktop-grade” Ubuntu Linux or Android operating systems, says CompuLab, which adds that it “intends to collaborate closely with the open-source community.”

Specifications listed for the Utilite include:

  • Processor — Freescale i.MX6Quad (4x Cortex-A9 cores @ up to 1.2GHz with Vivante GC2000 3D/2D graphics and video acceleration)
  • Memory/storage:
    • up to 4GB DDR3-1066 RAM
    • up to 512GB mSATA SSD
    • micro-SD (SDXC) slot for up to 128GB
  • Display — dual-head HDMI 1.4 and DVD-D at up to 1920 x 1200 @ 60Hz
  • Networking — 2x gigabit Ethernet ports
  • Wireless — 802.11b/g/n WiFi (single antenna); Bluetooth 3.0
  • Other I/O:
    • 4x USB 2.0 host (2x front-facing)
    • micro-USB OTG (front facing)
    • 2x RS232 ultra mini serial connectors (1x front-facing)
    • S/PDIF stereo line-out, line-in
  • Power — unregulated 10-16 VDC input; 3-8W consumption depending on configuration and load
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 45° C
  • Dimensions — 5.3 x 3.9 x 0.8 inches (135 x 100 x 21mm)
  • Operating system — Ubuntu Linux; Android

Compulab says pre-sales for the Utilite mini-PC will begin in August, but company has not said when it expects to begin shipping the product. Pricing starts at $99, although this is likely the single-core model with limited storage and memory. More information may be found at CompuLab’s Utilite product page.

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