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Compute module to debut faster i.MX8M Mini SoC

Sep 17, 2018 — by Eric Brown 1,604 views

Variscite unveiled a “DART-MX8M-Mini” module that runs on NXP’s new i.MX8M Mini SoC, a 14nm variant of the i.MX8M with one to four 2GHz Cortex-A53 cores and a 400MHz Cortex-M4, plus scaled down 1080p video via MIPI-DSI.

Variscite announced that it has been selected as NXP’s alpha partner for its upcoming i.MX8M Mini SoC and will release a computer-on-module in conjunction with the SoC’s release. The DART-MX8M-Mini module is pin-to-pin compatible with its i.MX8M based DART-MX8M module. It appears to share the same 55 x 30mm form factor, and although Variscite offered scant technical details, it will almost certainly run Linux, if not Android.

(click image to enlarge)

NXP announced the i.MX8M Mini in late February with a promise of 2Q 2018 sampling and 1Q 2019 production. The SoC uses a more advanced 14LPC FinFET process than the i.MX8M, resulting in a higher maximum clock rate for both the Cortex-A53 and Cortex-M4 parts. Whereas the i.MX8M tops out at 1.5GHz for the two to four -A53 cores and 266MHz for the -M4 MCU, the i.MX8M Mini can reach 2GHz and 400MHz, respectively. The Mini also offers lower power consumption, says Variscite.

i.MX8M Mini (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The DART-MX8M-Mini provides up to 1080p60 video decode compared to 4Kp60 for the i.MX8M using the same HEVC/H.265, H.264, or VP9 codecs. You also get 1080p60 H.264 or VP8 video encode compared to software-based encode on the i.MX8M.

The video processing unit (VPU) is listed as optional on NXP’s i.MX8M Mini block diagram, but appears to be standard on Variscite’s module. NXP does not name the GPU, but it’s likely a variation of the Vivante GC7000Lite GPU/VPU found on the i.MX8M.


Like the earlier i.MX6, but unlike the i.MX8M, the i.MX8M Mini and DART-MX8M-Mini are available in single-core versions in addition to dual and quad implementations. The module offers support for dual USB 2.0 ports instead of dual USB 3.0 ports on the DART-MX8M. Other features are said to include HQ audio, WiFi/Bluetooth, Ethernet, and more.

Variscite offered no more details on the DART-MX8M-Mini, but you can get an idea of the module’s capabilities by looking at the specs of both the i.MX8M Mini SoC and the earlier DART-MX8M module. The i.MX8M Mini SoC is designed for “any general embedded consumer and industrial application.” It supports DDR3L, DDR4 and LPDDR4 memory and offers MIPI-DSI and -CSI interfaces. However, it lacks the i.MX8M’s HDMI and DP support. There’s support for multi-channel audio, digital microphone inputs, native PCIe 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, and more.

Variscite’s earlier DART-MX8M, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

Variscite’s DART-MX8M module offers up to 4GB LPDDR4, up to 64GB eMMC, WiFi-ac, BT 4.2, PCIe, and HDMI 2.0, among other interfaces. There’s also an optional carrier that’s also sold as a “VAR-DT8MCustomBoard” SBC. The module and kit are supported with Linux and Android BSPs.

Variscite notes that a DART-MX8M-Nano module will follow later in 2019. This will presumably be built on an upcoming i.MX8M Nano SoC. This might possibly be the headless version of the i.MX8M Mini, perhaps limited to one or two cores.

Further information

No pricing or availability was available for the DART-MX8M-Mini, but a first quarter 2019 launch is likely. More information may be found in Variscite’s DART-MX8M-Mini announcement.

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