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Tiny IoT-oriented COM gains faster clock and i.MX6 ULL option

Apr 4, 2017 — by Eric Brown 1,135 views

Variscite launched a faster, 696MHz v1.2 spin of its 50 x 25mm DART-6UL COM, and an option for the power-efficient i.MX6 ULL in addition to the UL SoC.

Variscite has added an option for NXP’s new, more power-efficient i.MX6 ULL SoC to a newly revised, v1.2 version of its i.MX6 UL (UltraLite) based DART-6UL computer-on-module. The company has also boosted the i.MX6 UL v1.2’s Cortex-A7 clock rate to 696MHz, compared to the earlier 528MHz, and has lowered the overall price to as little as $24 in volume, down from $27. The price and clock rate also appear to apply to the new ULL version.

DART-6UL v1.2 (left) compared to the original version
(click images to enlarge)


NXP announced the i.MX6 ULL in China back in September, perhaps reflecting a focus on the Chinese market. The chipmaker offered few hints as to how it differs from the i.MX6 UL, but suggested it was more affordable (starting at $3.50 USD in OEM volumes) and that it was expected to “fuel growth of the Internet of Things.”


Variscite calls the ULL more power efficient than the UL, and says the ULL option consumes only 4.5 mA in suspend mode. Indeed, NXP’s technical documentation says the ULL is “optimized” in low-power modes compared to the i.MX6 UL.

i.MX6 ULL (left) and i.MX6 UL block diagrams
(click images to enlarge)

i.MX6 ULL additions compared to the UL include e-reader support, ESAI multi-channel audio input/output, and 24-bit rather than 16-bit CSI. Deletions include PoS-specific security features, as well as support for eSIM cellular modules. (For more information on other minor changes implemented by the i.MX6 ULL, see our coverage Toradex’s introduction of its Colibri iMX6ULL at Embedded World last month.)

DART-6UL v1.2 details

Variscite’s version 1.2 DART-6UL, including its new ULL option, has a slightly wider temperature range than the 0 to 70°C or -35 to 85°C options offered on the board’s original production release. You now get the full -40 to 85°C range for the industrial option.

DART-6UL v1.2 (left) and its block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The feature set appears to be otherwise identical to the original, although the photos show some minor design changes, including a smaller wireless module. The IoT-focused i.MX6UL/ULL has a stripped down WXGA display interface, and offers security, tamper detection, and power management features missing from the original i.MX6 chips.

Designed for battery-powered devices, the tiny, 50 x 25mm COM is equipped with up to 512MB DDR3L and either 512MB NAND flash or up to 32GB eMMC flash. WiFi and Bluetooth/BLE are onboard, as well as support for dual Fast Ethernet ports. Dual 90-pin expansion connectors are provided along with other I/O headers. Variscite now mentions only the VAR-6ULCustomBoard carrier board kit rather than the previously available VAR-DVK-6UL carrier option.

DART-6UL v1.2 bottom views with NAND (left) and eMMC flash
(click images to enlarge)

OS support continues to include “Linux Yocto, Linux Debian, and Android,” according to the announcement, although the product page still lists only the Yocto build. There is no mention of support for Android Things, Google’s revised version of its lightweight Brillo spin of Android. In June of last year, about six months after the DART-6UL was announced, Variscite announced that it was adding Brillo support to the board.

Further information

The faster DART-6UL v1.2, including its new ULL option, are available now starting at $24 in volume. More information may be found at the DART-6UL v1.2 announcement and the slightly revised DART-6UL product page.

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