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RPi Compute Module 3 revealed, tapped for NEC signage

Oct 17, 2016 — by Eric Brown 3,979 views

After NEC said it will use the 64-bit RPi Compute Module 3 in its signage displays, the COM’s data sheet was posted, revealing eMMC and SD models.

On Oct. 10, NEC Display Solutions Europe announced it would produce a series of digital signage display computers equipped with the upcoming Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3, which runs Linux on the same quad-core Cortex-A53 SoC as the Raspberry Pi 3. On Oct. 14, Eben Upton, CEO of Raspberry Pi Trading, made his own announcement of the displays, adding some more details, and today, the datasheet for the Compute Module 3 leaked online.

Long story short: the Compute Module 3 is pin compatible with the original, but will be available in 4GB eMMC and SD-only models. There’s no pricing or close-up photo, but the module will ship by the end of the year.


Original RPi
Compute Module

When the Raspberry Pi 3 SBC launched in February, Upton announced that there would be a version of the Raspberry Pi Compute Module based on it that would ship “in a few months.” In July, around the time that an even smaller, 24 x 24mm ArduCam computer-on-module Raspberry Pi clone appeared based on the same ARM11 SoC used on the original Compute Module (CM1), Upton once again said that the 64-bit CM3 version would be out in a few months. Now Upton is saying “by the end of the year.”

Raspberry Pi Compute Module in new slot built into NEC based P and V Series displays (left) and newly posted RPi Compute Module 3 block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The six Pi-based P and V Series commercial-grade NEC displays will be aimed at signage applications in “public spaces such as schools, offices, shops, and railway stations,” according to Upton. The new line will debut in 40-, 48-, and 55-inch models in January, and scale up to a 98-inch display by the end of 2017.

First P and V Series displays with CM3
(click image to enlarge)

The displays will have internal bays that accept adapter boards loaded with either the current CM1 or Compute Module 3 (CM3). The design enables users to easily upgrade to future modules. The systems will continue to offer a separate Open Pluggable Specification (OPS) slot designed for Intel Core processors, giving customers a Windows Embedded Standard 7 option.

The NEC version of the CM3 will differ from the commercially available version in one significant way: It has 16GB of eMMC instead of 4GB, the same amount found on the CM1. However, customers can also buy it with the 4GB version or even the old ARM11 version.

The 16GB version is enabled due to a change in the CM3’s design. The “eMMC Flash is not fitted, and the SD/eMMC interface pins are available for the user to connect their own SD/eMMC device, according to the CM3 data sheet. The design will also enable a presumably cheaper Lite version of the CM3 that will be available with an SD slot instead of eMMC.


The data sheet appears to have been posted recently on, and was linked to in the comments section of a CNXSoft post on the NEC announcement. As expected, the CM3 is equipped with the Broadcom BCM2837 SoC, whose four Cortex-A53 cores are clocked to 1.2GHz. The SoC includes the same 400MHz VideoCore IV GPU, and is backed up with the same 1GB of LPDDR2 RAM found on the RPi 3, compared to 512MB on the CM1.

CM3 dimensions
(click image to enlarge)

Otherwise, the two Compute Modules are identical and are pin compatible, despite the new version being a millimeter longer in one dimension, measuring 67.6 x 31mm instead of 67.6 x 30mm. The only other exceptions are that the VBAT supply can now draw significantly more power under heavy CPU load, “and the HDMI HPD N 1V8 and EMMC EN N 1V8 are now driven from an IO expander rather than the processor,” says the data sheet.

If you’d rather build your own Pi-based signage system, you can use the Snappy Ubuntu Core b based Screenly signage software, among other options.

Further information

The NEC P and V Series displays with the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 will begin shipping in January. The CM3 itself will ship by the end of the year in standard and Lite versions, at unstated prices. More information may be found in the CM3 datasheet (PDF).

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