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Rugged COM Express module packs quad-core Haswell punch

Dec 14, 2014 — by Eric Brown 735 views

Axiomtek’s new Linux-friendly COM Express module offers Core i3/i5/i7 CPUs, triple displays, GbE, PCIe x16 and x1 lanes, and extended temperature operation.

The Axiomtek “CEM880” computer-on-module updates the company’s circa-2011 CEM860 COM Express Type 6 module, moving from the “Ivy Bridge” generation of Intel Core processors to the latest “Haswell” Core chips. You get a choice of a quad-core Core i7 up to 2.4GHz, a dual core Core i5 or Core i3, or a dual-core Celeron, all paired with the Intel QM87 chipset. Applications are said to include rugged telecommunication, medical imaging, digital signage, gaming, military, and networking applications.

CEM880 and its compact-sized CEM881 sibling

In addition to the 125 x 95mm Type 6 “CEM880” COM, Axiomtek has posted a product page for a similar, but simpler, 95 x 95mm COM Express Type 6 Compact module called the CEM881. (See farther below for more information.)



CEM880 COM has a wider -40 to 85°C operating temperature range than the older CEM860. It also features the novelty of offering an optional bank of up to 4GB onboard DDR3L RAM with extended temperature support in addition to a SODIMM socket that can load up to 8GB of standard DDR3L RAM. Since operating temperature claims are assumed to cover the RAM, it’s unclear whether the extended RAM is simply an extra security blanket to ensure minimal functionality if the standard RAM conks out due to temperature extremes that go beyond -40 to 85°C , or whether it is required to meet that temperature range.

CEM880, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The CEM880 also stands out for its 24 lanes of PCI Express expansion, by way of a PCIe x16 v3.0 interface and eight PCIe x1 interfaces. Four SATA-600 ports support Intel Rapid Start and Intel Smart Response technology. The announcement also mentions a CFast interface, but since this is not listed on either of the Axiomtek feature tables, we’ll put that in the maybe column.

A gigabit Ethernet controller is onboard, and triple displays are supported via a VGA port, three DDI ports, and 18/24-bit single/dual channel LVDS. Other I/O transmitted via the COM Express connectors include four USB 3.0 ports and eight USB 2.0 ports, plus LPC, SPI, SMBus, and DIO. TPM 1.2 appears to be standard issue. No details were provided on power consumption.

CEB94006 baseboard
(click image to enlarge)

Axiomtek also offers an optional CEB94006 baseboard that provides ports for most of the CEM880’s I/O. Highlights include four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, five video ports, and a Port 80 display for debugging .

Summary of CEM880 specs

Specifications for the CEM880 module include:

  • Processor — Intel 4th Gen Core processors (22nm “Haswell”) with QM87 chipsets, Intel Gen 7.5 graphics:
    • Core i7-4700EQ — quad-core 2.4GHz, 6MB cache, 47W TDP, Intel HD Graphics 4600 @ 400MHz
    • Core i5-4422E — dual-core 1.8GHz, 3MB cache, 25 W, Intel HD Graphics 4600 @ 400MHz
    • Core i3-4110E — dual-core 2.6GHz, 3MB cache, 37 W, Intel HD Graphics 4600 @ 400MHz
    • Celeron 2000E– dual-core 2.2GHz, 2MB cache, 37 W, Intel HD Graphics 4600 @ 400MHz
  • Memory — up to 8GB DDR3L via 1x SODIMM; optional onboard ext. temp. DDR3L up to 4GB
  • Display:
    • 3x DDI (DP, HDMI, DVI)
    • VGA
    • LVDS 18/24-bit single/dual
    • Triple display support
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet controller (Intel I217-LM) with Wake-on-LAN, RPL/PXE boot
  • Other I/O (via COM Express Type 6 interface):
    • 4x SATA-600 with Intel Rapid Start and Smart Response
    • 4x USB 3.0
    • 8x USB 2.0
    • LPC; SPI; SMBus
    • DIO (4x in, 4x out)
    • HD audio link to baseboard for codec
  • Expansion — PCIe x16 v3.0 (8GT/s) configurable, supporting up to 4x bus controllers; 8x PCIe x1 (7x when internal LAN connected)
  • Other features – TPM 1.2; watchdog
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 85°C
  • Dimensions — 125 x 95 x 2mm (4.92 x 3.74 in.); COM Express Type 6 “Basic” per PICMG Rev 2.1
  • Operating systems — Linux (including Fedora, Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian); Windows

CEM881: a COM Express Type 6 “Compact” module

We did not see an announcement for the CEM881, a 95 x 95mm, COM Express Type 6 “Compact” version of the larger, more feature-rich CEM880, but Axiomtek has posted a product page. The module similarly supports Haswell processors, but the four models are all dual-core chips. Unlike the processors available for the CEM880, these are graphics integrated system-on-chips without the additional QM87 chipset. The options include the Core i7-4650U, i5-4300U, i3-4010U, and Celeron 2980U.

CEM881, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The CEM881 has the same RAM capacity as the CEM880, including the optional 4GB of extended temperature RAM. The module similarly offers -40 to 85°C support. Other common features include a gigabit Ethernet port and the four SATA-600 ports. The module also similarly offers DIO, LPC, SPI, and SMBus interfaces, as well as TPM and a watchdog,

Display I/O is more limited, with just two DDI ports instead of one, and no VGA port. Dual-channel LVDS is also supplied. There are only eight USB ports instead of 12, two of them using USB 3.0.

Only four PCie x1 lanes are provided instead of 24, and there’s no PCIe x16 interface. Unlike the CEM880, however, the CEM881 supplies a pair of TX/RX serial UARTs.

Further information

The CEM880 will ship at an unstated price later this month. The CEM881 is said to be “coming soon.” More information may be found at the CEM880 and CEM881 product pages.

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