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Rugged Linux COM powers up with dual-GPU i.MX8 QuadMax

Mar 13, 2017 — by Eric Brown 2,050 views

Toradex revealed the “Apalis iMX8,” the first COM built around NXP’s i.MX8 QuadMax, which boasts 2x Cortex-A72, 4x -A53, 2x -M4F, and 2x GPUs.

Toradex is participating in NXP’s early access program for the new i.MX8 QuadMax SoC, and has announced details about an upcoming Apalis i.MX8 computer-on-module. The 82 x 45 x 6mm COM is pin-compatible with other SODIMM-style Apalis modules, such as the i.MX6-based Apalis iMX6 and Nvidia Tegra K1 based Apalis TK1. The module is supported with a choice of an Apalis Evaluation Board or Ixora Carrier Board (see farther below).

Apalis iMX8 carrier boards: Apalis Evaluation Board (left) and Ixora Carrier Board. Apalis i.MX8 module images are not currently available.
(click images to enlarge)

NXP’s i.MX8 QuadMax SoC


The i.MX8 QuadMax is the high-powered model out of three 28nm fabricated i.MX8 SoCs announced by NXP in October. The i.MX8 Quad offers four Cortex-A53 cores, two Cortex-M4F cores for real-time processing, and two GPUs. The QuadPlus adds a Cortex-A72 core, and the Apalis i.MX8’s QuadMax provides two.

Toradex clocks the dual -A72 cores to 1.6GHz and the four -A53 cores to 1.2GHz. The two Cortex-M4F cores, which are supported here with FreeRTOS, run at 266MHz. The Cortex-A cores run a Yocto Project based Linux distribution provided via a BSP that also includes FreeRTOS, thereby fully leveraging the i.MX8 QuadMax’s Heterogeneous Multicore Processing (HMP) architecture, says the company.

Apalis iMX6

Although the SoC is aimed primarily at automotive applications, Toradex is targeting the Apalis iMX8 at a broader range of “cutting-edge computer vision systems,” as well as signal processing and HMI applications. Toradex has partnered with The Qt Company, Crank Software and others tools providers to support the development of optimized UI frameworks for the Apalis i.MX8.

The i.MX6 QuadMax also features a HIFI4 DSP and two Vivante GC7000LiteXS/VX GPUs, which enable multiple-screen automotive installations. The new GPUs support OpenGL ES 3.0 and Vulcan, and allow simultaneous, parallel execution for coherent and distributed graphics, computer vision, and compute contexts.

“Each core can function independently or in groups with instant, on-demand, task-specific load-balancing and distribution of GPU resources monitored in real-time to maximize performance and minimize context switch overhead,” says Vivante. New hardware tessellation and geometry shading features are said to make use of advanced compute shaders.

Apalis iMX8 specs

Preliminary specs for the Apalis iMX8 are said to include support up to 4x individual HD displays or one 4K display. The module provides a quad-lane DSI interface, with support for HDMI 2.0a at 4K UHD 2160p. There’s also a single/dual-channel LVDS interface with up to 1920 x 1200 x 24bpp resolution and 4-wire resistive touch.

Dual quad-lane MIPI-CSI interfaces are available for camera duty. For audio, you get S/PDIF, as well as a choice of dual AC97 or dual I2S digital interfaces. Analog audio I/O includes stereo line in, mono mic in, and stereo headphone out.

No RAM or flash details were provided. The i.MX8 SoC, however, supports 64-bit DDR4 or LPDDR4 RAM, as well as one NAND and up to three SD 3.0 or eMMC interfaces.

The Apalis iMX8 provides a SATA II interface, a GbE port, dual-band 802.11ac WiFi, and dual-mode Bluetooth 4.2 with BLE. You get a USB 3.0 OTG interface, and 3x USB host ports, presumably USB 2.0.

The module is further equipped with 2x PCIe x1 interfaces, plus 3x CAN, 4x I2C, 4x SPI, 7x UART, 4x PWM, and 8x analog inputs. You also get an IrDA connection, up to 137 GPIOs, and 8- and 4-bit SDIO/SD/MMC interfaces.

The COM can be purchased in 0 to 70 °C or -40 to 85°C versions, and offers minimal availability through 2030. Toradex has supplied “SafeAssure”” fail-over capable display controllers that “ensure critical displays are always on and show the valid content.” Other features include support for hardware virtualization, secure boot, and the latest cryptography technology, says the company.

The Apalis i.MX8 offers the same two carrier board options provided for the Apalis TK1: a 250 x 250mm Apalis Evaluation Board, as well as a less feature-rich, 125 x 90mm Ixora Carrier Board. The boards, which are pictured farther above, have real-time clocks and 5V/3.3V power supplies with wide-range, 7-27V DC voltage support. They are available with a variety of optional resistive and capacitive touch displays. For more details, see our Apalis TK1 coverage.

NXP is in the process of being acquired by Qualcomm, although the merger is still not a sure thing.

Further information

The Apalis i.MX8 is available for pre-order at an undisclosed price. No availability information was provided. More information may be found at Toradex’s Apalis i.MX8 product page. Toradex will talk about the module at Embedded World this week at booth 1-639, Hall 1, but don’t expect a hands-on demo.

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