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Rugged PCIe/104 SBC offers ARM or x86 CPUs

Mar 6, 2014 — by Eric Brown 2,237 views

Diamond tipped a conduction-cooled Quantum SBC for data acquisition, available with either AMD or i.MX6 CPUs and featuring a tiny stackable PCI Express bus.

The Qseven standard is gradually bringing together the worlds of embedded ARM and x86 development. At the recent Embedded World in Nuremberg, Data Modul showed off a eDM-mITX-CB-Q7-Info Mini-ITX format baseboard that accepts selected Qseven computer-on-modules running either Freescale’s ARM-based i.MX6 or Intel’s Atom E3800.

In that same spirit of cross-architecture convergence, Diamond Systems unveiled its Linux-ready, Quantum single board computer, a sandwich-style assembly formed by plugging an ARM- or x86-based Qseven COM into an MXM connector located on the bottom of an I/O-oriented baseboard. One Quantum model is based on the Freescale i.MX6, and the other two offer different flavors of the x86-based AMD G-Series: the G-T40E APU and newer, faster, full system-on-chip version, the eKabini GX-210HA.

Quantum SBC
(click image to enlarge)

These aren’t the first baseboard/SBC products with an agnostic approach to the ARM/x86 question. Back in 2011, Congatec and MSC each announced cross-architecture carrier boards that take advantage of the ARM support added to the originally x86-only Qseven standard with the 2010 release of Qseven 1.2. Yet, as more x86 embedded developers move into ARM projects, and in some cases vice versa, the have-it-your-way approach seems to be gaining steam.


Still, the gaps between ARM and x86 remain large. In particular, the i.MX6 and AMD SoCs differ somewhat in the I/O they provide (e.g. CAN is only available with the i.MX6), and there are even some I/O differences between the two AMD-based implementations. As a result, while the same baseboard PCB is used for all Quantum SBC models, several component assembly options tune it to the needs of the particular Qseven COM with which will be mated. In short, although the Qseven modules plug into an MXM connector on the bottom of the Quantum SBC’s baseboard, swapping out one style Qseven module for another in the field is not an option.

Notwithstanding Qseven module compatibility issues, we imagine there are significant conveniences here, for developers working with both G-Series and i.MX6 platforms on a nearly identical base I/O platform. Additionally, the sandwich-style SBC concept enhances Diamond’s ability to offer a range of Quantum models, both now and in the future, and also likely contributes to savings in both design costs and components inventory.

Aside from the dual-architecture nature of the board, the Linux-ready Quantum is notable for its extensive data acquisition I/O, built-in bottom-side heat spreader, and flexible expansion capabilities. The SBC also supports industrial temperature ranges, and is designed to excel in harsh environments including industrial, on-vehicle, and military applications, says Diamond.

Like Diamond’s recent, Intel Atom-based Atlas SBC, the 116 x 96mm Quantum board supports the PC/104 Consortium’s PCIe/104 standard for stackable PCI- and PCIe-based modules. The SBC adopts the 4.6 x 3.8-inch PCI/104-Express form-factor (with wings), but implements a single-bank subset of the Consortium’s PCIe/104 expansion bus: a single, high-density, 52-pin Samtec connector that’s populated with four PCIe x 1 lanes and several other signals. (This shrunken version of the PCIe/104 bus is currently under consideration by the Consortium for possible adoption, says Diamond; see our Atlas coverage for more details.)

Quantum block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The Quantum is available with 2GB of DDR3 RAM, and the GX-210HA and i.MX6 models also supply 4GB of MLC flash. An mSATA socket supports extended temperature resistant, SLC and MLC standard SSDs up to 64GB. It can also behave like a mini-PCI Express slot, offering additional expansion beyond what’s available for installation on module’s stackable-PCI and -PCIe connector’s . A SATA interface is also available.

Dual-channel 18- or 24-bit LVDS connectors support dual independent displays, and the i.MX6 model also adds an HDMI port. The Quantum provides a coastline gigabit Ethernet port, but most of the other I/O appears to be expressed via onboard connectors. This includes five USB 2.0 ports, three serial ports, and on the i.MX6 model, a CAN bus interface. PS/2 and audio ports are also available.

As noted, the Quantum offers extensive data acquisition I/O on all three models. This includes 12-bit A/D, DIO, PWMs, and programmable counters.

The GX-210HA and i.MX6 Quad and Dual models support -40 to 85°C industrial temperatures, while the single-core i.MX6 and T-40E models offer a lesser extended range. The boards are said to offer VITA 47 shock and vibration resistance, with most I/O provided on latching connectors for increased ruggedness. The boards also support a wide 6V to 32/34V power input range. Development kits and bootable images are provided for Linux and Windows Embedded Standard 7.

Specifications listed for the Quantum SBC include:

  • Processor — choice of 3x Qseven COMs:
    • AMD Fusion G-T40E APU (2x x86 cores @ 1GHz), 6.4W TDP, Radeon HD6250 GPU
    • AMD G-Series eKabini GX-210HA SoC (2x x86/Jaguar cores @ 1GHz), 9W TDP, Radeon HD8310E GPU
    • Freescale i.MX6 (1x, 2x, or 4x ARM Cortex-A9 cores @ up to 1.2GHz), roughly 2-5 Watt consumption, Vivante GC2000 GPU
  • Memory (via Qseven COMs):
    • Up to 2GB DDR3 SDRAM (1033MHz)
    • 4GB MLC flash (GX-210HA and i.MX6 models only)
    • AMI PnP Flash BIOS (AMD models)
  • Storage:
    • SATA interface
    • mSATA (via shared mini-PCIe/mSATA socket), for up to 64GB with ext. temp. support
    • SDIO (GX-210HA and i.MX6 models only)
  • Display:
    • Dual-channel 18/24-bit LVDS LCD up to 1600 x 1200
    • Dual independent displays
    • HDMI up to 1920 x 1080 (i.MX6 model only)
    • VGA CRT (from Radeon GPU) and DDI on G-T40E model only
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet port (Realtek RTL8111E)
  • Other I/O:
    • 5x USB 2.0
    • 2x RS-232/422/485
    • RS-232
    • CAN bus (i.MX6 model only)
    • PS/2
    • Stereo line-out, line-in, mic-in (Realtek ALC262 HD codec)
    • 4x 12-bit A/D
    • 10x DIO
    • 4x PWM
    • 2x programmable counters/timers
  • Expansion:
    • PCI-104 stackable expansion
    • 1-bank PCIe/104 expansion
    • mini-PCIe/mSATA socket (autosensed)
  • Other features — RTC battery backup; watchdog; WDT trigger; reset; power switch; LEDs
  • Power — +6 to +34V DC supply or +5VDC +/- 5% (AMD models); +6 to +32V DC supply or +5VDC +/- 5% (i.MX6); typical 7.53W idle consumption
  • Operating temperature:
    • Heat spreader or fanless heatsink
    • G-T40E — -20 to 71°C; also listed as 0 to 71°C
    • GX-210HA and i.MX6 Quad and Dual — -40 to 85°C
    • i.MX6 Solo (single-core) — 0 to 71°C
  • Shock and vibration resistance — VITA 47 compatible
  • Weight — 215.5 g (7.6oz) with heatspreader
  • Dimensions — 116 x 96mm (4.6 x 3.8 inches); PC/104 form factor with wings
  • Operating system — Linux and Windows Embedded Standard 7 BSPs and flashdisk images; also supports Windows XP

Further information

The Quantum SBCs are available now, with pricing undisclosed. More information may be found at the Quantum product page, with differences sorted out in these Quantum AMD and Quantum i.MX6 data sheets.

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