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Vortex86 CPUs gain new life with Linux kernel detection and a 3.5-inch SBC

Mar 21, 2022 — by Eric Brown 851 views

ICOP announced that its x86 based Vortex86 SoC is automatically detected by Linux 5.16, thereby enabling new non-legacy applications. The company recently launched a 3.5-inch “VDX3-6726” SBC and “VDX3-ETX” module based on the up to dual-core, 1GHz Vortex86DX3.

The Linux 5.17 kernel just came out with improved RISC-V support, a new AMD P-state driver, and improved support for Intel’s 12th Gen Alder Lake Turbo modes, among other enhancements. At the same time, ICOP has announced a key update to last November’s Linux 5.16 release, which adds automatic detection of the x86 architecture Vortex86 family of Linux-ready processors produced by ICOP’s DM&P Group sister company. ICOP recently announced a 3.5-inch, $342 VDX3-6726 SBC and $286 VDX3-ETX module based on the Vortex86DX3 (see farther below).



VDX3-6726, front and back
(click image to enlarge)

The ICOP/DMP Vortex86 SoCs “work well with various legacy Linux distributions without a dedicated but a generic x86 32-bit kernel,” says ICOP. “The Vortex86 32-bit SoCs have worked under Linux for those distributions still maintaining 32-bit x86 support and where not hitting corner-cases of some i686 level features not being supported by some Vortex86 cores. Now with the detection in Linux Kernel 5.16, not only legacy but also new application powered by Vortex86 can take the advantage of this kernel release.”

ICOP notes that due to their in-order design and lack of CLFLUSH instructions, Vortex86 CPUs are not vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown attacks. In addition, says ICOP, “The Linux kernel has properly catered to Vortex86 and identified them correctly applying the no performance-hitting mitigations.”

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The single- or dual-core, 1GHz Vortex86DX3 used on the VDX3-6726 SBC and VDX3-ETX module integrates a 2D graphics controller. The DX3 doubled the cache of the earlier DX2 model and added DDR3 support.

The 40nm Vortex86DX3 maintains Vortex86’s low power consumption compared to most Intel processors. The DX3 has appeared on legacy PC/104 form-factor SBCs such as WinSystems’ PPM-C412, Adlink’s CM1-86DX3, Diamond’s Helix, and Win Enterprises’ MB-83310.

The DX3 was followed by an up to dual-core Vortex86EX2, which debuted on ICOP’s VEX2-6415 SBC in 2020. The industrial-focused Vortex86EX2 is unusual in that each of its CPU cores (600MHz and 400MHz) can run its own OS and BIOS instance independently, without requiring a hypervisor.

 
VDX3-6726 SBC

The 3.5-inch VDX3-6726 SBC is designed to replace boards based on aging AMD Geode LX800 processors, which are being discontinued. A PC/104 slot is available for legacy support.



VDX3-6726 detail view and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The 146 x 102mm SBC is available in either single- or dual-core Vortex86DX3 CPU SKUs. There is support for Linux, Windows 7, Windows Embedded Standard or Compact 7, and other earlier Windows flavors. You can also load VxWorks, QNX, Free BSD, WePos, and DOS.

The VDX3-6726 is available with 1GB or 2GB DDR3 RAM along with 4MB SPI flash and a SATA DOM connector. A coastline GbE RJ45 port and a GbE header are based on a Realtek 8111F controller. There is also a 10/100Mbps LAN header.



VDX3-6726 portside view
(click image to enlarge)

Other coastline ports include USB 2.0, RS232, PS/2, and VGA up to 1920 x 1080 @ 60Hz. The board supports dual simultaneous displays and is equipped with LCD and single-channel, 24-bit LVDS at up to 1024 x 768 @ 60Hz. There is also an optional PS/2 touch controller.

The VDX3-6726 is further equipped with headers for 2x USB 2.0, 4x RS232, 16-bit GPIO, Parallel, 2x audio, reset, and 5V DC input and output. The single-core SKU supports -20 to 70℃ and optional -40 to 85℃ temperatures while the dual-core model supports -10 to 70℃ or optional -20 to 70℃.

 
VDX3-ETX

The VDX3-ETX module adopts the legacy, 114 x 95mm ETX 3.0 form factor. The module supports 512MB to 2GB DDR3 and integrates a 10/100 Ethernet support or an optional Realtek 8111F GbE controller. I/O includes SATA, 4x USB, 2x serial, LPT, I2C, PCI, ISA, PS/2, 16-bit GPIO, and Enhanced IDE.



VDX3-ETX and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

Media features include VGA, single- or optional dual-channel LVDS and an HD Audio interface. The 5V module has a watchdog timer and -20 to 70℃ or optional -40 to 85℃ support.

 
Further information

The VDX3-6726 SBC is available for $342 with 1GB RAM. More information may be found in ICOP’s Linux 5.16 detection announcement, as well as its VDX3-6726 announcement, product page, and shopping page.

The VDX3-ETX module sells for $286 with 1GB but is listed as out of stock. More information may be found in the VDX3-ETX announcement, product page, and shopping page.
 

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