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World's first x86 SMARC COM runs Linux on Atom

Mar 11, 2014 — by Eric Brown 1,868 views

Kontron’s tiny “world’s first x86-based SMARC COM” features up to 8GB RAM and 64GB SSD, hi-res graphics, camera input, high-speed USB, a PCIe bus, and more.

Kontron’s SMARC form-factor, ratified by SGET (Standardization Group for Embedded Technologies) last April, was intended primarily for ARM-based computer-on-modules. Yet after shipping ARM-based SMARC COMs based on the TI Sitara AM3874, Freescale i.MX6, and Nvidia Tegra 3, Kontron has now brought Intel’s new Atom E3800 SoC to SMARC. The company also said it is planning a SMARC module based on Intel’s x86-based Internet of Things processor, the Quark X1000.

Kontron’s Atom E3800-based SMARC-sXBTi module
(click image to enlarge)

Kontron hinted at its Atom based “SMARC-sXBTi” module back when Intel announced the 22nm-fabricated Atom E3800 last October. It’s another example of the growing convergence between ARM and x86 in the embedded world, including carrier boards supporting both x86 and ARM based Qseven modules and sandwich-style SBCs available with a choice of ARM or x86 CPU subsystems.

SGET chairman Engelbert Hörmannsdorfer notes in a testimonial for the SMARC-sXBTi that despite SMARC’s attempt to be the first ARM-optimized COM standard, SMARC has always supported x86. As he suggests, what was first required was the arrival of more ARM-like (i.e. both high-integration and power-efficient) x86 SoCs, which have now come along in the form of the Atom E3800 and the Quark.


“From the outset, the SMARC specification was designed to integrate both processor technologies,” stated Hörmannsdorfer. “It just wasn’t possible to talk about it before the launch of the corresponding processors.”

The Kontron SMARC-sXBTi adopts the 82 x 50mm “short” version of SMARC, which in either size uses a 314-pin MXM3 0.5mm pitch right-angle connector on the baseboard. The module appears to support all the Atom E3800 (Bay Trail-I) models, offering corresponding COM-wide power consumption of 5 to 10 Watts. Intel Gen 7 Graphics drive HDMI 1.4 and LVDS interfaces (with optional eDP) at up to 2560 x 1600 pixels.

Block diagrams: Kontron SMARC-sXBTi COM; Intel E3800 SoC
(click images to enlarge)

The module supports up to 8GB RAM, with optional ECC RAM, says Kontron. A solid state eMMC drive is available with up to 32GB (SLC) or 64GB (MLC) capacities.

A gigabit Ethernet controller is available, along with a SATA connector and a pair of SDIO interfaces . Other I/O is fairly minimal, with two or three USB 2.0 ports, depending on the mixed messages in the Kontron product materials. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and call it three, one of which is said to optionally support OTG.

Kontron touts the module’s three UARTs, which support peripherals such as GPS, as well as the MIPI CSI (Mobile Industry Processor Interface Camera Serial Interface). Indeed this is the first time we can recall seeing the ARM-prevalent MIPI CSI on an Atom-based product.

The SMARC-sXBTi also offers three PCI-Express x1 lanes for expansion, and supports industrial -40 to 85°C temperatures, says Kontron. Linux, Android, VxWorks, and multiple Windows OSes are said to be available.

Specifications listed for the Kontron SMARC-sXBTi include:

  • Processor — Intel Atom E3800
  • Memory/storage:
    • Up to 8GB DDR3L-1067/1333 (1.35V) with optional ECC
    • eMMC SSD (2GB to 32GB for SLC or 4GB to 64GB for MLC
    • SATA 3Gbps interface
    • 2x SDIO interfaces
  • Display:
    • HDMI 1.4 up to 2560 x 1366 @ 60Hz
    • LVDS (single-channel 18/24-bit) at up to 1366 x 768
    • Optional higher-res eDP in place of LVDS
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet (Intel Springville I210)
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 (via AFB)
    • 3x USB 2.0 (1x optionally OTG)
    • 3x UARTs
  • Expansion bus — 3x PCIe Gen 2 (5GT/s)
  • Other features — Watchdog; ACPI 5.0; fan (JST SH 1mm-pitch, 3-pin connector)
  • Carrier board interface — 314-pin MXM3 connector
  • Dimensions — 82 x 50mm; SMARC “short” form-factor
  • Power — 3 to 5.25 VDC; 5 to 10W consumption
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 85°C
  • Operating system — Linux; Android; VxWorks; Windows 7/8/8S, WES7, WEC7

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the Kontron SMARC-sXBTi . More information may be found at Kontron’s SMARC-sXBTi product page.

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