Datasheet Directories

COM Express Boards

Written by Jeff Child

Upgradeable Computing

The COM Express embedded computing architecture has secured a strong position in the embedded systems universe. COM Express boards provide a complete computing core that can be upgraded when needed, leaving the application specific I/O and functionality on the baseboard.

  • What’s happening in COM Express boards?

  • Aaeon’s COM-TGUC6

  • ADLINK Technology’s cExpress-AR

  • Advantech’s SOM-9590

  • American Portwell’s PCOMB656VGL

  • Congatec’s conga-TCV2

  • CPU-161-19 from Eurotech

  • ET977 from Ibase Technology

  • Kontron’s COMe-mEL10 (E2)

  • MSC Technologies’ MSC C6B-CFLR

Driven by the ongoing progression of semiconductor integration, embedded computing modules will only get more powerful. The COM Express embedded computing form factor aligns perfectly with that trend. In other words, the approach of a two-board solution—a COM Express module and an I/O baseboard—is ideal for this era when complete system electronics are possible now on a single baseboard. COM Express enjoys all the aspects that represent a successful embedded board-level form factor: a large ecosystem of vendors that make COM Express boards, an active and innovative standards organization in the form of PICMG (PCI Industrial Manufacturer’s Group) and a wide application base of engineers hungry to embed the technology into their systems.

COM Express is designed to accommodate the latest chip sets and serial signaling protocols, including PCI Express Gen 3, 10GbE, SATA, USB 3.0 and high-resolution video interfaces. COM Express is widely used in industrial automation, defense/aerospace, gaming, medical, transportation, IoT and other applications. Because the idea of COM Express is to decouple it from the base application-specific system, COM Express boards can be swapped out when new computing technology becomes available.

In an example along those lines, a Spanish system integrator in the railway industry had been using COM Express module-based CompactPCI systems for years. Then, a couple years ago, when the COM Express modules they’d been using reached end-of-life (EOL), it had to deal with upgrading to newer generation processors. They also had an urgent need to expand video storage space because their legacy image data transfer interface had become outdated. After careful consideration, the decision was made to migrate to ADLINK’s cExpress-HL, a COM Express Type 6 module with 4th generation Intel Core processors and four SATA 6Gb/s ports. This provided them enough I/O capacity to enable storage of more than one to two weeks of video from four to eight IP cameras in one train car (Figure 1). This massive storage capacity reduces the required frequency of surveillance video backups, thereby saving labor costs for railway operators. 

FIGURE 1
A system integrator in Spain migrated its system to ADLINK’s cExpress-HL, a COM Express Type 6 module with 4th gen Core processors and four SATA 6Gb/s ports. This provided them enough I/O capacity to enable storage of more than one to two weeks of video from four to eight IP cameras in one train car.

PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • JANUARY 2021 #366 – Get a PDF of the issue


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Former Editor-in-Chief at Circuit Cellar | Website | + posts

Jeff served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxGizmos.com and its sister publication, Circuit Cellar magazine 6/2017—3/2022. In nearly three decades of covering the embedded electronics and computing industry, Jeff has also held senior editorial positions at EE Times, Computer Design, Electronic Design, Embedded Systems Development, and COTS Journal. His knowledge spans a broad range of electronics and computing topics, including CPUs, MCUs, memory, storage, graphics, power supplies, software development, and real-time OSes.

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COM Express Boards

by Jeff Child time to read: 2 min