Modular Compute Muscle
The COM Express architecture has become entrenched as a leading choice for embedded system designs. Meanwhile, its younger cousin COM-HPC is emerging as alternative for higher performance applications.
It’s a fact that computing technology always races ahead of most other parts of an embedded system—such as the application specific I/O. COM Express addresses that issue allowing for a two-board solution—a COM Express module and an I/O baseboard. COM Express is blessed with a large ecosystem of vendors that make COM Express boards and an active and innovative standards organization in the form of PICMG (PCI Industrial Manufacturer’s Group). 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.
Meanwhile, PICMG has developed another spec called COM-HPC. COM-HPC defines five module sizes to deliver edge server performance for small, rugged data centers. COM-HPC is an open Computer-On-Module (COM) form factor standard for High-Performance Computing (HPC) that combines high-end I/O bandwidth with edge computing performance levels. In September PICMG announced the release of the COM-HPC Platform Management Interface (PMI) specification. It provides a framework of remote and out-of-band platform management features for COM-HPC Computer-on-Module based edge computing designs and is freely available on the PICMG website: www.picmg.org.
In an example of COM Express in action, Ectron, a manufacturer of rugged systems for industrial, automotive and defense markets, in 2017 expanded its portfolio to include SmartEYE, an end-to-end Industrial IoT capability for a variety of applications including power plants (Figure 1). This included a range of ruggedized edge industrial computers. For its industrial computer range, Ectron chose Kontron’s COM Express boards. The AI/ML capable Ectron ECT-ECI edge computer, for example, uses Kontron’s COMe-bKL6 module (125mm × 95mm) running Intel 7th Generation Core / Xeon E3 v6 Family processors.
PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE •FEBRUARY 2021 #379 – Get a PDF of the issue
Type 10 Module Sports Tiger Lake-U
The NANOCOM-TGU from Aaeon is a COM Type 10 mini form factor board powered by the 11th gen Intel Core U processors (formerly Tiger Lake). The NANOCOM-TGU delivers high performance thanks to 16GB onboard LPDDR4x memory and NVMe storage up to 128GB. It also features the Intel i225LM chipset, powering 2.5 Gbps Ethernet, as well as support for 2xSATA III drives, 2xUSB3.2 ports and 8x USB2.0 ports.
• 11th generation Intel Core processor (formerly Tiger Lake UP3)
• Onboard LPDDR4x memory up to 16GB
• 1x 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet
• 1x eDP, 1x DDI, HD audio interface
• 2x SATA3.0, 1x onboard PCIe SSD
• 8x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.2 Gen2
• 4x PCI-Express [x1] • COM Express Type 10, Mini,
84mm × 55mm
COM-HPC Serves Up Alder Lake-H Processor
Adlink’s COM-HPC-cADP COM-HPC Client Type Size B module is based on the 12th Gen Intel Core processor. The company claims it as the first COM-HPC Client Type module to support advanced hybrid architecture with up to 6 Performance-cores (P-cores) for IoT workloads and up to 8 Efficient-cores (E-cores) for background task management, boosting productivity and fueling IoT innovation across a variety of deployments.
• 12th Gen Intel Core processor
• Intel Iris Xe graphics, 4x 4K displays
• 4K display via DDI, eDP 1.4b, USB4 and TBT4
• Up to 64GB DDR5 at up to 4800MT/s
• 16x PCIe Gen4, 8x PCIe Gen3 lanes
• NBASE-T (0.1) 2.5GbE
• 2x USB 4/3.x/2.0, 2x USB 3.x/2.0 and 4x USB 2.0
• NVMe SSD onboard available
• 8.5V to 20V wide voltage input
i.MX8X-based Card Supports Digi XBee Modules
Advantech’s SOM-5883 is a COM Express Type6 Basic Module integrated with 11th Gen. Intel Core processors (formally called Tiger Lake-H), which offers an octa-core computing performance under TDP 45W and Intel Iris Xe graphics. Combined with Advantech’s ready-to-use Edge AI Suite software toolkit, the SOM-5883 is well suited for medical imaging and AI applications.
• COM Express R3.0 Basic Type 6 module
• 11th Gen. Intel Xeon and Core i7/i5/i3/Celeron processors
• Up to 128GB DDR4 3200MT/s with ECC support
• 4x independent displays with
3x DDI, eDP/LVDS or VGA
• 1x PCIe x16 Gen 4, 8x PCIe Gen 3, 4x USB 3.2 Gen 2
• 2.5G LAN w/TSN, 2x SATA3 ports
• Supports Advantech iManager, Edge-AI Suite and WISE-DeviceOn
• Operating temps: Standard: 0 to 60°C, Extended: -40°C to 85°C
Type 6 Module Features Tiger Lake-H
The PCOM-B657VGL from American Portwell Technology is a COM Express module based on the Intel Tiger Lake-H platform. It is compatible with the COMe 3.0 standard. The platform adopts 10nm++ process and VNNI instruction set, offers advance computing power with 45W to 25W thermal and industrial use condition for wide range applications. PCOMB657VGL supports PCIe Gen 4 x16, and both ECC and non-ECC DDR4 versions.
• 11th Gen Intel Core, Xeon W-11000E Series and Celeron processors
• AI/DL instruction sets
• Up to 8C/16T at 45Wand 25W with wide temperature SKUs
• 2x DDR4-3200 ECC/Non-ECC
SO-DIMMs, up to 2x 32GB
• 1x PCIe Gen 4 x16,
8x PCIe Gen 3 x1, 4x USB 3.2 Gen 2
• 8x USB 2.0, 2.5GbEwith TSN,
4x SATA III
• 4x independent displays: 3x DDI, eDP/LVDS, VGA
Alder Lake-H Rides Size-A COM-HPC
Congatec’s conga-HPC/cALP is a COM-HPC high performance module based on the 12th Gen Intel Core processor series (code name “Alder Lake”). A variety of versions are available, for example the conga-HPC/cALP-i7-12800HE has a Core i7-12800HE processor with 6 P-cores 2.4GHz up to 4.6GHz and 8 E-cores 1.8GHz up to 3.5GHz and 24MB Intel Smart Cache. It has Intel Iris Xe Graphics architecture with 96 EUs.
• COM-HPC Size A module
• 12th Gen Intel Core Alder Lake processor series
• 2x SO-DIMM sockets for DDR5 memory modules up to 32GB each
• 2x 2.5 GbE TSN Ethernet (vial Intel i225 LM)
• Up to x8 PCIe Gen4, 2x x4 PCIe Gen4, up to 8x PCIe Gen3
• Up to 2x Thunderbolt, 2x USB 3.2 Gen2x1, 8x USB 2.0
• NVMe x1 SSD (optional)
• Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0)
Low Power Ryzen V1000/R1000 COM Express Card
The ET977 from Ibase Technology is a low-power COM Express Compact Type 6 module based on the AMD Ryzen Embedded SoC. The ET977 provides powerful computing with “Zen” CPU cores and excellent image processing performance with the integrated AMD Radeon Vega graphics with 3 compute units to deliver stunningly visual experiences.
• AMD Ryzen Embedded V1000/ R1000 Series
• 2x DDR4-2400 SO-DIMM sockets, Max. 32GB, ECC compatible
• Supports 4x independent displays via the carrier board
• HDMI/DVI/DisplayPort, LVDS and eDP
• 4x USB 3.1, 8x USB 2.0, 2x SATA III
• Supports TPM (2.0)
• Power consumption as low as +12V, 3.28A
Type 6 Cards Have 11th Gen Core or Xeon W Processors
Kontron’s COM Express COMe bTL6-H has Tiger Lake-H CPUs featuring up to 8 cores and are specifically suited for demanding Edge workloads and high-end, high-bandwidth applications. Intel Iris XeGraphics supports up to four independent 4K displays or one 8K HDR display. Integrated TSN- and Intel TCC-functionality enable deterministic networks in Industry 4.0 as well as various real-time applications
• COM Express Type 6 Basic
• Tiger Lake-H microarchitecture with up to 8 cores
• Intel XeGraphics with 4 Independent Displays (up to 8K)
• Up to 96GB DDR4
• 3200MHz memory support
• Up to 2.5Gb Ethernet with TSN supported
• Up to 1TB NVMe SSD onboard
• -40°C to +85°C temperature range
Type 6 Module Embeds Octa-Core Tiger Lake-H
The TQMx110EB from TQ-Systems embeds the 11th generation Intel Core and Intel Xeon W-11000E series processors based on the Tiger Lake-H microarchitecture. Equipped with up to 8 cores / 16 threads, 24MB cache and powerful Intel Iris Xe graphics (12th gen), the module is particularly suitable for applications in gaming, machine vision, virtual reality, medical technology and industrial automation.
• 11th generation Intel Core i7, Core i5, Core i3 processors
• Intel Xeon W-11000E series processors
• Desktop / mobile workstation performance
• DDR4-3200 memory configuration with up to 64GB
• Expansion through PCIe Gen4 x16 PEG port
• USB 3.2 Gen2 (10 Gb/s) and
2.5 Gbit Ethernet
• Extended temperature option
• CPU power efficiency with max. 25W/35W/45W TDP
Type 10 Mini Module Sports Intel Atom E3900
WinSystems’ COMeT10-3900 is an industrial COM Express Type 10 Mini module with an Intel Atom E3900 processor. This low power, industrial module was designed and manufactured in the USA. The small form factor module is designed as a processor mezzanine that can be plugged onto a carrier board that contains user-specific I/O requirements.
• COM Express Type 10 Mini
• Intel Atom E3900 processor, formally Apollo Lake-I
• Up to 8GB LPDDR4 2400 MT/s memory
• -40ºC to +85ºC operating temperature
• 4x PCIe lanes configurable as 4×1 (default)
• 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 6x USB 2.0
• 1x i210 1Gb/s Ethernet RGMII with IEEE 1588 support
• 2x SATA III (6 Gb/s), 2x UART,
4x GPI, 4x GPO
• On-board eMMC 5.x (8GB to 128GB)
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.