Variscite Unveils Two i.MX8 QuadMax Modules

By Eric Brown

Variscite announced Linux-powered “VAR-SOM-MX8” and “SPEAR-MX8” modules with an up to an i.MX8 QuadMax SoC plus up to 8GB LPDDR4 and 64GB eMMC. It also previewed a VAR-SOM-6UL COM.

At Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany, Variscite showcased its Linux and Android driven i.MX8-family computer-on-modules, including new VAR-SOM-MX8 and SPEAR-MX8 modules that feature NXP’s highest-end i.MX8 SoC up to a QuadMax model (see farther below). We have already covered most of the other showcased products, including the 14nm fabricated, quad -A53 i.MX8M Mini based DART-MX8M-Mini. When we covered the DART-MX8M-Mini in September, Variscite didn’t have an image or product page, but both are now available here


 
VAR-SOM-MX8 (left) and previously announced DART-MX8M-Mini
(click images to enlarge)
Other showcased COMs that we covered in recent months include the quad -A35 i.MX8X based VAR-SOM-MX8X and the quad -A53 i.MX8M based DART-MX8M. Variscite also announced a VAR-SOM-6UL module with support for the i.MX6 UL (UltraLite), ULL, and most recent ULZ low-power IoT SoCs. The board has yet to be fully documented, but we’ve listed what’s available farther below.



Variscite’s VAR-SOM and DART families
(click image to enlarge)
 VAR-SOM-MX8

Due to ship with the similar, but more advanced, SPEAR-MX8 (see farther below) in the second quarter, the 67.6 x 51.6mm VAR-SOM-MX8 is pin-to-pin compatible with other VAR-SOM modules, including the new wireless-enabled version of the circa-2014 VAR-SOM-MX6.

The VAR-SOM-MX8 ships with the high-end i.MX8 QuadMax or the mid-range QuadPlus models. The i.MX8 QuadMax features 2x Cortex-A72 cores, 4x Cortex-A53 cores, 2x Vivante GC7000XSVX GPUs, and 2x Cortex-M4F real-time cores. The QuadPlus is identical except that it only has one Cortex-A72 core.


 
VAR-SOM-MX8 rear view and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)
Other i.MX8 SoCs that support both the QuadMax and QuadPlus include Congatec’s Conga-SMX8 SMARC module, which also offers the DualMax variant. The others focus on the QuadMax, including the Toradex Apalis iMX and iWave iW-RainboW-G27M.

The VAR-SOM-MX8 runs Yocto Project based Linux (Sumo release) or Android 9.0 “Pie,” both with Linux kernel 4.14.78. The module ships with 2GB to 8GB LPDDR4 and 4GB to 64GB eMMC. It supports 2x GbE ports and offers a wireless module with certified 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2 BLE.

Media I/O includes HDMI v2.0a, eDP 1.4, and DP 1.3, all with resolution up to 4Kp60. There are also MIPI-DSI and dual-channel LVDS connections for up to 1920 x 1080 pixels with resistive or capacitive touch support. For audio, you get analog I/O, a headphone driver, digital and analog stereo mic support, and I2S/SAI digital audio.

The module supports USB 3.0 OTG and USB 2.0 host ports, as well as 5x UART, 4x I2C, 4x SPI, and 2x CAN/CAN-FD (FlexibleData-Rate). Other I/O includes PCIe Gen 3.0, SD/MMC, and optional JTAG. The 3.3V module supports 0 to 70°C, -20 to 85°C, and -40 to 85°C temperature ranges. There’s a product longevity guarantee through 2033.

SPEAR-MX8

The SPEAR-MX8 is only slightly larger than the VAR-SOM-MX8, at 68 x 55mm, but it packs in a lot more features. On the other hand, it lacks the pin-to-pin compatibility with other VAR-SOM models. The module offers only the high-end i.MX8 QuadMax.


 
SPEAR-MX8 and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)
The SPEAR-MX8 appears to have all the features of the VAR-SOM-MX8 with several key additions. These include support for SATA III storage, an HDMI 1.4 input, and dual MIPI-CSI2 camera links. It adds a third USB connection, which is variably listed as a second USB 3.0 and a second USB 2.0 OTG. You also get a second PCIe link and a third CAN port. The module has a heftier 3.4-4.5V DC input.

VAR-SOM-6UL

Variscite did not have much to say about the upcoming VAR-SOM-6UL module, which like the smaller, 50 x 25mm DART-6UL, uses a slightly stripped down i.MX6 ULZ SoC in addition to the UL and ULL models. All these single Cortex-A7 SoCs, which are here clocked to 900MHz, are notable for their low power consumption.



VAR-SOM-6UL
The VAR-SOM-6UL will ship with certified dual-band WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth/BLE, and support for dual Ethernet ports, dual USB ports, and serial interfaces. Media interfaces include 24-bit Parallel LCD, 18-bit LVDS up to WXGA, audio I/O, and a camera input.

Further information

The VAR-SOM-MX8 and SPEAR-MX8 modules are available in eval kits for “early partners” and will launch in Q2. There’s no ship date for the VAR-SOM-6UL, which is now open for pre-orders for eval kits and samples.

More information may be found in Variscite’s i.MX Embedded World announcement, as well as the VAR-SOM-MX8 product page and wiki and the SPEAR-MX8 product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on February 22.

Variscite | www.variscite.com

SMARC 2.0 Module Serves up NXP i.MX8 Processor

Congatec has announced the conga-SMX8, the company’s first SMARC 2.0 Computer-on-Module based on the 64-bit NXP i.MX8 multi-core Arm processor family. The Arm Cortex-A53/A72 based conga-SMX8 provides high-performance multi-core computing along with extended graphics capabilities for up to three independent 1080p displays or a single 4K screen. Further benefits of this native industrial-grade platform include hardware-based real-time and hypervisor support along with broad scalability as well as resistance against harsh environments and extended temperature ranges. The SMARC 2.0 module is designed to meet the recent performance and feature set needs for low power embedded, industrial and IoT as well as new mobility sector.The new SMARC 2.0 modules with NXP i.MX8 processors, hardware based virtualization and resource partitioning are well suited for a wide range of stationary and mobile industrial applications including real-time robotics and motion controls. Since the modules are qualified for the extended ambient temperature range from -40°C to +85°C, they can also be used in fleet systems for commercial vehicles or infotainment applications in cabs, buses and trains as well as new electric and autonomous vehicles.

The new conga-SMX8 modules feature up to 8 cores (2x A72 + 4x A53 + 2x M4F), up to 8 GByte of LPDDR4 MLC or pseudo SLC memory and up to 64 GByte of non-volatile memory on the module. The extraordinary interface set includes 2x GbE including optional IEEE1588 compliant precision clock synchronization, up to 6x USB including 1x USB 3.1, up to 2x PCIe Gen 3.0, 1x SATA 3.0, 2x CAN bus, 4x UART as well as an optional onboard Wi Fi/Bluetooth module with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and BLE.

Up to 3 displays can be connected via HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2, 2x LVDS and 1x eDP 1.4. For video cameras, the modules support 2 MIPI CSI-2 video inputs. The new NXP i.MX8 based SMARC 2.0 modules come as application-ready super components including U-Boot and complete Board Support Packages for Linux, Yocto and Android.

Congatec | www.congatec.com

Linux-Driven Modules and SBC Tap i.MX8, i.MX8M and iMX8X

By Eric Brown

Phytec has posted product pages for three PhyCore modules, all of which support Linux and offer a -40°C to 85°C temperature range. The three modules, which employ three different flavors of i.MX8, include a phyCORE-i.MX 8X COM, which is the first product we’ve seen that uses the dual- or quad-core Cortex-A35 i.MX8X.

phyCORE-i.MX 8X (top) and phyCORE-i.MX 8M (bottom – not to scale) (click images to enlarge)

The phyCORE-i.MX 8 taps the high-end, hexa-core -A72 and -A53 i.MX8, including the i.MX8 QuadMax. The phyCORE-i.MX 8M, which uses the more widely deployed dual- or quad-core i.MX8M, is the only module that appears as part of an announced SBC: the sandwich-style phyBoard-Polaris SBC (shown). The phyCORE-i.MX 8 will also eventually appear on an unnamed, crowd-sourced Pico-ITX SBC.

phyCORE-i.MX 8 (left) and NXP i.MX8 block diagram (bottom)
(click images to enlarge)

Development-only carrier boards will be available for the phyCORE-i.MX 8X and phyCORE-i.MX 8. Evaluation kits based on the carrier boards and the phyBoard-Polaris will include BSPs with a Yocto Project based Linux distribution “with pre-installed and configured packages such as QT-Libs, OpenGL and Python.” Android is also available, and QNX, FreeRTOS and other OSes are available on request. BSP documentation will include a hardware manual, quickstart instructions, application guides, and software and application examples.

 

i.MX8M, i.MX8X, and i.MX8 compared (click image to enlarge)

The three modules are here presented in order of ascending processing power.

phyCore-i.MX 8X

The i.MX8X SoC found on the petite phyCORE-i.MX 8X module was announced with other i.MX8 processors in Oct. 2016 and was more fully revealed in Mar. 2017. The industrial IoT focused i.MX8X includes up to 4x cores that comply with Arm’s rarely used Cortex-A35 successor to the Cortex-A7 design.

phyCore-i.MX 8X (top) and block diagram (bottom)
(click images to enlarge)

The 28 nm fabricated, ARMv8 Cortex-A35 cores are claimed to draw about 33 percent less power per core and occupy 25 percent less silicon area than Cortex-A53. Phytec’s comparison chart shows the i.MX8X with 5,040 to 10,800 DMIPS performance, which is surprisingly similar to the 3,450 to 13,800 range provided by the Cortex-A53 based i.MX8M (see above).The i.MX8X SoC is further equipped with a single Cortex-M4 microcontroller, a Tensilica HiFi 4 DSP, and a multi-format VPU that supports up to 4K playback and HD encode. It uses the same Vivante GC7000Lite GPU found on the i.MX8M, with up to 28 GFLOPS.

i.MX8X block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The i.MX8X features ECC memory support, reduced soft-error-rate (SER) technology, hardware virtualization, and other industrial and automotive safety related features. Crypto features listed for the phyCore-i.MX 8X COM include AES, 3DES, RSA, ECC Ciphers, SHA1/256, and TRNG.

PhyCore-i.MX7

Phytec’s 52 mm x 42 mm phyCore-i.MX 8X is only slightly larger than the i.MX7-based PhyCore-i.MX7, but the layout is different. The module supports all three i.MX8X models: the quad-core i.MX8 QuadXPlus and the dual-core i.MX8 DualXPlus and i.MX8 DualX, all of which can clock up to 1.2 GHz. The DualX model differs in that it has a 2-shader instead of 4-shader Vivante GPU.

The phyCore-i.MX 8X offers a smorgasbord of memories. In addition to the “128 kB multimedia,” and “64 kB Secure” found on the i.MX8X itself, the module can be ordered with 512 MB to 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 64 MB to 256 MB of Micron Octal SPI/DualSPI flash. (Phytec notes that it is an official member of Micron’s Xccela consortium.) You can choose between 128 MB to 1 GB NAND flash or  4GB to 128 GB eMMC.

There’s no onboard wireless, but you get dual GbE controllers (1x onboard, 1x RGMII). You can choose between 2x LVDS and 2x MIPI-DSI. There are MIPI-CSI and parallel camera interfaces, as well as ESAI based audio.

Other I/O available through the 280 pins found on its two banks of dual 70-pin connectors include USB 3.0, USB OTG, PCI/PCIe, and up to 10x I2C. You also get 2x UART, 3x CAN, 6x A/D, and single PWM, keypad, or MMC/SD/SDIO (but only if you choose the eMMC over NAND). For SPI you get a choice of a single Octal connection or 2x “Quad SPI + 3 SPI” interfaces.

 

phyCore-i.MX 8X carrier board
(click image to enlarge)

The 3.3 V module supports an RTC, and offers watchdog and tamper features. Like all the new Phytec modules, you get -40°C to 85°C support. No details were available on the carrier shown in the image above.

phyCORE-i.MX 8M

The 55 mm x 40 mm phyCORE-i.MX 8M joins a growing number of Linux-driven i.MX8M modules including Compulab’s CL-SOM-iMX8, Emcraft’s i.MX 8M SOM, Innocom’s WB10, Seco’s SM-C12, SolidRun’s i.MX8 SOM, and the smallest of the lot to date: Variscite’s 55 x 30mm DART-MX8M. There are also plenty of SBCs to compete with the phyCORE-i.MX 8M-equipped phyBoard-Polaris SBC (see farther below), but like most of the COMs, most have yet to ship.

phyCORE-i.MX 8M top) and block diagram (bottom) (click images to enlarge)

The phyCORE-i.MX 8M supports the NXP i.MX8M Quad and QuadLite, both with 4x Cortex-A53 cores, as well as the dual-core Dual. All are clocked to 1.5 GHz. They all have 266MHz Cortex-M4F cores and Vivante GC7000Lite GPUs, but only the Quad and Dual models support 4Kp60, H.265, and VP9 video capabilities. (NXP also has a Solo model that we have yet to see, which offers a single -A53 core, a Cortex-M4F, and a GC7000nanoUltra GPU.)In addition to the i.MX8M SoC, which offers “128 KB + 32 KB” RAM and the same crypto features found on the i.MX8X, the module ships with the same memory features as the phyCore-i.MX 8X except that it lacks the SPI flash. Once again, you get 512 MB to  4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM and either 128 MB to 1 GB NAND flash or 4 GB to 128 GB eMMC. There is also SPI driven “Nand/QSPI” flash.

There’s a single GbE controller, and although not listed in the spec list, the product page says that precertified WiFi and Bluetooth BLE 4.2 are onboard and accompanied by antennas.

Multimedia support includes MIPI-DSI, HDMI 2.0, 2x MIPI-CSI, and up to 5x SAI audio. The block diagram also lists eDP, possibly as a replacement for HDMI.

Other interfaces expressed via the dual 200-pin connectors include 2x USB 3.0, 4x UART, 4x I2C, 4x PWM, and single SDIO and PCI/PCIe connections. SPI support includes 2x SPI and the aforementioned Nand/QSPI. The 3.3V module supports an RTC, watchdog, and tamper protections.

phyBoard-Polaris SBC

The phyCORE-i.MX 8M is also available soldered onto a carrier board that will be sold as a monolithic phyBoard-Polaris SBC. The 100 mm x 100 mm phyBoard-Polaris SBC features the Quad version of the phyCORE-i.MX 8M clocked to 1.3 GHz, loaded with 1 GB KPDDR4 and 8 GB eMMC. The SBC also adds a microSD slot.

phyBoard-Polaris SBC
(click image to enlarge)

The phyBoard-Polaris SBC is further equipped with single GbE, USB 3.0 and USB OTG ports. There’s also an RS-232 port and MIPI-DSI and SAID audio interfaces made available via A/V connectors. Dual MIPI-CSI interfaces are also onboard.A mini-PCIe slot and GPIO slot are available for expansion. The latter includes SPI, UART, JTAG, NAND, USB, SPDIF and DIO.

Other features include a reset button, RTC with coin cell, and JTAG via a debug adapter (PEB-EVAL). There’s a 12 V – 24 V input and adapter, and the board offers the same industrial temperature support as all the new Phytec modules.

phyCORE-i.MX 8

The phyCORE-i.MX 8, which is said to be “ideal for image and speech recognition,” is the third module we’ve seen to support NXP’s top-of-the-line, 64-bit i.MX8 series. The module supports all three flavors of i.MX8 while the other two COMs we’ve seen have been limited to the high-end QuadMax: Toradex’s Apalis iMX8 and iWave’s iW-RainboW-G27M.

phyCORE-i.MX 8 (top) and block diagram (bottom)
(click images to enlarge)

Like Rockchip’s RK3399, NXP’s hexa-core i.MX8 QuadMax features dual high-end Cortex-A72 cores clocked to up to 1.6 GHz plus four Cortex-A53 cores. The i.MX8 QuadPlus design is the same, but with only one Cortex-A72 core, and the quad has no -A72 cores.All three i.MX8 models provide two Cortex-M4F cores for real-time processing, a Tensilica HiFi 4 DSP, and two Vivante GC7000LiteXS/VX GPUs. The SoC’s “full-chip hardware-based virtualization, resource partitioning and split GPU and display architecture enable safe and isolated execution of multiple systems on one processor,” says Phytec.

The 73 mm x 45 mm phyCORE-i.MX 8 supports up to 8 GB LPDDR4 RAM, according to the product page highlights list, while the spec list itself says 1 GB to 64 GB. Like the phyCORE-i.MX 8X, the module provides 64 MB to 256 MB of Micron Octal SPI/DualSPI flash. There’s no NAND option, but you get 4 GB to 128 GB eMMC.

The phyCORE-i.MX 8 lacks WiFi, but you get dual GbE controllers. Other features expressed via the 480 connection pins include single USB 3.0, USB OTG, and PCIe 2.0 based SATA interfaces. Dual PCIe interfaces are also available

The module provides a 4K-ready HDMI output, 2x LVDS, and 2x MIPI-DSI for up 4x simultaneous HD screens. For image capture you get 2x MIPI-CSI and an HDMI input. Audio features are listed as “2x ESAI up to 4 SAI.”

The phyCORE-i.MX 8 is further equipped with I/O including 2x UART, 2x CAN, 2x MMC/SD/SDIO, 8x A/D, up to 19x I2C, and a PWM interface. For SPI, you get “up to 4x + 1x QSPI.” The module supports an RTC and offers industrial temperature support.

phyCORE-i.MX 8 carrier board (click image to enlarge)

In addition to the unnamed carrier board for the phyCORE-i.MX 8 module shown above, Phytec plans to produce a “Machine Vision and Camera kit” to exploit i.MX8 multimedia features including the VPU, the Vivante GPU’s Vulkan and OGL support, and interfaces including MIPI-DSI, MIPI-CSI, HDMI, and LVDS. In addition, the company will offer rapid prototyping services for customizing customer-specific hardware I/O platforms.Finally, Phytec is planning to develop a smaller, Pico-ITX form factor SBC based on the i.MX8 SoC, and it’s taking a novel approach to do so. The company has launched a Cre-8 community which intends to crowdsource the SBC. The company is seeking developers to join this alpha-stage project to contribute ideas. We saw no promises of open source hardware support, however.

Further information

[As of March 29] No availability information was provided for the phyCORE-i.MX 8X, phyCORE-i.MX 8M, or phyCORE-i.MX 8 modules, but the phyCORE-i.MX 8M-based phyBoard-Polaris is due in the third quarter. More information may be found in Phytec’s phyCORE-i.MX 8X, phyCORE-i.MX 8M, and phyCORE-i.MX 8 product pages as well as the phyBoard-Polaris SBC product page. More on development kits for all these boards may be found here.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on March 29.

Phytec issue a Press Release announcing these products on April 19.
UPDATE: “Early access program sampling for the phyCORE-i.MX8 and phyCORE-i.MX8M is planned for Q3 2018, with general availability expected in Q4 2018.”

Phytec | www.phytec.eu

Qseven & SMARC Cards Boast i.MX8 CPUs

Congatec has announced support of the new 64-bit NXP i.MX8 processors for the Qseven and SMARC module standards. As a member of NXP’s Early Access Program, the new congatec modules will be available in time with the production launch of the new ARM Cortex A53 / A72 based processor family. This enables OEM customers to implement their first-to-market strategies efficiently, since they can start designing the carrier board for their applications now and will be able to leverage application-ready i.MX8 based Congatec modules from day one of the launch date.

conga-QMX8_pressThe new Qseven and SMARC modules with NXP i.MX8 real-time processors are well suited for a wide range of industrial, stationary and in-vehicle applications, as the processors integrate up to four cores and high-performance graphics for up to four independent displays with low energy consumption. Since the modules are designed for the extended ambient temperature range from -40°C to +85°C, they can also be used in fleet systems for commercial vehicles or in infotainment applications in cabs, buses and trains as well as all the new electric and autonomous vehicles. The acceptance of these new platforms is accelerated by the widespread use of ARM technologies in the consumer electronics market, which further reinforces the dominance of ARM technology, especially in the (ultra-) low-power segment of embedded computer technologies.

Congatec offers numerous important services around its modules, allowing design engineers to fully concentrate on the new features: The offer ranges from starter kits to EDM services and encompasses everything the developer’s heart desires. With congatec’s personal design-in support, OEMs also benefit from expert premium service from requirement engineering through to serial production. The first congatec modules and matching starter kits will be presented at Embedded World 2018 in Nuremberg. Customers can order starter kits with Qseven modules based on NXP i.MX6 processors today to enable them to switch to the new 64-bit platform the moment the new modules are launched. The first batches will be limited; interested OEM customers should register now for the exclusive congatec i.MX8 Early Access Program.

Congatec | www.congatec.com