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Computer modules offer graphics, networking, PCI Express

Sep 25, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

Kontron has unveiled a pair of modules implemented according to two versions of the ETXexpress computer-on-modules (COM) standard, and based on Via's C7 processor and CN896/VT8251 chipset. The ETXexpress-CN8 and microETXexpress-CN8 offer scalability combined with long-term availability, according to the company.

(Click here for a larger image of the ETXexpress-CN8)

Kontron says the ETXexpress-CN8 is “100 percent compliant” with the 4.9 x 3.75 inch (125 x 95 mm) COM Express form-factor. The module will be offered with either the C7 or Eden 7 processors, offering clock speeds up to 2.0 GHz. A single SODIMM socket supports up to 2 GB of RAM.

As noted, the ETXexpress-CN8 uses the Via CN896 northbridge, which offers high-speed connection to the C7 processor. The CN896 integrates Via's Chrome9 HC IGP (integrated graphics processor), which includes both a DirectX 9.0 3D accelerator (closed-source driver likely required) and a 2D accelerator. It connects to the VT8251 southbridge chip using Via's V-link interface.

The ETXexpress-CN8 supports two PCI Express x1 lanes along with 10/100/1000 Ethernet, together with a legacy PCI 2.1 32-bit interface. Noting that ETXexpress COM modules will provide interfaces that are always located in the same physical position on each board, Kontron also touts the board's six mounting holes, which are said to provide an extra measure of shock and vibration resistance.

Key features and specifications listed by Kontron for the ETXexpress-CN8 include:

  • Processor — Via C7, clocks up to 2 GHz
  • Memory — SODIMM socket, supports up to 2 GB of DDR2 RAM
  • Display:
    • Via Chrome9 HC IGP, with up to 128 MB of shared memory
    • AC '97 bitstream and Via high definition audio
    • dual independent 24 bpp or 18 bpp LVDS panel support
    • Supports up to 1600 x 1200 pixel (UXGA) resolution

  • Networking — 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • Other I/O ports:
    • 4 x SATA 2 ports, supports RAID 0 and 1, PATA
    • IDE channel, supports speeds to Ultra DMA 133
    • 8 x USB 2.0 ports
  • Expansion:
    • 2 x PCI Express x 1 lanes (a third PCI Express x 1 lane is optional)
    • 32-bit PCI 2.2 interface
  • Dimensions: 4.9 x 3.75 inches (125 x 95 mm)
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 60 deg. C

Kontron's microETXexpress-CN8 is very similar to the ETXexpress-CN8 except that, as its name implies, it uses the 3.75 x 3.75 inch (95 x 95 mm) “microETXexpress” form-factor. This lets customers “reuse the enclosure from previous solutions, yet bring in more modern bus technologies,” in the company's words.

As compared to the ETXexpress-CN8, the microETXexpress-CN8 has three 1-lane PCI Express interfaces instead of two. It also uses a different Ethernet controller, offering 10/100 instead of 10/100/1000 Mbps capabilities. Otherwise, apart from dimensions, specifications are identical to the above.

Echoing Via's own “Vista-ready” marketing efforts, Kontron says its two new Via-based boards support the latest Windows version. However, like Via's recently announced Epia SN mini-ITX boards, which use the same chipsets, the Kontron boards seem likely to be compatible with Linux, as well.

Both modules will be sampling during the fourth quarter, the company said in a statement.

Kontron first proposed ETXexpress as an open industry board form-factor in 2003. Within a year, Advantech and Adlink decided to hitch a ride on Kontron's ETXexpress. ETXexpress subsequently was converted into COM Express.

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