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ETX module adopts Atom

Oct 15, 2008 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 3 views

Kontron added Intel's Atom N270 CPU to its series of ETX computer-on-modules (COMs). Touted as a “long life” product with a seven-year life, the ETX-DC accepts 2GB of RAM, has an optional TPM (trusted platform module), and runs Linux, says Kontron.

(Click here for a larger view of Kontron's ETX-DC)

Like other COMs using Kontron's 4.5 x 3.7-inch ETX format, the ETX-DC is a module supplying core CPU, memory, display and networking subsystems, and I/O. It plugs into an application-specific baseboard, which can include standard PC-style connectors for testing purposes.

ETX 3.0, introduced by Kontron in 2006, added two serial ATA (SATA) ports without changing any of the ETX board-to-board pins, keeping new modules 100 percent pin-compatible with previous versions. Since the SATA ports employ “slim line” connectors on the top-side of the module, rather than sending signals through the ETX connectors on the bottom, the modules remain compatible with any ETX carrier board, Kontron says.

Kontron's ETX line has ranged from Via C7 based COMs on the low end, to Intel Core 2 Duo based devices on the high end, but the ETX-DC appears to be the first sporting an Intel Atom processor. The company states that the 1.6GHz N270, usually found in netbooks, is also the “perfect fit for POS [point of sale] and industrial applications.”

Citing a “best-in-class MIPS-per-cent” ratio, Kontron says the ETX-DC requires a maximum TDP of 12 to 15 Watts — a 2.5 Watts TDP for the processor, 6 Watt TDP for the 82945GSE graphics memory controller hub, and 1.5 Watts TDP for the ICH7M I/O controller hub. While netbooks using this combination of chips have required cooling fans, Kontron claims its ETX-DC can be used with only passive cooling, and lists an available heat spreader for the device.

The ETX 3.0-compliant ETX-DC naturally includes the two SATA ports referenced above. These ports comply with the AHCI (advanced host controller interface) standard, which, Kontron says, permits staggered spinup as well as hot plugging of any connected drives.

The device also has up to 6 USB 2.0 ports (two are “optional”), two serial ports, a parallel port, a 10/100 Ethernet port, and AC'97 audio, according to Kontron. Integrated graphics capabilities support LVDS-interfaced flat panels with resolutions up to 1600 x 1200 pixels, and CRTs with resolutions up to 2048 x 1536 pixels.

Finally, the ETX-DC has an optional TPM (trusted platform module). The device also includes a watchdog timer, realtime clock, and multiple suspend modes, adds Kontron.

Features and specifications cited by Kontron for the ETX-PM3 include:

  • Processor — Intel Atom N270 running at 1.6GHz, 512MB second-level cache
  • Memory — 2GB of DDR 2 DRAM
  • Display — LVDS flat panel and CRT output with shared video memory, resolutions up to 2048 x 1536 on CRT or 1600 x 1200 on LCD
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet
  • Other I/O:

    • 2 x SATA (AHCI compatible)
    • 2 x serial
    • IrDA 1.1 support
    • 6 x USB 2.0 (2 optional)
    • Parallel port shared between floppy/LPT
    • Line input/output and microphone input
    • I2C

  • Expansion — Interface support for ISA and 32-bit 33MHz PCI
  • Dimensions — 4.5 x 3.7 inches (114 x 95 mm)
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 60 deg. C

Dirk Finstel, Kontron VP for global research and engineering, says the ETX-DC “offers the latest 45nm silicon technology on the established ETX module standard. This means that ETX continues to be attractive for new designs. Moreover, Kontron's dedication ensures the availability of the world's most widely accepted COM standard for at least another seven years.”

Further information

Kontron did not provide pricing information for the ETX-DC, but said the device will be available by the end of this year. Operating system support is said to include Linux, Windows XP and XP Embedded, Windows Vista, Windows CE, and VxWorks.

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