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Proposed standard simplifies embedded graphics

Feb 28, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Board-maker Kontron and fabless semiconductor house XGI have proposed a standard for high-end embedded graphics modules, with the goal of providing both scalability and long-term availability. The “Universal Graphics Module” (UGM) measures 84 x 95 mm, and initially supports dual VGA, LVDS, and DVI outputs.

According to Dirk Finstel, CTO of Kontron's Embedded Modules division, graphics implementation is becoming increasingly difficult, due to the wide variety of available technologies. Vendors of embedded systems like medical devices, gaming consoles, and multimedia platforms are expected to utilize the latest high-end graphics devices, but these are not typically available in off-the-shelf embedded boards with long-term availability. The alternatives are using short-term mass market products, or designing the graphics subsystem directly into a product's embedded computer, with the attendant risk that the components will quickly become obsolete, Finstel adds.

Unlike conventional graphics cards that are oriented perpendicular to the baseboard, UGM modules plug-in parallel to the baseboard, which saves space and enables low-profile graphics-customized designs, Kontron says. This mezzanine-style approach resembles that used with the popular PC/104 embedded module format, and derivatives such as PCI-104, which are also used for single-board computer peripheral interface expansion.

UGM block diagram
(Click image for larger view)

The UGM form-factor accommodates a GPU (graphics processor unit) along with up to 512 MB of video RAM. It uses the same 220-pin connector as the COM Express and ETX Express module standards. Digital input arrives via 1, 4, 8, or 16 lane PCI Express, and is processed by the GPU and returned via the same connector that outputs analog or digital video. Kontron says this greatly simplifies graphics layout, as the designer simply chooses what combination of signals to route to the outside world through the baseboard.

Click here to view illustrations of the UGM module mechanical dimensions, from three different views:

Detailed specifications of the new standard, including pinouts, will be disclosed to third-party providers by the end of March, according to the companies. Additionally, Kontron says it expects to ship its first UGM modules available during Q2.

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