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Tiny Centrino Atom-based module unveiled

Apr 10, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 76 views

New details have emerged about Lippert's CoreExpress module, which the German firm claims to be the first board based on the Intel Centrino Atom. The 2.6 by 2.3-inch CoreExpress-ECO board comes in 1.1GHz and 1.6GHz versions, consuming only five Watts in the latter configuration, says Lippert.

(Click for larger view of the CoreExpress-ECO)

Mannheim-based Lippert is often among the first board vendors out of the gate when new Intel silicon ships. It's Thunderbird was touted as the first mini-ITX board based on Intel's Pentium M processor, for example. When Intel shrank the Pentium M to 90nm, Lippert was ready with a Dothan-based Thunderbird model. The vendor's Toucan COM Express offering was also among the first crop of Core Duo based boards.

Additionally, Lippert has hinted its readiness to support “nanoscale processors” from other vendors. That suggests the company may be readying a board based on Via's new 64-bit capable Isaiah processors, chipsets for which recently began to ship.

Formerly called the CoreExpress-Menlow module when it was announced in February, the CoreExpress-ECO is the first device to adhere to Lippert's new 65 x 58mm CoreExpress processor module format, featuring an all-digital interface. The format is aimed at automotive, medical, mobile, and point-of-service/interface (POS/POI) devices.

The CoreExpress-ECO will ship in two versions, based respectively on the embedded Z530 (1.6GHz) and the Z510 (1.1GHz) versions of the Centrino Atom (formally called Menlow), each of which has 512KB of L2 cache, a 2W TDP rating, and pricing of $95 and $45, respectively. The board carries the same minimum seven-year embedded availability guarantee promised by Intel for the two processors, Lippert said.

The CoreExpress-ECO is designed to link up with application-specific carrier boards via a 220-pin connector. It provides a processor, graphics, and memory — the hard parts of system design — leaving customers to design a carrier board specific to their application. The board can be ordered with up to 1GB of soldered-on RAM.

The CoreExpress-ECO's I/O includes two PCI Express-x1 lanes and eight USB 2.0 ports. Other interfaces include parallel ATA, SDIO/MMC, SMBus, GMBus/DDC (graphics and memory bus / display data channel), and LPC-Bus (low pin count bus). The all-digital device lacks analog signals like VGA or Ethernet, or any legacy I/O, such as PS2, speaker, and similar peripherals, says Lippert.

CoreExpress-ECO (reverse view)
(Click to enlarge)

According to Lippert, the tiny size of the CoreExpress format would not be possible without the Centrino Atom chipset, which encompasses Intel's Atom (formerly “Silverthorne”) processor and “SCH” (system controller hub) companion chip (formerly “Poulsbo”). The chipset also includes a variety of optional storage, WiFi, GPS, and other peripheral chips.

The CoreExpress-ECO is said to measure 65 x 58mm (about 2.6 by 2.3 inches) and to weigh 28 grams. The module ships with a temperature range of -4 to 140 degrees F (-20 to 60 degrees C), with an optional extended temperature range of -40 to 185 degrees F (-40 to 85 degrees C). It includes a separate microcontroller that supports features such as a 128-bit security key, temperature recording, and recording of operating hours. The microcontroller also supports flash memory and fail-safe BIOS functions.

Lippert is providing a hardware/software evaluation kit for system integrators that includes the module mounted on an EPIC carrier board, thereby providing standard PC connectors and PC/104(-Plus) expansion. The starter kit includes a Board Support Package (BSP) with documentation for the selected operating system (OS), including Linux, QNX, Windows XP, Windows XP Embedded, and Windows CE.


There were no details on the availability of the CoreExpress-ECO starter kit, but it appears to be close to shipping. More information on Lippert's CoreExpress format may be found here.

Lippert's other recent board-level products include the Hurricane-PM EPIC single-board computer (SBC) and Cool Roadrunner PC/104-Plus module.

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