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Article: Tiny X86 module runs Linux

Dec 18, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 31 views

Icop Technology has announced a “low-power embedded controller” that is effectively a complete headless PC crammed onto a board measuring just 4 x 2.6 inches. The VSX-6115 runs Linux on a 32-bit x86-compatible system-on-chip (SoC) clocked at 300MHz.

(Click here for a larger view of the VSX-6115)

The VSX-6115 is based on the Vortex86SX SoC introduced in October by Icop's parent company, DM&P Electronics. While DM&P has previously employed the Vortex86SX SoC in its VSX-6190 and VSX-6190S boards, and its eBox-2300SX mini-PC, the tiny new VSX-6115 board really shows off the SoC's high level of integration to best dramatic advantage.

Produced via a 0.13 micron process, the Vortex86SX is said to consume only 0.9W at 300MHz, and 0.2W at 66MHz. It packs numerous functions into its tight 27 x 27 mm package, including a 32-bit, x86-compatible CPU, plus extensive northbridge and southbridge functions. On-chip controllers include serial, parallel, USB, GPIO (general purpose I/O lines), watchdog timer, counter, and a 10/100Mbps Ethernet controller (NE2000 compatible) — see block diagram, below.

Vortex86 SoC block diagram
(Click to enlarge)

In addition to the SoC, the new Icop module includes an AMI BIOS, lithium backup battery, and 128MB of power-efficient DDR2 RAM. The tiny board literally bristles with pin headers, as detailed by the callouts in the picture below. The only typical PC functionality the module doesn't offer is graphics output, but this can be added via its ISA interface and an optional Icop-2720 module, according to the company.

The VSX-6115 has a wide range of interfaces

Icop says the VSX-6155 can also provide mass storage via the option of either a 2MB flash disk or a 16MB EmbedDisk module from MSTI (yet another DM&P company). Additional VSX-6115 features and specifications listed by Icop include:

  • Processor — Vortex86SX SoC clocked at 300MHz
  • Memory — 128MB DDR2 RAM
  • Storage — 2MB flash or 16MB EmbedDisk (optional)
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet

  • Other I/O:
    • 1 x EIDE (UltraDMA 100/66/33)
    • 3 x RS232
    • 1 x RS232/485
    • 1 x USB 2.0
    • 1 x parallel
    • keyboard/mouse
    • 1 x 32-bit GPIO
    • JTAG
  • Expansion — 16-bit ISA via Icop's x-ISA interface
  • Dimensions — 4 x 2.6 inches (100 x 66 mm)
  • Weight — 2.7 ounces (76g)
  • Operating temperature — -20 to 70 deg. C
  • Power requirements — 5VDC @ 300mA

Pricing and availability information for the VSX-6115 was not released by Icop, but the board appears to be available from several distributors for approximately $110.

In addition to Linux, the VSX-6115 runs Windows CE and DOS, according to Icop.

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