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Tiny x86 module runs Linux

Feb 2, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 32 views

Datasound Laboratories (DSL) announced a compact “embedded controller” based on a 300MHz DM&P Vortex86SX CPU. The Icop VSX-6117 is just 3.14 x 1.96 inches, uses only 320mA at 5V, includes 128MB of soldered-on DDR2 memory and 2GB of flash storage, has a 10/100 Ethernet port, and includes EIDE and x-ISA expansion, according to the company.

The VSX-6117 appears to be not quite newly minted — a data sheet on the site of Taiwanese manufacturer Icop has a June 2010 creation date — but it's now being offered for the first time by U.K. distributor DSL. Thanks to its low power consumption, the device is ideal for applications such as portable monitoring systems, medical equipment, and battery-powered instrumentation, the company says.

The device is based on the Vortex86SX SoC introduced in October 2007 by Icop's parent company, DM&P Electronics. While Icop has previously employed the SoC (system on chip) in products such as the VSX-6115, VSX-6190, and VSX-6190S boards, plus the eBox-2300SX mini-PC, the VSX-6115 is the smallest Vortex-based device yet, at just 3.14 x 1.96 inches.

The Vortex86SX is said by DM&P to consume only 0.9W at 300MHz (and just 0.2W at 66MHz). It packs numerous functions into a 27 x 27mm 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.

Vortex86SX block diagram
(Click to enlarge)

Unlike DM&P's later Vortex86DX, the Vortex86SX is limited to a maximum 256MB of RAM, does not have floating-point support, and cannot run Windows XP Embedded or Windows Embedded Standard. However, it is compatible with Windows CE and Linux, as DSL notes.

The little VSX-6117 pairs the Vortex86SX with 128MB or 256MB of soldered-on DDR2 memory and 2GB of flash storage. As pictured below, an EIDE interface is present, ready to accept optional SSD (solid state disk) modules made by EmbedDisk, yet another DM&P company.

Connectors on Icop's VSX-6117
(Click to enlarge)

The VSX-6117 also has an RJ45 connector for 10/100 Ethernet, and squeezes on headers for 16-bit GPIO, an RS232 port, a USB port, a PS/2 keyboard, and JTAG. It does not provide display connectors, because the Vortex86SX does not have a GPU (graphics processing unit) on board. However, there's a connector for Icop's x-ISA bus, allowing video to be added via the company's ICOP-2820 daughterboard (which matches the VSX-6117's 3.14 x 1.96 inch size).

Features and specifications listed by DSL and/or Icop for the VSX-6117 include:

  • Processor — Vortex86SX SoC clocked at 300MHz
  • Memory — 128MB or 256MB of DDR2 RAM
  • Storage — 2GB of onboard flash; accepts flash-based EmbedDisk via EIDE connector
  • Expansion — x-ISA connector
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet with RJ45 connector
  • Other I/O (all via headers):
    • 1 x EIDE
    • 1 x RS232
    • 1 x USB 2.0
    • keyboard
    • 1 x 16-bit GPIO
    • JTAG
  • Power consumption — 320mA @ 5V
  • Operating range — -4 to 158 deg. F (-20 to 70 deg. C)
  • Dimensions — 3.14 x 1.96 inches (80 x 50mm)
  • Weight — 1.48 ounces (42g)

Further information

According to DSL, which did not cite pricing, Icop's VSX-6117 is available now. Further information may be found on DSL's VSX-6117 product page or Icop's VSX-6117 product page.

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