Intel’s Haswell processor emerges on embedded boards

Paul Boughton

Embedded board makers have been moving over to the fourth generation microprocessor from Intel which was released last month.

The Haswell microarchitecture is being used in a new generation of Core i3, i5 and i& processors with a range of multicore and power envelopes as well as the latest high speed PCI Express 3.0 and USB3.0 interfaces.

The first platforms from German board maker Kontron to feature the technology are COM Express, Mini-ITX, 6U CompactPCI, and the Kontron SYMKLOUD Media cloud platforms. These integrate new features such as the Intel AVX2 instructions, which dramatically accelerate floating-point-intensive computations and the improved Intel AES-NI, which accelerates data encryption and decryption.

Graphics-intensive applications will profit from the graphics performance which has doubled in comparison to the previous generation processors, while the thermal footprint has remained nearly the same.

"With our early launch parallel to the introduction of the new processor technology on a rich selection of standard embedded computing platforms, we are enabling our OEM customers to kick-start the development of their latest state-of-the-art intelligent systems,” said Norbert Hauser, Executive Vice President, Marketing at Kontron. “Both OEMs and users will benefit from improved graphics capabilities and impressive computing power that come along with a more eco-friendly power consumption in operating as well as in sleep mode."

"This very efficient sleep mode will not only reduce energy consumption but will also change the way mobile systems or stationary devices are used," says Sam Cravatta, Product Line Manager, Intel Intelligent Systems Group. "New application areas will emerge as well as improvements in existing designs in market segments such as industrial, retail, communications, medical, and infotainment."

Target applications include digital signal and image processing applications in the medical, industrial automation and MAG (Military, Aerospace and Government) markets, as well as cloud-based video transcoding for content delivery networks. OEMs looking for a compelling visual experience of intelligent systems displaying videos, graphics and interactive content will enjoy the advantages of increased 3D and media performance as well as the support of DirectX 11.1 and OpenGL 4.x. Another new feature is the support for 4K displays, connected via DVI or HDMI.

Another German board maker, congatec AG, has launched a Type 6 COM Express module featuring the Core processors.

Improvements to the previous architecture have led to efficiency gains that also boost performance. This is particularly evident in the embedded graphics, where the number of integrated graphics units (execution units) has been increased, resulting in higher 3D performance in the range of 28-60% compared to previous generations.

Congatec sees the most exciting new feature is the introduction of Intel Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel AVX) 2.0, which improves performance of floating point instructions. In 4th Generation processors, Intel AVX 2.0 helps enable higher performance in applications like signal and image processing for market segments such as medical and avionics.

The conga-TS87 COM Express module with pin out Type 6 takes advantage of integrated graphics and the associated advanced digital display interfaces. The conga-TS87 also uses the high bandwidth of USB 3.0 and PCI Express 3.0 with additional PCI Express lanes.

The COM Express module is currently available with the mobile Intel QM87 Express chipset and embedded quad core Intel Core i7-4700EQ processor with 6MB L2 cache and can be powered at 2.4 GHz with a TDP of 47W. In Turbo Boost mode, the clock rate is increased to 3.4 GHz. The chip features up to 16 GB, 1600 MT/s fast LV 1.35V dual channel DDR3 memory.

The integrated graphics is significantly more powerful than previous models and supports Intel Flexible Display Interface (FDI), DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4, OpenCL 1.2 and high-performance, flexible hardware decoding for parallel decoding of multiple high-resolution full HD videos.

4K2K pixel resolution of up to 3840 x 2160 with DisplayPort, and 4096 x 2304 with HDMI is natively supported in the processor. It is also possible to connect up to three independent display interfaces via DVI, as well as LVDS and VGA.

Native USB 3.0 support ensures fast data transmission with low power draw. A total of eight USB ports are provided, four of which can support SuperSpeed USB 3.0. There are seven PCI Express 2.0 lanes, PCI Express 3.0 graphics (PEG) x16 lanes for high-performance external graphics cards, four SATA ports with up to 6 Gb/s and RAID support and one Gigabit Ethernet interface enable fast and flexible system extensions. Fan control, LPC bus for easy integration of legacy I/O interfaces and Intel High Definition Audio complete the feature set.

GE Intelligent Platforms has announced a rugged 3U VPX single board computer using the quad core Core i7 processor to minimize size, weight and power (SWaP) in deployed subsystems – making it ideal for constrained environments such as manned- and unmanned vehicles.

“Our customers’ applications are increasing in complexity and in their demand for across-the-board performance – yet they are challenged by new generations of military platforms that need to be smaller and lighter than ever before,” said Rod Rice, General Manager, Military & Aerospace Products at GE Intelligent Platforms. “The SBC326, and the products that will follow, address these needs by delivering more computing bandwidth in each chassis slot – enabling subsystems to deliver more capability with the same size, weight and power, or to deliver a level of capability that previously required more size, weight and power.”

The new single board computers benefit from the 4th generation Intel Core i7 processor’s support of PCI Express Gen3 technology and USB3.0, providing even greater bandwidth for on-board and off-board connectivity and enabling the high bandwidths required by today’s applications.

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