The Intel® 80219 General Purpose PCI Processor Platform and Kontron X-Board* Modules Enable Multiple Solutions from a Single Design

Case Summary

Kontron is a leading developer of embedded computing modules. OEMs combine such modules bearing the system CPU with an application-specific carrier board for a semi-custom solution. Pre-developed modules save design time and cut costs without sacrificing performance or features.

Embedded computing modules must scale in performance and features so that solu­tions can be tailored for different applications. Exchangable modules are needed to enable future upgrades and extend development work into new uses. RISC-based designs for small form factors must be optimized for high performance and low power consumption.

Kontron X-board* modules use a common pin-out design, enabling customers to build a single carrier board and then scale performance and features by choosing different CPU modules. The X-board design combines low power consumption with fast boot time to serve a variety of space-constrained applications.

What’s New

Kontron’s newest X-board<GP8> module employs the Intel® 80219 general purpose processor to deliver higher performance at low power and gain software support for Linux* and Windows* CE. Kontron also wanted the onboard PCI interface to eliminate the need for an additional component, making more efficient use of the restricted board space. Because the Intel 80219 processor uses the same Intel XScale® core as the other X-board design, Kontron developers can add new capabilities and perfor­mance while preserving earlier development work.

The Background

Now widely used in a number of applications, embedded Computer-on-Modules (COMs) have gained popularity for their ability to deliver:

  • Stable and proven designs that can be used like a chip
  • Low-power chip technology
  • Migration path to new CPU technology
  • Shortened time-to-market
  • Simplified development
  • Reduced design risk through interchangeable components and standards-based technologies

As an early pioneer in the development of embedded com­puting modules, Kontron’s mission is to provide OEMs with a full suite of modules that can be exchanged like components to deliver a wide va­riety of applications. Beginning with the CPU-only DIMM-PC*, later extending to the full-featured ETX* Component SBC, and then to the miniature X-Board*, Kontron modules support a variety of applica­tions. These modules can be combined with a custom carrier card (or baseboard) that adds the features needed for a spe­cific application.

Kontron’s base-level DIMM-PC* module holds a general purpose CPU, allowing for microprocessor replacement or upgrades with compatible operating systems and integrated Ethernet. Only the ISA bus is available for expansion and a separate module is needed for graphics features.

At the other extreme, the Kontron ETX module offers multi­media capabilities, with processor speeds up to 2.0 GHz and the highest level of I/O throughput available. ETX modules are full featured, with ISA and PCI buses, USB and serial ports, along with two IDE channels and LCD graphics.

Big Performance-Small Space: The Need for Both

In between the CPU-only DIMM-PC and the full-featured ETX, Kontron discovered a need for modules that deliver robust interfaces and high performance with reduced power con­sumption, a fast-boot, RISC-based design to meet the needs of space-constrained applications. Such RISC-based products are used for hand­held test and measurement, as well as automotive, telematics, industrial panels and human-machine interface applications.

Scalability in both performance and price, and preserving existing designs for future upgrades are also extremely impor­tant. “Our customers want to make one carrier board design and then choose among modules to deliver different levels of features and performance within an application,” explains Josef Behammer, Sales and Marketing Manager, Kontron.

Preserving the customer’s work on existing solutions is a big deal to Kontron. Pin counts can’t vary among modules. Interfaces and technologies must be standards-based. The ability to migrate to new processing technologies is vital.

The X-Board: Reduced to the Max*

Kontron’s X-boards fulfill their customers’ needs for an inter­mediate solution. The compact X-board module-with all essential modern interfaces-allows for very power-efficient processing without comprising performance.

Designed for space-constrained applications needing high performance and low power consumption, the X-board is about the size of a typical business card (68x49mm). There is no extra onboard baggage like legacy device support or ISA bus. Optimized for low power consumption, the X-board does not need an extra cooling device, like a heatsink or fan, but still maintains the highest levels of CPU performance.

Customers will likely need the X-board when:

  • The CPU-only module isn’t quite enough-more performance and video power are needed as well
  • VGA/LCD graphics requirements range from low to mid resolution
  • Planned expansion is to be delivered via LPC or PCI
  • USB is intended to be the main “connectivity” port
  • Everything must be delivered within a confined space (no larger than a shoe box)

RISC-based X-Boards

Within the X-board family, Kontron identified a need for RISC-based designs that deliver extremely fast boot time along with low power consumption. For this Kontron turned to the Intel XScale microarchitecture, well known for delivering high per­formance and low power consumption-a must for today’s small handheld embedded devices.

The first RISC-based Kontron X-Board uses the Intel® PXA255 processor based on the Intel XScale microarchitecture. It was the first Kontron module to bring the high-performance/low-power features of Intel XScale technology to OEMs building small PDA applications and thin clients.

Recently Kontron customers began looking for a higher level of features, including an onboard PCI interface and high reso­lution graphics capabilities. So Kontron extended its X-board lineup with the Intel 80219 general purpose PCI processor -also based on the Intel XScale technology. With en­hanced communications interfaces, powerful I/O throughput and a graphics package that supports high-end controllers (up to 1280x1064), the Intel 80219 processor is ideal for the small X-board form factor.

“The Intel 80219 processor has an onboard PCI bus, so we didn’t need to add parts or do any extra development,” says Behammer. “Support for Windows CE and Linux was also important-Intel and the development community did all the preconfiguration so that the 80219 was ready to go.”

Benefits

The Intel 80219 processor-based X-Board used the same Intel XScale core as the earlier version. Common development tools make it easy to build new solutions-previous design work is preserved. With CPU design work done, OEMs can focus on the application-specific software and carrier board technologies that make their solution unique.

Kontron extends those benefits by using the same pin-out on its modules. As long as a customer uses an x86 or Intel XScale technology-based RISC design for their carrier board, Kontron CPU modules can be exchanged like compo­nents to add new features and migrate to new technology.

Behammer explains: “A single design cuts down dramatically on the development costs for our customers. For example, we have one customer that started with our first X-board. Now they want to boost graphics power to work in a larger display. That first X-board does not support bigger displays at high resolution, but our newest X-board does. Without chang­ing his design, this customer can swap in the new module to deliver more powerful graphics. That’s all there is to it.”

Conclusion

Kontron engineers cite the versatility of Intel® architecture and the Intel XScale microarchitecture in its ability to deliver so much capability via a single design. Standards-based designs simplify the entire development process, saving time and cutting costs for both Kontron and their OEM customers.

Kontron’s experience shows how embedded development is changing-dramatically. Modules that use general purpose processors can be used like components to exchange fea­tures and performance in a single solution. Such simplicity was unheard of just a short time ago.

Learn More

For more information about the Intel 80219 general purpose processor, please visit:
http://developer/intel.com/design/iio/80219.htm

Read about Kontron computing modules and the X-board at:
www.kontron.com/modules or www.get-x-board.de. Kontron is a member of the Intel® Communications Alliance. For more information please visit: www.intel.com/go/ica

Contact Information

Kontron
14118 Stowe Dr
Poway, CA 92064-7147
USA
858.677.0877 Telephone
858.677.0898 Fax
sales@us.kontron.com
www.kontron.com