By: Liron Kaplan, Konstantin Sinyuk
i.MX applications processors by NXP (previously Freescale) are a single and multi-core ARM® based solution for a wide range of applications. Located at the top of this product category is the iMX6 Series – general purpose application processors. The i.MX series was designed to meet the needs of a wide range of segments such as medical, defense, industrial, IoT, multimedia and more.
Using the i.MX6 processor for a new project could be an excellent choice, but it is one that requires a deep understanding of the i.MX6 Hardware and Software’s strengths, limitations, development tools, and environment. Developing this kind of expertise requires a significant investment of time and money on not only the hardware but also the software side. Therefore, in today’s fast paced electronics market, many developers choose to gain a competitive edge by basing their product on a System on Modules (SoM).
Choosing the right i.MX6 based SoM for your project will enable faster time to market, maintain lower R&D costs, and can provide a scalable and upgradeable infrastructure for the next phase of your project. Perhaps the most important advantage of choosing the right SoM is the fact that it allows you to gain a competitive advantage by focusing on developing your application and user experience.
What’s in the article
This article will provide a comparative overview of four available iMX6 based SoMs designed by Variscite. We will analyze the differences in terms of features, performance, and configuration options between the SoMs. Then we will compare core features such as: CPU, Multimedia, Connectivity, Networking, Mechanical Size, Power Consumption, and Operating System while pointing out design limitations where relevant.
Overview and Target Applications
This section of the article provides a general overview of each SoM and a first glance into which product is better suited for specific target markets/applications.
Optimal for Linux-based applications with rich peripherals options, low power consumption, and basic multimedia capabilities.
The VAR-SOM-6UL System on Module (SoM) / Computer on Module (CoM) is powered by NXP iMX6UL / iMX6ULL / iMX6ULZ ARM Cortex-A7 processor, up to 900MHz CPU Clock. The SoM is a member of the ‘VAR-SOM Pin2Pin’ product family, providing a maximum scalability range; from the entry-level i.MX6UL/6ULL platform, through the iMX6 platforms, I.MX 8M-MINI, i.MX 8X up to the i.MX 8QuadMax.
The Pin2Pin family offers Variscite’s customers a high level of scalability, extended lifetime availability and reduced development time, cost and risk.
The VAR-SOM-6UL is a highly flexible module that provides various interfaces and connectivity options, such as certified single 802.11b/g/n or dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac/a/b/g/n, Bluetooth/BLE, dual Ethernet, dual USB, audio, camera in, parallel RGB and LVDS display with touch panel and serial interfaces.
The system supports industrial temperature grades -40 to 85°C.
Key features: The VAR-SOM-6UL part of Variscite’s Pin2Pin System on Module family. Up to 1024MB DDR3L, 512MB NAND / 64GB eMMC, dual USB, Bluetooth 5.2 / BLE, 2D pixel acceleration engine, audio, camera in, LVDS display with touch panel.
Target applications: IoT gateways, embedded systems, industrial applications, portable medical, smart appliances, battery-operated devices, wireless hubs, and human-machine interfaces.
Production-ready software: Linux Yocto and Debian.
Optimal for Linux-based applications with wide connectivity/interface options, low power, low size, basic multimedia support.
The DART-6UL is a flexible SoM powered by NXP i.MX 6UltraLite / iMX6ULL ARM Cortex™-A7 processor, with frequency options ranging up to 900MHz. All at a very attractive price point. The DART-6UL provides a wide variety of interfaces and connectivity options (such as fully certified Wi-Fi/BT module with 802.11ac/a/b/g/n and dual band 2.4/5 GHz, Dual ETH, USB, UART, I2C, CAN, SPI, ADC, and more) alongside some basic multimedia capabilities. The large number of connectivity options makes the DART-6UL an excellent choice for a controller, web server, gateway, etc.
DART-6UL is less suitable for Android and high-end multimedia applications, as it lacks a strong 2D/3D graphics acceleration, as well as video encode/decode engines. However, the DART-6UL’s small size and low power consumption positions this SoM as an excellent choice for a large variety of battery operated and handheld applications.
Key features: integrated NAND/eMMC, certified Wi-Fi 802.11ac/a/b/g/n module with dual band 2.4/5 GHz, Bluetooth/BLE, dual USB, dual Ethernet, display with touch panel and serial interfaces, audio, and a wide temperature range (-40 to 85°C).
Target applications: IoT, embedded systems, industrial applications, POS, battery operated devices, wireless hub, web server, smart home applications, gateways.
Production-ready software: Linux Yocto and Debian.
Optimal for Linux and entry point Android applications with integrated graphics and video engines.
Based on NXP i.MX6 Single or DualLite Cortex™-A9 processor with up to 1GHz CPU Clock, the VAR-SOM-SOLO/DUAL brings all the benefits of the successful VAR-SOM-MX6 (to follow) and carries much smaller dimensions in a slim lined price-point. Besides having multiple connectivity options and a wide range of available interfaces, VAR-SOM-SOLO/DUAL can also support entry point multimedia applications with its native GPU.
VAR-SOM-SOLO/DUAL is also pin2pin with VAR-SOM-MX6, which creates together a very wide range of options for product configuration and scalability. The option of changing between these SoMs is mainly relevant if customer strategy is to have both low-end & a high-end product version for different markets.
Key features: advanced 2D/3D graphics accelerator, integrated NAND and eMMC, USB, certified dual-band Wi-Fi/BT with MIMO, gigabit ethernet, A/V interfaces, and a wide industrial operating temperature grade (-40 to 85°C).
Target applications: coffee/vending machines, industrial applications, video monitors, printers, automotive.
Production-ready software: Linux Yocto / Android – entry point.
Optimal for Linux and Android applications requiring high-end processing power with advanced multimedia capabilities. Scalable with the VAR-SOM-SOLO/DUAL.
The VAR-SOM-MX6 is a versatile solution with many configuration options, allowing designers to use a single System on Module in a variety of applications to achieve minimal time-to-market for their products, while still accommodating R&D directions and marketing opportunities. This SoM includes the NXP Quad, Dual, DualLite and Single core i.MX6 in up to 1.2GHz ARM Cortex™-A9.
This product is ideal for industrial platforms for high-end Linux/Android applications, while 1080p video encode/decode and graphics accelerations make it equally suitable for intensive multimedia applications as well. As mentioned above, VAR-SOM-MX6 is also pin2pin with VAR-SOM-SOLO/DUAL, which creates a fully scalable solution for different product configurations and scalability.
Key features: -40 to 85 °C temperature range, dual CAN, 1080p video and GC2000 graphics accelerator, up to 64 GB eMMC, enhanced Wi-Fi/BT module including Dual Band 2.4 / 5 GHz and MIMO, gigabit ethernet, consuming only 13mA in suspend with a 3.7V Li-Po.
Target applications: industrial applications, intensive multimedia applications, data communication, measuring systems, embedded systems.
Production-ready software: Linux Yocto and Debian, Android and Windows Embedded Compact.
Optimal for Small Size, Low Power Linux and Android applications with advanced multimedia capabilities.
The DART-MX6 is a High Performance, Low Power and the smallest size i.MX6 Quad Module, measuring only 20mm x 50mm, offering impressive performance, scalability, and power consumption capability. Powered by NXP iMX6 Quad or Dual core 800MHz Cortex™-A9 processor.
DART-MX6 is well supported for both Linux and Android and delivers high-end overall performance in a very small form factor.
Key features: advanced dual-band Wi-Fi/BT with optional MIMO, dual USB, gigabit ethernet, PCIe, A/V interfaces, full -40 to 85 industrial operating temperatures, up to 64Gb eMMC, consuming only 8mA in suspend with a 3.7V Li-Po, 1080p video and GC2000 graphics accelerator.
Target applications: ideal for portable and battery operated embedded systems, outdoor cameras, IoT, video transmission systems, industrial computing systems, video/image communication, robotics.
Production-ready software: Linux Yocto and Debian, and Android.
– Continue Reading: go to Part 2.
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