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based on the new AMD Embedded time and costs quite dramatically. R-Series platform remain extremely Even though the modules themselves power efficient. For example, with an are standardized, a lot of useful AMD R-464L APU for graphics-inten- know-how lies in the details, such as sive or data-parallel applications, it is the scope and quality of the supplied possible to focus the power allocation firmware and software or operating via higher frequency/voltage levels on system modifications. the GPU thereby accelerating graph- Important system components can ics processing by 38% while remain- be either pre-integrated on the COM ing within the specified power limits. already or can be added as an op- For CPU-intensive applications, the tional configuration. This is especially power allocation can be concentrated important for expanding the bat- on the CPU in order to achieve a 39% tery management or when adding a increase in processor speed. Overall, Fig. 2: Nine-screen digital signage systems based on graphics unit for designs that provide the AMD R-464L APU is capable of the new AMD Embedded R-Series platform support extreme scalability of processor and achieving 576 GFLOPS of peak single large-scale video wall installations. graphics performance. precision floating point performance. COMs based on these APUs are, therefore, an ideal platform for demanding embed- Modular graphics ded applications that require high performance with low power Developers and OEMs have two options to include an addi- consumption, such as gaming, digital signage, medical imaging, tional graphics unit: The embedded AMD Radeon E6760 GPU security and surveillance. mentioned above, either as a 37.5x37.5mm BGA unit with 1 GB of video memory or as a complete MXM 3.0 module. The former Supporting large displays can be soldered directly onto the carrier board and enables ex- The AMD Embedded R-Series platform further supports up to tremely compact designs. Developers preferring to adhere strin- four independent displays, or one extremely high-resolution gently to the modular concept with minimal development effort display with a resolution of up to 4000x2000 pixels. This is are better off with the convenient MXM 3.0 module. It is plugged particularly relevant for large digital signage screens that need into the appropriate socket on the custom carrier board via a to deliver sharp images even at close range. Another special 230-pin connector and communicates via PCIe with the COM. feature that it includes is AMD Dual Graphics technology, which This makes it easy to change the graphics solution at a later combines the graphics performance of the integrated GPU date if needed. Developers can upgrade the existing graphics with a discrete graphics unit, such as the AMD Radeon E6760 and computing power of the AMD R-Series APU by adding the GPU. This means that when the discrete graphics unit is used, graphics and computing power of the dedicated AMD Radeon the overall graphical performance of the system is improved, E6760 GPU. This is a unique feature in embedded computing. whereas previously, it was only possible to use either one or Applications that are required to control a maximum number the other graphics unit. For the first time, developers can now of displays, such as information kiosks at airport check-ins, also efficiently scale the graphics performance of their embedded benefit from the intelligent combination of APU and GPU. They application without incurring power loss or extra costs. Thanks are able to control up to ten displays independently; four panels to AMD Eyefinity technology, it is also possible to control up to are addressed via the COM and six more via the additional 10 independent displays via a single APU and discrete AMD graphics unit. Alternatively, it is also possible to control the Radeon graphics processor. This opens up new levels of ef- displays as multiple video wall configurations. The use of COMs ficiency and performance for infotainment and digital signage in such advanced applications is made possible thanks to the installations. For example, congatec has already developed introduction of Type 6 pin-out modules in the new COM Express a nine-screen digital signage system based on the new AMD specification. Embedded R-Series platform that demonstrates the impressive For example, the COM Express module conga-TFS is based capability for large-scale video wall installations – see figure 2. on the AMD Embedded R-series platform and features the new With the new AMD R-Series APU, developers can enter Type 6 pin-out. Little has changed at the A-B connector; only directly into the application development. The APUs support a few previously reserved pins were assigned new signals for all current APIs of DirectX 11 including DirectCompute plus UART, FAN, Lid, Sleep and TPM. The signal assignments of the OpenGL 4.2 and OpenCL 1.2, which can speed up application CD connector, on the other hand, were changed fundamentally. development significantly. For instance, the old, parallel interfaces, such as PCI bus and IDE, were replaced by many new interfaces – see table 1. The COM concept One of the best ways to incorporate these new APUs in an ap- plication is by using Computer-on-Modules (COMs). They pro- vide developers with the comfort and safety of a classic board solution combined with the flexibility of custom designs. COM manufacturers provide compatible, application-ready modules that are pre-integrated for many standard and real-time operat- ing systems and also include all necessary peripheral drivers. Thanks to close cooperation between module suppliers and chip manufacturers such as AMD, developers are able to inte- grate the latest technologies into their own designs shortly after the new building blocks become available, without complicated Table 1: Feature set of different COM Express types. and expensive custom development. This cuts development www.electronics-eetimes.com Electronic Engineering Times Europe December 2012 21


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