Once again a new generation of Intel® Core™ processor raises the bar for digital signage systems. Retailers and other digital signage users looking to add Ultra HD 4K images and video to their signage systems will find the 6th generation Intel® Core™ processor product family (formerly codenamed “Skylake”) their best option. The processors offer a full line of scalable choices for making immersive Ultra HD 4K experiences the standard in the industry.

 

In this post, we look at the advantages of these new processors. We also look at two media players already available with them, as well as a selection of boards for developers to use in refreshing their product line.

 

A Giant Step Up in Graphics and Performance

Early documentation compares the performance of the mobile versions of this processor family to older generation processors in 5-year-old notebook PCs. This comparison works well for the digital signage market as many digital signage players use low-power versions of embedded processors that are 5 years or older. According to a recent Intel Factsheet, the 6th generation Intel Core processors are “setting a new standard of computing with 2.5x better productivity performance, 3x longer battery life, and 30x better 3D graphics performance when compared to a 5-year-old notebook PC.”

 

For signage applications, the processors’ new Intel® 500 Series graphics – Intel Gen9 Graphics – deliver up to 40% better graphics performance and 20% faster Ultra HD 4K transcode. Their dedicated hardware supports Ultra HD 4K playback for an Ultra HD 4K experience at a fraction of the power of previous generation systems (Figure 1). The dedicated hardware also frees up processor resources, ensuring faster, smoother response on interactive signage systems.

 

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Figure 1. The expanded dedicated hardware of Intel® 500 Series Graphics mean improved Ultra HD 4K performance at lower power.


HEVC/H.265 encoding and decoding capabilities, as well as a better, lower-power H.264 encoder, allow Ultra HD 4K videos to take less bandwidth and storage space (Figure 2). The processors can transcode an Ultra HD 4K video up to 20 percent faster than the prior generation. What’s more, these new processors can drive up to three Ultra HD 4K monitors at once.

 

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Figure 2. Codec support includes hardware acceleration for HEVC/H.265.


The higher performance members of the processor family include Intel® Clear Video HD Technology, an HD version of Intel® Clear Video Technology. The new version improves HD video playback with a suite of image decode and processing technologies built into the integrated processor graphics. You get cleaner, sharper images, more natural, accurate, and vivid colors, more realistic skin tones, and a clear and stable video picture.

 

The new processor family also supports the latest multimedia and graphcs APIs. This includes Microsoft DirectX 12 and Open GL 4.4.

 

Look, No Wires – and Faster Wakeup, too

The new processor family also delivers an advanced “no wires” experience based on Intel® Wireless Display (WiDi) and Intel Pro WiDi. For retailers, this means easier setup and fewer wires to try to hide. An integrated image signal processor (ISP) also enables designs incorporating a built-in camera, eliminating the need for adding a camera (and wires) to implement solutions like Intel® RealSense™ technology and Intel® Retail Client Manager.

 

Based on Intel’s leading 14nm process, the 6th generation Intel Core processors enable thinner form factors with wake-up times as short as 0.5 seconds when running Microsoft Windows 10 with Modern Standby implemented. That translates into smaller media players that can fit unobtrusively in more places and start up immediately when the doors open and customers come filing in.

 

Security and Scalability

Security is improved as well. New features include Intel® Software Guard Extensions (Intel® SGX) that add an additional level of hardware-based protection by putting data into a secure container on the platform. Intel® Memory Protection Extensions (Intel® MPX), another security measure, can help prevent buffer flow attacks. (Note: to be fully utilized, Intel SGX and Intel MPX require additional software capabilities which will begin to be delivered by the ecosystem later this year.)

 

The 6th generation Intel Core processor family is Intel’s most scalable processor family ever, enabling a diverse range of form factors to meet every media player need. Intel plans to deliver more than 48 processors in the 6th Gen Intel Core processor family, including more than 25 products for the Internet of Things (IoT) with up to 7-year long-life supply and error correcting code (ECC) at multiple TDP levels.

 

Two Players Already Available

Fast out of the gate with two systems is NEXCOM. Their fanless NDiS B535 media player features a choice of the Intel Core i7-6700TE, i5-6500TE and i3-6100TE processors with support for up to 32GB of DDR4 2133 MHz dual-socket memory (Figure 3). For in-store promotions, the NDiS B535 supports creative, video game-like, 4K2K contents with the unified display output of three HDMI 2.0 ports, accelerated media codecs including HEVC, and the latest API support such as Microsoft® DirectX® 12 on Windows® 10. The digital signage player has a range of interfaces to connect to IP cameras, product tags, and ambient detectors.

 

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Figure 3. NEXCOM NDiS B535 media player.


For those looking for OPS-compliant systems, NEXCOM offers the NDiS M535 OPS player (Figure 4). Powered by 6th generation Intel® Core™ processor i5-6440EQ, the quiet NDiS M535 delivers triple independent outputs supporting 4K display. Dual DDR4 memory sockets with up to 32GB at 2133MHz enable high-speed responsiveness while fast USB 3.0 ports facilitate interactive peripherals including touchscreen displays and cameras. Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) 11.0 allows the OPS player to be remotely accessed and diagnosed. Software issues can be repaired wirelessly, while failing hardware components can be identified early for preventive maintenance, lowering maintenance costs and on-site visits.

 

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Figure 4. NEXCOM NDiS M525 OPS-compliant media player

 

Boards, Boards, and More Boards

The following table provides a sampling of available boards and those soon to be released. I’ve selected one example from a number of Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance members, but many of these members offer other choices. In coming months, many more boards based on these processors will be available.

 

 

Product

6th GEN Intel® Core™ Processors

 

Form Factor

 

Features

AAEON COM-SKHB6

i7/i5/i3 series

COM Express Type 6

  • SODIMM Socket x 2, up to DDR4 2133 up to 32 GB, ECC support (optional)
  • 1x GbE
  • 18/24-bit single channel LVDS LCDs/eDP, DDI x 1
  • High Definition audio interface
  • 4x SATA
  • 8x USB 2.0, 4x USB 3.0, 1 PCI-Express x8, 1 PCI-Express x16
  • GPIO x 8, SMbus, I2C, LPC

ADLINK Express-SL

i7-6822EQ

i7-6820EQ

i5-6442EQ

i5-6440EQ

i3-6102E

i3-6100E

COM Express Type 6

  • Up to 32GB ECC/non-ECC Dual Channel DDR4 at 1867/2133MHz
  • 3 DDI channels, one LVDS (or 4 lanes eDP), supports up to 3 independent displays
  • 7x PCIe x1, 1x PCIe x16 (Gen3)
  • 1x GbE, 4x SATA 6 Gb/s, 4x USB 3.0 and 4x USB 2.0
  • Supports Smart Embedded Management Agent (SEMA) functions
  • Extreme Rugged* operating temperature: -40°C to +85°C (optional)

Avalue BCM MX110H

i7/i5/i3 series

Mini-ITX

  • Socket LGA 1151 supports 6th Gen Intel® Core™ i7/i5/i3, Intel® Celeron®/Pentium® processors
  • Intel H110 PCH Chipset
  • Supports 2x independent displays
  • 4x USB 3.0 and 4x USB 2.0
  • 4x SATA III
  • 1x mini PCIe and 1x mini PCIe with mSATA support
  • 2x DisplayPorts and 1x LVDS
  • Optional eDP

Axiomtek CEM501

i7/i5/i3 series

COM Express Type 6

  • 2 x 260pin SO- DIMM DDR4-2133 up to 32 GB
  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x 10/100/1000Mbps (Intel® i219LM)
  • 2 x DDI (DP/HDMI/DVI)
  • 1 x VGA (optional)
  • 1 x LVDS
  • 1 x eDP (optional)
  • 4-IN & 4-OUT (SDIO optional)
  • HD link interface to baseboard for Codec
  • 3 x SATA-600
  • 6 x PCIe x1 devices
  • 1 x LPC interface
  • 1 x SPI interface
  • 2 x Serial TX/RX

Fujitsu D3402-B

i7-6700

i7-6700TE

i5-6500

i5-6500TE

i3-6100

i3-6100E

i3-6100TE

i3-6102

Micro-ATX

  • DDR4 2133 SDRAM
  • Intel® vPro (iAMT11.0)
  • Intel® HD Graphics
  • PCIe Gen3
  • Multichannel Audio onboard
  • USB 3.0/2.0 onboard
  • Intel® GbE LAN onboard
  • Trusted Platform Module V2.0 (Infineon) onboard
  • Onboard Support for M.2 SSD (PCIe or SATA)
  • Customizing Tools (BIOS Logo, Temperature Monitoring)
  • Professional Revision Management

iBASE MB990

i7-6822EQ

i7-6820EQ

i7-6700TE

i7-6700

i5-6500TE

i5-6500

i3-6100TE

i3-6100

ATX

  • 4x DDR4 DIMM slots for up to 64GB of memory
  • 4x USB 2.0, 10x USB 3.0, 6x COM, 6x SATA III ports
  • DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort
  • PCIe x16, PCIe x8, PCIe x4, PCIe x1, Mini PCIe and 3x PCI slots
  • 2x GbE
  • RAID
  • TPM 1.2
  • Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) 11.0
  • EuP/ErP and iSMART

IEI Nano-ULT3

i7-6600U

i5-6300U

i3-6100U

EPIC

  • Dual-channel DDR3L SODIMMs
  • Triple independent display support
  • Thermal design for easy assembly by heat spreader
  • Full size PCIe Mini slot
  • COM, USB 3.0, SATA 6Gb/s, mSATA, eMMC 5.0 and audio support
  • IEI one key recovery solution for rapid OS backup and recovery

MSC C6C-SLU

i7-6600U

i5-6300U

i3-6100U

COM Express Type 6

  • Up to 8GB DDR3L SDRAM, dual-channel
  • 3x SATA 6Gb/s mass storage interfaces
  • MicroSD card socket
  • DisplayPort/HDMI/DVI interface
  • LVDS/embedded DisplayPort interface
  • 3x independent display support
  • 4x USB 3.0/2.0 and 4x USB 2.0 interfaces
  • Up to 8x PCI Express x1 lanes
  • Trusted Platform Module

Protech BU2509

i7/i5/i3 series

Micro-ATX

  • 2x DDR4 DIMM sockets w/ECC & no-ECC)
  • DVI and Display Port
  • 3 independent audio
  • Dual GbE LAN
  • SATA III, RAID 0, 1, 5.
  • 1 PCIe 16x 
  • 6 series ports

RICOH Mini-ITX

i7/i5/i3 series

Mini-ITX

  • Up to 16 GB in 1 slot SO-DIMM socket
  • 1 PCIe x16 (Gen 3) slot and 1x mSATA slot
  • Supports triple display of LVDS, Analog RGB, DVI-D

Supermicro X11SSQ

i7/i5/i3 series

Mini-ITX

  • Up to 64GB Unbuffered Non-ECC  UDIMM DDR4 2133MHz; 4 DIMM slots
  • 1 PCI-E 3.0 x16, 2 PCI-E 3.0 x4, 1 PCI-E 3.0 x1, M.2 PCIex2 M Key 2242/2280, PCIex4 w/ open slots
  • 1x GbE LAN w/ Intel® i210-AT, 1x GbE LAN w/ Intel® PHY i219LM
  • 6x SATA3 (6Gbps) via Q170; RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 Intel RST
  • HDMI, DP, DVI-D, 1 eDP, Intel HD Graphics, 3x independent displays
  • 1x SATA DOM, 4x COM ports, TPM  header, ALC 888S HD Audio 7.1
  • 4x USB 3.0 (2 rear + 2 via header), 8x USB 2.0 (4 rear + 4 via headers)

 

Sign of the Times

To add systems and boards based on 6th generation Intel Core processors to your digital signage solutions, see the full collection of available solutions in our regularly updated Solutions Directory.

 

Learn More

Solutions in this blog:

 

Related topics:

 

ADLINK is a Premier member of the Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance. AAEON, Avalue, Axiomtek, iBASE, IEI Integration Corp, Fijitsu, NEXCOM,and Super Micro Computer are Associate members. MSC Technologies, Protech Systems, and RICOH are Affiliate members.

 

Mark Scantlebury

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance

Editor-in-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine