Advantech’s COM-Micro vs. COM-Express
A look at two Atom-powered COM-Micro/COM-Express boards from Advantech, one with the Z530 and one with the N270, both running at 1.6GHz
When most people think of computers they think of desktops, notebooks and
servers. What's less well known is that untold millions of computers are
embedded in all sorts of machinery and equipment ranging from games to
digital signage, automotive applications, ATMs, and a wide variety of industrial and
control systems. These computers bear little resemblance to laptops or other consumer and commercial computers; they are generally just small circuit boards, albeit boards that are designed to provide targeted functionality in a variety of industry standard form factors.
The Carrier Board/System-on-Module approach
Embedded systems design is very different from designing consumer or even vertical market computing products. The life cycles of these systems is much longer than the rapid-fire change in consumer products, often five to seven years. Once a design problem has been solved, there is no need to reinvent the wheel, but there is a need to keep up with new processor, interface and peripheral technologies. As a result, embedded systems often include two components. They consist of what's called a "solution" or "carrier" board that then accommodates a small System-On-Module (SOM) board that includes the CPU, chipset, memory and other core functionality. This approach frees designers and system integrators from having to design a whole new computer every time they switch processors. This way, they can design their solution, and then just pop in a new SOM. This means no more CPU integration concerns, always being able to offer the latest technologies, and getting to market very quickly. In fact, if you open some of the rugged machines we're reviewing here at RuggedPCReview.com, you'd find that many use this approach: they have a solution board and then a system-on-module based on speed and feature requirements.
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