Author Topic: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...  (Read 5605 times)

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Offline NyxTopic starter

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The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« on: February 27, 2007, 06:21:46 PM »
I found something interesting today:

http://www.norhtec.com/products/mcjr/index.html
http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS6828123924.html

Seems pretty cheap and low power... The CPU is rather weak, and the RAM is not upgradable, but it can have WiFI internet, it can run linux, and it can boot from CF cards. It also consumes only 8W of power, and has a size of (4.5in)^2.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2007, 06:45:30 PM by Nyx »

Offline ed1380

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2007, 06:50:45 PM »
What about them mini macs?
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Offline hgordon

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2007, 07:20:43 PM »
The Norhtec box looks nice for Linux.  Good price !
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Offline NyxTopic starter

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2007, 07:27:26 PM »
What about them mini macs?

Higher power consumption, bigger and heavier (CD drive, HD), higher price, no built in WiFi, probably no serial ports.

I'm currently wondering about the feasibility of using one of those tiny PCs to make a walker robot that is in the 14-20" tall range, and only uses servos to move. My main worry is that battery packs might make this too heavy for servos to be able to handle.

Two webcams, a tiny PC with wifi, the serial 32-servo controller, a serial gyro, lots of servos and some battery packs... And I could be in business... Building my own walker robot for a sub $800 price... And getting something quite nicer than what is currently sold on the market (eg $2500 walker robots with no hands, no wireless and a weak CPU).
« Last Edit: February 27, 2007, 07:31:19 PM by Nyx »

Offline JesseWelling

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2007, 02:37:34 AM »
Gumstix are better for the price and embedded applications IMHO.
This is what I recconmend from Gumstix for Robotics http://gumstix.com/store/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=146

Gumstix are faster but only have 64mb or ram. And no floating point unit.
But they take up way less power and are way smaller. So unless you need
USB I don't see the advantage of the Nortec.

My next robot I'm going to work on a more complex mapping robot and I'm going to use
the gumstix to help manage the IO but I'm going to get a x86 processor to do database
learning and possibly some vision processing. This is what I think I'm going to use:
http://www.logicsupply.com/product_info.php/cPath/49/products_id/600
Much more ram (up to 1gb wich is nice for database+vission) and much much faster than the Nortec (even if you take into consideration the SIS's inline pipeing of instructions because I'm not
sure the linux kernel would be able to take care of this. hardware vs sofware suport kinda issue).

But the Nortec's do look line a good company to keep my eye on. Thanks for the heads up!
« Last Edit: February 28, 2007, 02:46:59 AM by JesseWelling »

Offline snow

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2007, 02:51:17 AM »
You might also check out VIA's nano ITX motherboards: http://www.via.com.tw/en/products/mainboards/

Offline JesseWelling

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2007, 03:03:45 AM »
About the Nano:
Be sure to not go overboard and get the 1GHz processor because it needs a fan which will need more power. Go with the 800Mhrz or less. Nano and Mini ITX are fast aproaching the general consumers. Gone will be the day of the big clunky box. Also if you go with the small ITX form factor look in to Solid State Storage for low power and hella fast disk read/write times:
http://www.memorydepot.com/ssd.asp Cheapest site I have found.....

There is also the EBX and PC104 form factors which are kind of a mixed bag...Check these sites out for ok x86 solutions that fall inbetween the small ITX and gumstix:
http://www.arcom.com/#Emb_boards
http://www.acrosser.com/product/Embedded%20PC/Embedded%20Systems/Index1.htm

Offline NyxTopic starter

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2007, 07:39:21 AM »
I do need USB host capabilities to hook up webcams, which is why the gumstix don't seem so tempting. I also need low power, which is why I'm not sure about nano-itx... It seems like with nano-itx boards, the weight of the batteries would make it difficult to build a small bipedal robot. As for PC 104... You have to do an "inquiry" for the price, which is not inspiring.

The gumstix do seem interesting, but I would need one with WiFi and with USB hosting capabilities (capable of supporting two USB 1.1 devices, possibly 3), I might also need analog inputs for gyroscopes and accelerometers...

Offline JonHylands

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2007, 07:58:20 AM »
Check this one out:

http://www.compulab.co.il/x270/html/x270-cm-datasheet.htm?gclid=CMvwzJ_Y8IkCFSJNPgod-AJZLA

It has host USB, wifi, plus a pile of other features. Single quantity pricing seems to be in the $135 USD range...

- Jon

Offline hgordon

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2007, 08:55:31 AM »
Thanks Jon.  The cost of the entire processor is comparable to what we might have to pay for just a WiFi module.  This is very interesting !
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Offline NyxTopic starter

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2007, 09:49:32 AM »
Check this one out:

http://www.compulab.co.il/x270/html/x270-cm-datasheet.htm?gclid=CMvwzJ_Y8IkCFSJNPgod-AJZLA

It has host USB, wifi, plus a pile of other features. Single quantity pricing seems to be in the $135 USD range...

- Jon



That seems interesting, especially with the ~2 watt power consumption. However, I'm wondering... How do we go about getting actual USB ports, and WiFi support. Are those separate modules? They list USB hosting capability, but the actual ports don't seem to be on the board. Furthermore, supposing recent linux kernels support my webcam on x86, will they also support it on this? Is this x-86 compatible, or is the xscale a RISC CPU?

EDIT: Ok, so it seems you also have to purchase some module with all the ports on it (http://www.compulab.co.il/x270/html/x270-sb-datasheet.htm)... And it seems one of the two options has WiFi, but what is the max RAM on that one?
« Last Edit: February 28, 2007, 09:54:09 AM by Nyx »

Offline hgordon

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2007, 09:53:38 AM »
They have a variety of boards, but the one that catches my attention is the CM-X270L, which uses the xscale StrongARM PA270 processor and has an onboard WiFi option.  The USB ports are accessed via one of the three 140-pin connectors.  They have full Debian Linux support, which would include webcam capture drivers.  Power consumption is quite a bit below 2 watts in minimal configurations.

That seems interesting, especially with the ~2 watt power consumption. However, I'm wondering... How do we go about getting actual USB ports, and WiFi support. Are those separate modules? They list USB hosting capability, but the actual ports don't seem to be on the board. Furthermore, supposing recent linux kernels support my webcam on x86, will they also support it on this? Is this x-86 compatible, or is the xscale a RISC CPU?
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Offline NyxTopic starter

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2007, 10:08:56 AM »
What about this board: http://www.compulab.co.il/iglx/html/iglx-cm-datasheet.htm

It uses a Geode LX800 processor, and thus has a built-in FPU (along with MMX and SSE). It doesn't seem to have WiFi, but that could be added though a cheap USB adapter. The thing also runs x86 code (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geode_LX). It has more ram (256 MB DDR), and can even run Windows XP (not that I would want to). Of course the problem now is also to find cables to run this board (get USB ports and power), as well as to get pricing information.

EDIT: apparently the same kind of connector module exists for this: http://www.compulab.co.il/iglx/html/iglx-sb-datasheet.htm, although I still don't know about the price, nor where the 512 MB "flash disk" is, although that may be onboard.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2007, 10:16:49 AM by Nyx »

Offline hgordon

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2007, 10:48:57 AM »
The power consumption is quite a bit higher than the CM-X270 board - perhaps 10x difference in minimal configurations.

What about this board: http://www.compulab.co.il/iglx/html/iglx-cm-datasheet.htm
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Offline NyxTopic starter

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2007, 11:11:22 AM »
The power consumption is quite a bit higher than the CM-X270 board - perhaps 10x difference in minimal configurations.

What about this board: http://www.compulab.co.il/iglx/html/iglx-cm-datasheet.htm



Well, in my case, 5W is quite affordable, and I'm not going to be using a minimal configuration...

Offline JesseWelling

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2007, 01:46:12 PM »
I don't know what the time frame you're working with but the new pxa270 gumstix are due out this year.
I know I'm trying to hold because it does have usb host and would be faster the my current pxa255 version.
Down side is still not FPU but it's faster so it can spare some cycles to the Float math that I really need.

Other wise I'm going to go with a Geode LX-800 bassed solution.

Offline NyxTopic starter

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2007, 02:10:28 PM »
I checked the price on the SBC-iGLX and it is pretty expensive...

The module with ports on it is minimally $150 for one unit. With useful ports on it, that goes to $200. The actual module in its basic configuration is in the $300 range. They also say that "light weight shipping to america" is $95. So, that totals to about $600, depending on the options you pick. The version based on the ARM processor is about half that price (for the computer unit), but its port module is about as expensive.

Sooo yeah... I might reconsider that cheap, small form factor PC, depending on how much money I can afford to put in a project like this.

Otherwise, maybe some in-between like this: http://www.bwi.com/prod/488835/

It's slightly larger, but it has all the ports on it, the prices aren't nazi, and it has about the same power consumption (note: they have cheaper versions too).
« Last Edit: February 28, 2007, 02:16:22 PM by Nyx »


Offline JesseWelling

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Re: The quest for a tiny, low power PC...
« Reply #18 on: February 28, 2007, 03:43:48 PM »
I think the reason I settled on the I-box 500 http://www.emphase.com/ibox500
was it's size and the fact that it came with a case. any one know of some other
Geode bassed solutions that have at least 2 serial ports, usb, and come with their
own case?

*edit*

the J8F8 looks promising. Nano-itx with a Geode LX-800 http://www.epiacenter.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=976
« Last Edit: February 28, 2007, 11:31:27 PM by JesseWelling »

 


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