Ok, it is a real stretch to get from somewhere over the rainbox in Oz and the title of this article but New Embedded Technology's latest offering, A-Brain (Fig. 1), a COM Express standard baseboard might be the start of a new road.
Computer-on-modules (COM) provide developers with a selection of processors and peripherals that can be easily changed. They also let a designer concentrate on their application without needing to design a processor board. Designing a baseboard is usually easier than designing a processor board but in many cases a baseboard like the A-Brain is what a developer needs. Simply having access to the peripheral interfaces is sufficient. Single board computers are often chosen for this type of application but they are often larger. The selection is often more limited as well.
New Embedded has designed the A-Brain to provide a minimal footprint. Its 95mm by 95mm matches the smallest COM Express form factor. This small stack supports a Mini-PCIe I/O expansion slot so it is easy to add features like a wireless adapter without increasing the size of the system. The small size makes the system suitable for compact or portable applications like robotics or sensor systems.
The A-Brain exposes the interfaces from the COM Express board. This includes two low profile, RJ45 LAN jacks for the Gigabit Ethernet ports. It has a VGA port, a Type II Compact Flash IDE socket, eight USB 2.0 ports, four serial ports and two SATA ports. There is a RS-422/485 option for the serial ports. The A-Briain provides one of the Ethernet ports and the serial ports. COM Express modules do not have serial ports and only one Ethernet port. The connnectors on the A-Brain are rugged locking I/O connectors.
The board provides an ATX power connector. This allows a system to employ readily available ATX power supplies.
New Embedded Technology sells COM Express modules like the COM-CA945 with an Intel Atom N270 that will work with the A-Brain but the A-Brain will work with any COM Express module. Pricing for the A-Brain starts at $249.