Electronic Design

266-MHz Pentium Processor Module May Herald A New Embedded System Standard

Designers who need a custom solution often turn to single-board computers (SBCs), which typically come close to filling their needs. Unfortunately, these designers often have to set up complicated cable connections and add custom hardware, prompting a series of compromises. Yet the EnCore 500 from Ampro, creator of the PC-104, may change that situation.

The EnCore 500 is the first of a series of 32- and 64-bit processor modules that provide a complete system without the standard connectors, such as the RJ-45, for the on-board Ethernet (see the figure). Instead, it plugs into baseboards that contain additional hardware and connectors for any desired peripheral connections. Designers select the placement and number of connectors on the baseboard. Sample and development baseboards in EBX and 3U CPCI form factors are available as reference designs.

Using off-the-shelf operating systems, the EnCore 500 minimizes system development time. Modules can be easily replaced with other models to improve performance, reduce power consumption, or take advantage of features available with new versions. A socket-based approach would only permit changes to the processor. The module-based approach, though, allows any of the subsystems in a new module to differ from the EnCore 500.

SDRAM Support
Based on the 266-MHz Mobile Pentium processor, the module measures 100 by 145 mm. It contains a high-performance 3D graphics adapter, a SoundBlaster-compatible sound interface, a 10/100Base-T Ethernet interface (not including the PHY), and support for up to 128 Mbytes of small-outline dual in-line memory module (DIMM) SDRAM. Also, it has 256 kbytes of Flash memory for the BIOS.

The device supports two serial ports, an ECP/EPP parallel port, four USB ports, a primary IDE controller, and a PC-104-Plus expansion bus. This bus only supports the PCI portion of the standard. The IDE controller supports the SanDisk CompactFlash and the IBM Microdrive.

For details, visit www.ampro.com.

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