Industrial Embedded Computer Systems, Motherboards & Peripherals

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Bo Knows

 

Intel Ivy Bridge and Panther Point have arrived: The information you should know... - June 2012


Intel has released its 3rd Generation Core processors previously codenamed: Ivy Bridge and its corresponding 7-series chipsets previously codenamed: Panther Point.  These 3rd Generation processors are a “Tick” in Intel’s Tick-Tock model, meaning a new 22nm manufacturing process based off of Moore’s Law that allows for new capabilities and higher performance with greater energy efficiency.


So what new features and improvements can I expect?

One of the biggest improvements to the 3rd Generation of Intel Core processors is the introduction of the 22nm 3-D Tri-gate transistor technology. Without going too much into detail on transistor technology, this means it allows more transistor current to flow when the transistor is on, and virtually no current when it is in the off position, with much quicker switching between the two states, allowing for better power usage and performance. Reports have been anywhere from 5% to 20% increase in CPU performance.

GPU performance has also seen an improvement over its Sandy Bridge predecessor by 25% to 50% with the integrated Intel HD Graphics 2500 or 4000 (dependant on processor used) and also allows for 3 independent displays and includes HDMI 1.4a, DVI, Display port, eDP and VGA support.

DDR3L memory support has also been added for the mobile version of the Intel 3rd Generation processors.  DDR3L (the L stands for low voltage), operates at 1.35V which results in a 20% power savings over the standard 1.5V DDR3.

The next generation of Intel Quick Sync video has also been included and is twice as fast as the previous generation by using dedicated media processing to make video creation faster and easier.

The Intel 7 Series chipsets (with the exception of the HM75 chipset) now have USB 3.0 integrated along with Intel’s Rapid Start Technology, allowing for improved resume from hibernate mode.

Intel has also made it possible to use your previous 2nd Generation processors with the new Intel 7-Series chipsets, as well as the Ivy Bridge processors on the Intel 6 series chipsets.  This support will vary depending on the board manufacturer and requires a BIOS update.


Global American and Intel Ivy Bridge

Global American is currently carrying the CR100-CRM – Mini-ITX Motherboard with the Intel QM77 Express Chipset  for 3rd Generation Intel Core i3 /i5 /i7 Mobile Processors and the MB-330-CRM – Micro-ATX Motherboard with the Intel Q77 Express Chipset for 3rd Generation Intel Core i3 /i5 /i7 Desktop Processors.  Many more boards and systems will be added over the coming weeks including a fanless embedded system with 3rd Generation support, so please stay tuned to the Coming Soon section of our website at www.globalamericaninc.com or contact one of our knowledgeable sales representatives for assistance at 1-800-833-8999 (U.S. only) or (603)886-3900. 

 


 

Global American Inc. announces a new division: eXt Motherboard Solutions - February 2012


We at Global American Inc. realize that not all of customers require a full 5 to 7 year availability of the motherboards they purchase from us. Some of our customers may only need 2 to 3 year availability and have been purchasing the 5 to 7 year boards as the only option to guarantee that they will still be able to purchase the boards in a year or two. When this happens, you the customer, end up paying more for the board with the longer availability which drives up the cost of your end product. We have been listening to your feedback and we agree with you. As a solution to this, Global is proud to announce our new division, eXt Motherboard Solutions, specializing in extended life motherboards with an availability of 2 to 3 years from the original date of release.

eXt Motherboard Solutions

eXt Motherboard Solutions will be offering extended life motherboards in the Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX and Full Size ATX form factors, available for purchase through our new website: www.extmotherboards.com with integration services available for processor, memory and testing. These motherboard offerings are from well known manufacturers in the industry like Intel, Jetway and SuperMicro, with more being added on a consistent basis.

What does this mean for Global American Inc.?

Global will remain the same dedicated company serving our customers with all of the value added options they are accustomed to. Our boards and systems will still carry the same 5 to 7 year availability, integration and warranty services, testing and burn-in, custom driver CD/DVD’s, certificate of compliance, life cycle management and engineering change notifications. The addition of the eXt Motherboard Solutions division will give Global a chance to offer a wider range of products to our customers in order meet their individual and unique requirements.

Please visit our website at www.globalamericaninc.com and our new division’s website at www.extmotherboards.com or contact one of our knowledgeable sales representatives for assistance at 1-800-833-8999 (U.S. Only) or (603)886-3900.



 

Are the days of the mechanical hard drive numbered? - January 2012


With the floods in Thailand in late 2011 wreaking havoc on hard drive supplies throughout the world, is it time for a newer storage device technology to take its place? There are newer technologies on the market that very well could.


Solid State Drives (SSD)

Everybody’s first choice seems to be solid state drives (SSD); for their advantages of speed, power efficiency, having no moving parts and run cooler than hard drives. But they also have drawbacks as well; with cost being the biggest factor. Prior to the recent floods, hard drive costs were approximately thirty cents per gigabyte, while SSD prices were in the range of three dollars per gigabyte. These amounts are more in-line with the shortage of hard drives driving costs up, but ultimately the hard drive still comes out on top in price. Another drawback is the storage capacity of an SSD as compared to a hard drive. While the hard drive can be found in sizes up to 3TB (Terabytes), the SSD has its limitations, at the time of this article, at 1.6TB. At approximately three dollars per gigabyte, that weighs in at a pretty hefty cost. The good news is, not everyone needs this type of storage capacity, and in fact some may not need anything even close.

SSD’s now come in many different form factors, from 3.5” (SATA or IDE), 2.5” (SATA or IDE), 1.8” SATA, PCI express mini-card, (which will work in most PCI express mini-card sockets) and mSATA to name a few. So an SSD may be the right choice for your industrial or embedded PC that just needs to run a few small programs quickly, but does not need large terabytes of storage capacity.


The Evolution of CompactFlash to CFast

Another emerging technology is CFast. CFast is derived from its IDE counterpart, CompactFlash, but is based on the Serial ATA (SATA) bus. Because it is based on the SATA bus, it can handle transfer rates up to 600Mb/s verses the older UDMA6 that was limited to 133Mb/s. Although this technology has been around since 2009, it is just now coming about in the industrial and embedded PC market and will most likely become more prevalent over the next year or two. CFast technology does share some of the same characteristics of the SSD like low power and no moving parts, but is also limited in its storage capacity at 32GB (Gigabytes) as compared to the hard drive. Capacities are expected to become larger in time, as the technology matures. CFast technology is also a perfect fit for the industrial and embedded PC market that does not require large storage capacities.


Hard Drives Still Dominant

The hard drive isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It is still the dominant storage technology, but as these newer storage technologies mature and develop with larger capacities and lower prices, they will begin to take up more of the market share where mechanical hard drives once were. Global American Inc. is dedicated to offering all of these emerging storage technologies to keep you up and running while the hard drive shortage continues on throughout 2012. We offer many boards that support these alternative storage technologies and will find the perfect fit for your budget, as well as the capacities that you require. Please visit our website at www.globalamericaninc.com or contact one of our knowledgeable Sales Representatives for assistance at 1-800-833-8999 (U.S. Only) or (603)889-3900.


 

 

A look at AMD’s Embedded G-Series Platform- September 2011


With all the talk this year about Intel’s latest technologies, specifically the release of their 2nd Generation Core i3 /i5 /i7 and new Atom processors and chipsets it can be easy to miss out on valuable information as to what else may be on the market. AMD has been working hard in the background to come with up with their own innovative technologies in both the desktop and mobile space, one of these being their AMD Fusion family of APU’s.


AMD Fusion Family of APU’s (Accelerated Processing Unit)

The AMD family of APU’s (Accelerated Processing Unit) consists of the CPU (Central Processing Unit), GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), High speed device interconnect, integrated memory controller and platform interface all in one package. The inclusion of the GPU on the same die as the CPU allows for calculations that are more suited for the GPU to be off loaded to the GPU; this allows for faster processing and eliminates bottlenecks on the interconnect bus. By reducing the standard three chip design to just two chips, AMD as allowed for a smaller overall footprint and lower power requirements.


Graphics and Power

AMD’s purchase of ATI (a leading Graphics Chip Designer) in 2006, has given the company a big boost in the graphics department and has lead to the design of the Fusion technology. The graphics incorporated into the Fusion technology has support for DirectX® 11, OpenGL 4.0 and OpenCL™, whereas Intel’s GMA 3150 that is included in the Atom D525 processor is limited to supporting DirectX® 9c and OpenGL 1.5. The AMD G-Series of processors range anywhere from 5 watts TDP for the single core without GPU, up to 18 watts TDP for the AMD T56N, the fastest dual core version available at the time of this article. This may be a few more watts than its closest Intel competitor, but you are getting a much higher quality of graphics performance for just a few watts more.


Performance

To test the performance of the AMD G-Series we used the 2808202 Mini-ITX motherboard. The board comes with the AMD G-Series T56N dual core processor running at 1.6GHz with the AMD Radeon HD 6310 GPU and Hudson E1 chipset. Added to the board for testing are: 2 x 4GB DDR3 PC3-8500 SO-DIMMs for a total of 8GB of memory, the Intel 310 Series 40GB mSATA MLC Enterprise Solid State Disk with Windows 7 Professional 64-bit installed and configured, and an 80 watt Pico power supply unit paired with a 120 watt AC adapter. At idle, the board runs at a very low 15 watts of power consumption. Next, we put the board through Passmark’s BurnIn Test with all the settings (including CPU, video, RAM, hard disks, 2D graphics and 3D graphics), at 100% load. In this test, the 2808202 motherboard never went over a total of 26 watts of power consumption. Even with the entire batch tests running, we were still able to navigate throughout Windows 7 with virtually no slowdown. When doing this with the Intel Atom D525 processor with its GMA 3150 graphics, this is not the case, as there were many instances where there would be some wait time before menus and windows would open.


In Conclusion

We do want to be very clear; we are in no way implying that the Intel Atom D525 processor with GMA 3150 graphics does not have its place in the embedded market. If graphic performance is not an issue, then the Atom is a perfectly good processor to handle the basic, everyday requirements of an embedded design. The only design that may actually compare to the AMD G-Series APU for low power and performance would be the combination of the Intel Atom D525 processor and Nvidia Ion2, but this is a very rare find in the embedded market and requires two different chip designers to agree to keep the technology available for a longer timeframe. AMD has control over both the processor and GPU, which enables them to carry the complete product for as long as they see fit.

The AMD G-Series Platform was designed specifically for the embedded market for products such as Digital Signage, Point-of-Sale, Casino Gaming, Industrial Automation and KIOSK.

Another rare find is the inclusion of the mSATA interface connection. At this time the 2808202 motherboard with mSATA is the only board that is carried by Global American to include this interface. We are, however, consistently pushing our factory engineers for the inclusion of this technology on all of the boards that are made available in the future. This mSATA interface eliminates the need to have a separate hard drive or SSD away from the board, and enables the use of a smaller form factor chassis for those designs that have space and power limitations.

The 2808202 Mini-ITX motherboard is available now from Global American Inc.; please visit www.globalamericaninc.com or contact your sales representative for further details.


 

Integrated Solutions for an Embedded World.- April 2011

 

Spring has finally sprung here in New Hampshire and that means it is time for another installment of “Bo Knows”. In past installments we discussed Intel’s Sandy Bridge Technology, the differences between the Core i7, Core i5 and Core i3 processors, and what the Bo Knows section was all about. This installment is going to steer away from the normal tech talk and focus on Global American and the “Integrated Solutions for an Embedded World” slogan we have recently adopted. We will also focus on the solutions and services that we provide.


Integrated Solutions

At Global American we are aware that you have many choices when it comes to the hardware you can purchase. So what separates our company from the rest of those choices? To answer this, we will start with our company slogan and break it down. “Integrated Solutions”, we define this as one solution, all from one vendor. You could purchase a motherboard from one vendor and the processor, the hard drive, the memory from additional vendors, install all the components yourself and hope everything works together, but what if it doesn’t? Maybe the processor is faulty or not compatible; maybe you have one bad stick of memory; a hard drive with bad sectors or maybe the motherboard itself has a bad component. Now you are using up your valuable time trying to troubleshoot the issue and may miss that ever important deadline scheduled with your customer.


All from One Source

With a Global American integrated solution, you will receive all the components from one source with one warranty for all the components. These components will be tested and stressed together to avoid any incompatibilities, failures or DOA’s. We do not just boot the boards to make sure everything is working like some other vendors do; all that does is tell you the board can boot. Our certified technicians and engineers go a lot deeper in their test methods, testing all components, ports, connections and stressing the unit under load for a minimum of 8 hours to avoid future and potential issues. So when you receive the unit, you can just plug it in and you are up and running, no need to worry about troubleshooting or missing important deadlines. If you are unsure of the components you require, our educated and informative sales and technical staff are just a phone call or email away and can help guide you through the process.

If you do encounter an issue with your purchase, you only need to contact one source, Global American, to resolve the issue. This will save you time and money without having to figure out which component was purchased from which vendor and what its warranty status may be.

Most of the motherboard and single board computer (SBC) manufacturers are in the Far East. This can make it extremely difficult to manage your warranties and also in receiving the proper technical support you might require. If you have had past interactions with offshore manufacturers and factories, you already know the difficulties that can result. There is the language barrier, the time zone differences and the overall time it takes to come to a resolution. Global American handles all of this for you from our U.S. based offices. The results from this are a much faster response time, and clear and concise answers to your technical questions. This service is included free of charge with each purchase under your standard one year warranty.


An Embedded World

As we move onto the “Embedded World” part of our slogan, we must first define the word embedded. Over the years the word embedded has come to mean numerous things to different segments of the market. Originally an embedded system meant a specific device to perform a specific function. Although this still stands true today, the word embedded has also come to mean a longer life cycle. For example, you are designing a system for a customer and invest a lot time into the software design around a specific hardware. The last thing you want to do is have to perform this same process over again in 6 months when the commercial hardware you were using goes end of life to make room for the latest and greatest technology release. This is where Global American excels. We will quote you the motherboard/SBC and processor that will be available not just six months down the road, but for years to come. In fact, all of the boards we carry have a life span of 5 to 7 years from the original date of release. When the product does finally go end of life, we will notify you in advance and help in the transition to a new board that will still meet your specifications. Global American understands that this is important to you and how constant changes can affect your end product. We will work with you to find the right long term solution that will satisfy your customer requirements. There are more and more products around us that we want to be available for years to come, so it is truly becoming an “embedded world”.


Best Specs in the Industry

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the solutions and services Global American provides. When searching for the board that is right for your application, you will come across a lot of specifications provided via data sheets. We realize that these are very important to you when making your decision, which is why we spend the extra time to develop these data sheets with as much information as we can provide. Our data sheets and specifications include detailed information regarding the full chipset names used on the boards, detailed power requirements, dimensions and ordering options. Here is an example of what you can expect from our detailed specifications: https://www.globalamericaninc.com/2808100.html.


Above and Beyond

I suggest the following questions for your consideration: Have you ever received a motherboard with a driver CD that is more difficult to figure out than the specification of the board? Or, the CD has drivers for every board the manufacturer makes and doesn’t specify what drivers should be installed first, or which ones are for the actual board you purchased?

This should never be the case, so Global American takes the time to develop a driver CD that is simple to use, with only the latest drivers that are required by your particular board purchase and they are organized in the order in which they should be installed, all at no extra cost to you.
Global American adds a lot of value to your purchase, which will save you time and money. We will always go that extra step to make sure you are satisfied with your purchase. We offer many more solutions and services that cannot be mentioned in just one short article, so if you are interested in hearing more about the product solutions and services that we offer, please feel free to contact our knowledgeable staff at https://www.globalamericaninc.com/contacts/.

 


 

"First Generation Intel® Core™ i3, Core™ i5 and Core™i7, which one is the right processor for your application?" - March 2011

 

It is hard to believe that another month has already passed and it is time for another installment of “Bo Knows”. In this month’s installment we will be helping you to decide which processor is right for your application.

 

Intel® has three types of processors to choose from within the Core™ i series 1st Generation processors (I will cover the 2nd Generation in a later article). The choices are the Core™ i3, Core™ i5 and the Core™ i7, but which one should you use in that 2808188 Mini-ITX motherboard you just purchased? To get an answer for this, we first need to know what the actual differences are between the processor families.

 

Let’s start with the Core™ i3. This processor is considered to be the low end, budget processor of the group, but this in no way implies that it is lacking the power needed to get the job done. The Core™ i3 is only available with dual cores, on both the mobile and desktop versions, but does take advantage of Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology, that improves the performance in multi-threaded applications and is seen by supported operating systems as each physical core with two virtual processors. The Core™ i3 is lacking Intel’s Turbo Boost Technology, the feature that allows for the processor to dynamically increase CPU clock speed in increments of 133MHz up to the processors maximum frequency when that extra processing power is required. All processors in the Core™ i3 family, both desktop and mobile, have integrated Intel® HD Graphics. If your application does not need four physical cores or Intel’s Turbo Boost and you need to keep costs low, then this is the processor for you.

 

Next up is the Core ™i5 processor. This is considered the mid-range and mainstream processor in the group. The Core™ i5 Desktop processors feature both dual and quad core versions, Intel’s Turbo Boost Technology, Hyper-Threading and Intel® HD Graphics on the two core versions only; the four core versions do not have the last two features on the 1st Generation Core™ i series processors.

 

The Core™ i5 Mobile processors feature two cores only, Hyperthreading, Intel’s Turbo Boost Technology and all have integrated Intel ® HD graphics. These processors provide that extra boost of power that you need for CPU and graphic intensive applications. They may cost a little more than their Core™ i3 counterparts, but can still be kept well within a budget considering their processing power.

 

As Global American Inc. does not carry any boards that support the LGA1366 socket, the Core™ i7 processors that we will be discussing will be focused on the i7-8xx series desktop and all of the 1st generation mobile processors.

 

The Core™ i7 processors are considered to be the powerhouse of the family. The desktop versions feature four cores with Hyper-threading, Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, but do not have the integrated Intel® HD graphics.

 

The mobile Core™ i7 processors feature, dual core and quad core options with Hyper-Threading along with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology. The dual core versions have integrated Intel® HD graphics, but the quad core versions do not. The Core™ i7 processors are the priciest in the group, but they pack a lot of power for those power hungry applications that need it.

 

Hopefully this latest installment of “Bo Knows” helps clear up the differences in the selections that are available within the Core™ i series of processors, but if you are still unclear as to which option you require, our top notch sales and tech support teams can always be of more assistance.

 

 

 


 

"Where's my Sandy Bridge?" - February 2011

 

Welcome to the second installment of “Bo Knows”.

 

As many of you are probably already aware, in early January Intel released the 2nd Generation of Core i7/i5 (Core i3 will be in late February, early March) processors formally known as Sandy Bridge. These processors are paired with the Intel 6-Series Chipsets formally known as Cougar Point.

 

You may be asking yourself, where are Global American Inc.’s 2nd Generation boards then? First, I would like to let you know that we are working hard with our factories to get these boards out to our customer base, but unlike the commercial side of our field, the industrial and embedded boards take a little longer to come to market; sometimes as long as six months to one full year. There are a couple of reasons for this delay: the factories need to work out which chipsets and processors are going to have long term support, and the manufacturing lines need to be updated to support the new processes, but also still maintain the numerous processes that are still being supported for the next five to seven years. This is something the commercial market does not need to be concerned about, making it much easier to convert their factories over to the process. The time it takes for these products to be converted to the industrial/embedded field has improved over the years, and will continue to do so in the future.

 

I want to take a moment here to also explain some unforeseen issues and delays that have arisen since the release of the new processors and chipsets. Intel announced on January 31, 2011, that a design flaw was discovered in the 6-Series Chipset that caused degradation of the SATA 300 ports (ports 2 through 5), causing a drop in performance over time (approximately 3 years, although heavier workloads can speed up this process) and eventually a loss of connection to the SATA devices. The newer SATA 600 ports were unaffected. The issue was strictly a chipset issue on revision B2 that required a silicon-based fix; the processors themselves were not affected. Intel did have a recall on the chipset, but has since begun to ship the B3 revision to manufacturers. Our customers will not need to worry about running into this issue.

 

I want to thank you for reading this installment of “Bo Knows” and please stayed tuned to the Coming Soon section of our website for updates on when to expect the latest boards to be released.

 


 

"Who is Bo and what DOES he know? An Introduction" - January 2011

 

Happy New Year and welcome to Global American Inc.’s latest website monthly feature: Bo knows. So who is Bo and what does he know, you may ask? Well I’m Bo Harron, Technical Operations Manager for Global American Inc. I have been with Global American Inc. for over 8 years and what I do know is Industrial/Embedded boards and technology.

 

The Bo Knows section of our website is for you, the customer. This section will be used to update you on the latest technology available in the Embedded Market, discuss some of the older technology that is starting to go obsolete and what your choices are to replace that technology. This will be the place where I will be discussing the differences between the Embedded/Industrial products verses the Commercial offerings that you may come across, and why it benefits you to go with a trusted leader in the Embedded Market, like Global American Inc.

 

Global American Inc. is a US based company specializing in Integration of Embedded Systems and Components. We have been in business for over 22 years and in that time we have seen a lot of technology come and go, some of it with great relief and others with high reluctance. Less than one month into this new year, we have already seen the highly anticipated release of Intel’s latest architecture, the second generation of their Core i series, formerly known as Sandy Bridge, and I will be covering that in detail in a few weeks, right here in the Bo Knows section, so stay tuned.

 

Well, that is a brief summary of the Bo Knows feature of our new website. I look forward to writing the next installment and hope you stay tuned for what we have to offer. Until then, all of us at Global American Inc. want to wish you a safe and prosperous 2011.

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