Intel processors - Haswell and Bay Trail - offer multiple benefits for SFF designs

October 15, 2014

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Engineers across markets such as military, aerospace, medical, automotive, etc., are leveraging the performance and power management benefits of Intel's 4th generation Core processors (Haswell) and Atom E3800 processor product family SoCs (Bay Trail) for their small form factor (SFF) embedded computing designs. The Core's i7 high-performance attributes are enabling unprecedented performance capability for intensive signal processing functions in radar and medical imaging, while the E3800 family is popular in wearable applications due to its ability to marry performance with significant power savings.


The Haswell architecture was introduced in 2013 as the successor to the Ivy Bridge microarchitecture. Built on Intel's 22 nanometer (nm) process, the devices greatly increase performance over previous products and have become the driver behind intensive graphics processing applications such as gaming and simulation, and also fuel military signals intelligence systems. The Atom processor E3800 product family is also based on 22 nm with 3D Tri-Gate transistors, which help enable thermal efficiency, according to Intel's website. Built on the Silvermont microarchitecture, the processors provide significant power savings in extended thermal conditions for a range of embedded applications.

Bay Trail

"The latest Intel x86 processors, such as the 4th gen Intel Core i7, bring advanced graphics, memory, high-speed I/O, and multi-core processing capabilities unseen before in embedded small form factors in terms of performance-per-watt," says Mike Southworth, Product Marketing Manager at Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions. "Military and aerospace customers are keen to leverage this processor's large memory architecture, built-in Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) signal processor, dual/quad-core CPUs, Gen 3 PCI Express bus, DisplayPort and USB 3.0 interfaces for demanding command-and-control, image processing, and surveillance requirements. The quad-core, 4th gen Core i7 processor has enabled Curtiss-Wright's DuraCOR 80-41 mission computer system to deliver much higher computational performance, more powerful graphics, unmatched I/O, modular expansion, and greater data storage flexibility compared to its predecessor, the DuraCOR 80-40, while reducing overall size and weight by 25 percent."

In future iterations of the Intel products "our traditional experience with next-generation Intel designs leads us to expect to see a roughly 2x performance increase on graphics, a 10 percent bump up in processor core performance, more high-speed I/O, and a lower MIPS-per-watt performance per core," he continues.

"Curtiss-Wright does not currently offer a Bay Trail or similar Atom-based system, but these architectures should conceivably serve power-sensitive users very well for general-purpose processing requirements,"Southworth says. "Neither provides the PCI Express Graphics Bus (PEG) nor the large memory architecture offered by the Core i7 models, however, which may be a factor in deciding between the models. Higher performance requirements will sway users to the Intel Core family, whereas lower power consumption requirements will drive users to Atom."


Thermal management attributes
The faster speeds of modern processors enable wonderful capabilities, but also generate excessive amounts of heat, which is critical in any application, but especially in the harsh environments and small space prevalent in military electronics applications. Intel's devices have some built-in characteristics that help mitigate high thermals.

"The shrinking of physical dies and the use of Intel Speed Stepping technologies enable the Intel Core processors to deliver impressive MIPS-per-watt performance and protect against thermal overload,"Southworth explains. "Innovative thermal management designs at the subsystem level have enabled Curtiss-Wright to reliably integrate Intel Core processors across extended temperature ranges using passive cooling methods."

Read the article on PC104 and Small Form Factor's website

This article was authored by John McHale of Open Systems Media

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