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Advantech SOM-5894

Intel "Haswell" Core i3/i5/i7-powered COM Express module provides superior performance and functionality for complex embedded systems projects
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

The Advantech SOM-5894 is a COM Express Basic module that can be ordered with one of five different Intel "Haswell" 4th Generation Core i3, i5 and Core i7 processors, giving application engineers powerful CPU platform choices to streamline the product development process and accelerating time-to-market. Though the board measures just 4.9 x 3.75 inches (125 x 95 mm), it can provide substantial performance as well as support high-speed interfaces to carrier boards, such as USB 3.0, PCIe Gen3, and SATA III.

The SOM-5894 is a highly integrated processor component that combines audio, video, and network functions with Intel 4th generation Core processing power and technology advancements. As such, it brings a superior level of performance into existing COM Express solutions, or it can form the basis for COM Express projects providing previously unattainable levels of functionality and performance for intelligent systems projects.

The COM Express standard

COM stands for Computer On Module. COM Express, introduced in 2005 by the PICMG consortium, is a standard based on serial differential signaling technology for use in high performance embedded computing projects that require maximum I/O bandwidth, such as medical imaging, industrial automation, mapping, security, aerospace, etc. COM Express boards are often used for applications where older/legacy standards are no longer powerful enough. COM Express modules are small, too. COM Express Basic modules measure just 4.92 x 3.74 inches (125 x 95mm), with an extended form factor measuring 6.1 x 4.3 inches (155 x 110 mm). COM Express Compact boards use a square 95 x 95 mm format. Even more compact is COM Express Mini, with a footprint of just 84 x 55mm.

Just like COM Express is a form factor that actually comes in several forms, it's also a standard that comes in several types with different pin-outs and support for different interfaces and numbers of ports.

When/why do you need it?

COM Express modules such as the Advantech SOM-5894 are not meant to be stand-alone computers; they are more like components that can be selected and replaced depending on the need of a solution. They do provide the most complex part of any computer (the CPU board) and ancillary circuitry, eliminating system integrators' need to start from scratch when creating complex embedded systems projects, saving time and money in the process.

The overall idea with COM Express is that the modules provide the basic computing power, but that all the customization and special functionality for a project takes place on an application-specific carrier board. COM Express boards allow system integrators to concentrate on their applications. Since they only include the CPU and some related circuitry, COM-Express boards are small and fit almost anywhere. They are also inherently more rugged than full-size boards.

Below on the left you can see the top of the SOM-5894 board Advantech sent us for testing. Ours came equipped with a Core i5-4402E processor and the Intel QM87 chipset. Note that the picture doesn't show the required cooling sink and fan that covers the entire board (as shown in the picture above). Below on the right is Advantech's introduction video for the SOM-5894. We decided to include that here so interested parties won't have to Google for it.

Note that like all standardized CPU boards, COM Express boards connect to a carrier/solutions board (which usually looks like a motherboard) via standardized connectors. COM Express uses one or two 220-pin edge connector, where one connector handles PCI, PCIe and IDE and the other connector everything else. Check the Wikipedia entry on COM Express boards for detail (see here).

RAM connectors are on the COM Express module itself (there are two SODIMM slots on the SOM-5894), but all other expansion boards will be located on the carrier board.

What the Intel 4th generation Core processors bring to the table

Perhaps the most attractive feature of the Advantech SOM-5894 is that it's available with a broad variety of Intel's 4th generation of embedded Core processors. What's special about this latest gen of high-end Intel chips? A lot, and it goes well beyond just speed. Codenamed "Haswell," this processor generation draws less power thanks to a new active/idle power state, and offers much better integrated graphics performance. All native SATA ports have 6.0 Gb/s support, there's the new "Lynx Point" 8-series chipset, the chips can drive three independent displays, there's USB port setting flexibility (USB 2.0 or 3.0), and there are numerous underlying enhancements and new technologies. As for performance itself, Intel claims 4th gen improvements of up to 13% CPU and up to 32% in 3D graphics over comparable 3rd gen systems. Note that even i3 processors support dual threads per core in Haswell, though "turbo boost" remains a province of the higher-end i5 and i7 processors.

Below you can see the major features and differentiation of the chips offered with the SOM-5894:

Advantech SOM-5894 Available Processor Comparisons
CPU COMPARISON i7-4700EQ i5-4400E i5-4402E i3-4100E i3-4102E
Cores/Threads 4/8 2/4 2/4 2/4 2/4
Base clock speed 2.4GHz 2.7GHz 1.6GHz 2.4GHz 1.6GHz
Max turbo speed 3.4GHz 3.3GHz 2.7GHz no turbo no turbo
Max TDP 47 watts 37 watts 25 watts 37 watts 25 watts
Graphics Intel HD 4600 Intel HD 4600 Intel HD 4600 Intel HD 4600 Intel HD 4600
Intel vPro yes yes yes no no
ECC memory support yes yes yes yes yes
AES new instructions yes yes yes no no
Trusted Execution Technology yes yes yes no no

For a more detailed listing of the five processors available for the Advantech SOM-5894, check here.

What it all boils down to here in terms of capabilities, the SOM-5894 supports PCIe x16 Gen3, seven PCIe x1, four 6Gb/s SATA III channels, four USB 3.0 (and 8 USB 2.0) ports, 8-bit GPIO, HD audio, and up to 16GB of DDR3L 1333/1600 MHz RAM in two 204-pin SODIMM slots. Most importantly, the SOM-5894 can support three independent displays via VGA, LVDS, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort.

High Performance

Testing a CPU module is a bit trickier than testing a full mobile product (you just turn it on) or even a conventional motherboard (you connect a display, disk and keyboard). Fortunately, Advantech sent us one of their standard SOM-DB5800 development boards that serves as a module carrier. The SOM-DB5800 looks very much like your average desktop motherboard with all the usual connectors and battery of ports. However, the DB5800 also has connectors to accommodate a COM-Express board with Type 6 and Type 10 pin-outs as it does not have its own CPU and chipset.

We used a desktop class power supply to provide ATX power, a 27-inch HP LCD display capable of 1080p video, and an Intel 320 Series SSD with Windows Embedded Standard 7 on it, prepared by Advantech.

After we ran our standard benchmark suites—PassMark and CrystalMark—we took the opportunity to compare the performance of this latest Haswell-powered COM Express board from Advantech with some other Advantech COM Express modules we had tested in our lab over the past few years. The modules selected came with a very wide variety of processors, ranging from the current 4th gen Core processors, to modules with a 2nd gen Core processor, as well as various lower-end Intel Atom CPUs.

Advantech SOM Module Benchmarks and Comparisons
PERFORMANCE COMPARISON Advantech Advantech Advantech Advantech Advantech
Model SOM-5894 SOM-5890 SOM-5761 SOM-6765 SOM-7565
Model (click pic for review)
Type COM Express Basic COM Express 2.0 COM Express COM Express Compact COM Express Mini
Year tested 2014 2011 2009 2012 2013
Intel processor Core i5-4402E Core i7-2715QE Atom N270 Atom D2700 Atom N2600
CPU Speed std/turbo 1.6/2.7GHz 2.1/3.0GHzGHz 1.6GHz 2.13GHz 1.6GHz
OS Software WES7 WES XPE Win7 WES7
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 25 watts 45 watts 2.5 watts 3.5 watts 3.5 watts
CPU Mark 3,542.3 4,099.9 321.1 631.9 488.6
2D Graphics Mark 589.6 311.6 192.5 48.0 67.3
Memory Mark 1,136.4 795.8 199.1 292.6 227.3
Disk Mark 1,801.5 150.7 74.6 849.7 571.2
3D Graphics Mark 399.3 325.3 71.5 95.2 82.1
Overall PassMark 1,651.7 1363.0 190.7 411.4 306.3
CM ALU 38,348 53,083 5,413 14,235 10,699
CM FPU 39,994 54,374 4,726 10,567 8,307
CM MEM 40,963 27,262 4,172 8,842 6,753
CM HDD 30,482 8,974 2,676 13,383 10,936
CM GDI 16,474 5,691 2,239 2,157 1,536
CM D2D 6,136 3,041 2,180 824 643
CM OGL 10,189 2,711 704 9,632 7,174
Overall CrystalMark 182,586 155,136 22,110 59,640 46,048

The results, of course, are relative as they were obtained with such a wide variety of processors, from high end Core chips, all the way down to low-end Atom CPUs. What's interesting is that there IS such a very wide range of performance and features available in the COM Express standard (for Advantech's current lineup of COM Express Basic modules, see this page).

Perusing the benchmark results, note the massive processor performance difference between Core and Atom CPUs, a large difference that extends to graphics performance as well (though some Atom processors perform amazingly well in OGL tests). Note the very substantial difference in graphics performance between the 4th gen SOM-5894 and the 2nd gen SOM-5890.

Also note that module performance alone does not guarantee overall systems performance. Equipped with Intel solid state storage, the SOM-5894 absolutely scorched through the disk benchmarks, whereas older mass storage technologies and interfaces yielded far lower results. It always pays to keep storage media performance in mind!

Below is a schematic of the Advantech SOM-5894:

Computer modules like the Advantech SOM-5894 are very different from the mobile computing devices we generally review and test here at RuggedPCReview.com. What they all have in common is industrial quality build and components, as well as the inherent ruggedness required to function flawlessly under trying operating conditions.

What will most SOM-5894 modules be used for? Hard to say. These are definitely high-end configurations that not only provide desktop class performance, but can also drive three independent displays. The possibilities are endless.

Advantech SOM-5894 Specs:

Status Added 01/2014
Type COM Express Basic Module
CPU Type Intel Core i5-4402E (also available: Core i7-4700EQ, Core i5-4400E, Core i3-4100E, Core i3-4102E)
Clock Speed Base frequency: 1.60GHz; max single core turbo frequency: 2.7GHz
Chipset Intel QM87
Memory Max 16GB DDR3L 1333/1600MHz in two 204-pin SODIMM sockets
Graphics Controller Intel HD Graphics 4600 integrated
VRAM Intel DVMT 5.0 support up to 1024MV video memory
LVDS Single and dual channel 18/24-bit LVDS up to 1920 x 1200 (optional eDP 2 lanes up to 1920 x 1200)
Dual display Combinations of HDMI/DVI/DisplayPort/VGA/LVDS
Triple display Combinations of HDMI/DVI/DisplayPort/VGA/LVDS (except 3 HDMI/DVI)
VGA up to 1920 x 1200
DDI 3 x DDI support configurable as HDMI/DVI/DisplayPort
Expansion 1 x PCI Express x1 (7 ports, Gen2), 1 x PCI Express x16 (Gen3), LPC
SATA 4 x SATA III 6.0Gb/s
RAID RAID 0/1/5/10
SPI Bus yes
SMBus yes
I2C Bus yes
USB 8 x USB 2.0, 4 x USB 3.0
Serial 2 ports (2-wire)
Parallel NA
Audio HD audio
Watchdog Timer 65536 level timer interval, from 0~65535 sec
Size 95 mm x 125 mm (3.75" x 4.92")
Weight 3.5 oz. (board and memory); 18.5 ounces (board with with fan and heat sink)
Operating Temp. 32° to 140°F (0° to 60°)
Price inquire
Datasheet Advantech SOM-5894

Advantech Corporation
38 Tesla, Suite 100
Irvine, CA 92618
Toll Free: 1-800-866-6008
Ph: 949-789-7178
Fax: 949-789-7179

Advantech Co. Ltd.
No.1, Alley 20, Lane 26, Rueiguang Road
Neihu District, Taipei Taiwan 114, R.O.C.
Tel: 886-2-2792-7818
Fax: 886-2-2794-7301