Smarc® – the new small form factor module

Smarc® – the new small form factor module SMARC (Smart Mobility ARChitecture) is a versatile small form factor computer module definition targeting applications that require low power, low costs, and high performance.

The modules typically use ARM SOCs similar or the same as those used in many familiar devices such as tablet computers and smart phones. Alternative low-power SOCs and CPUs, such as tablet-oriented X86 devices and other RISC CPUs may be used as well. The module power envelope is typically under 6W.

The modules are used as building blocks for portable and stationary embedded systems. The core CPU and support circuits, including DRAM, boot flash, power sequencing, CPU power supplies, GBE and a single channel LVDS display transmitter are concentrated on the module.

The modules are used with application specific carrier boards that implement other features such as audio CODECs, touch controllers, wireless devices, etc. The modular approach allows scalability, fast time to market and upgradability, while still maintaining low costs, low power and small physical size.

SMARC® vs COM Express®

COM Express® is a very successful computer-on-module (COM) standard that is optimised for PC architecture based embedded systems. The COM Express feature set exploits contemporary PC chipsets very well. There is support for numerous USB ports and PCI Express lanes, PCI Express graphics, LPC bus and PCI bus, as well as power pins supporting over 100 watts.

The SMARC specification targets lower power, small form factor systems. The SMARC pin out is optimised for features common to ARM CPUs rather than those of the PC architecture. Some of these features include:

  • parallel LCD display interfaces
  • provisions for serial and parallel camera input
  • multiple I2C, I2S, SPI and serial port options
  • USB client/host mode and OTG (on the go) operation, and
  • SD/eMMC card operation.

The SMARC specification also includes some of the features found in COM Express, such as a limited number of PCIe, SATA and USB ports, but provides a combination of interfaces that allows many features of interest not supported by COM Express to be made available for contemporary mobile applications.

Outline features of a SMARC module

Two module sizes

  • 82mm x 50mm.
  • 82mm x 80mm.

Carrier board connector: 314 pin MXM pin-out

  • Low cost.
  • Low profile.
  • Excellent signal integrity.
  • Robust, vibration resistant connector.

Module input voltage range: 3.0V to 5.25V

  • Allows operation using 3.6V nominal Lithium-ion battery packs.
  • Allows operation using 3.3V fixed DC supply.
  • Allows operation using 5.0V fixed DC supply.
  • Single power supply (no separate standby voltage).
  • Module power pins allow 5A max, or 15W max input power at 3.0V

Low power designs

  • 1W to 6W typical module power draw during active operation.
  • Fanless.
  • Passive cooling.
  • Lowest standby power.
  • Designed for battery operation.
  • 1.8V default I/O voltage.

See the LED LED-3517 SMARC module with TI Sitara AM3517 and TI PMIC.

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