NXP i.MX 8X/8M based AI-ML and Thor96 Boards Target AI and IoT Applications,

We’ve already covered several 96boards platforms announced at Embedded World 2019, but we’re not quite done yet, as Arrow Electronics also introduced two NXP i.MX 8X/8M powered 96Boards CE Extended development boards with AI-ML board equipped with i.MX 8M quad core Arm Cortex-A35 processor coupled with 2GB RAM, an mPCIe slot for cellular connectivity, and Thor96 SBC featuring NXP i.MX 8M processor with 2GB RAM as well, but also two HDMI ports, a Thread and Zigbee module, and more.

Arrow AI-ML Board

AI-ML 96boards
Click to Enlarge

AI-ML key features and specifications:

  • SoC – NXP i.MX 8X quad core Arm A35 processor @ 1.2 GHz, Cortex-M4F real-time core @ 266 MHz, Tensilica HiFi 4 DSP Core, GC7000 Lite 3D GPU with 4x Vec4 Shaders with 16 Execution Units
  • System Memory – 2 GB LPDDR4 @ 1,600 MHz Industrial Temp by Micron
  • Storage – Micro SD card slot
  • Video Output / Display Interface
    • HDMI Output
    • Dual MIPI Display support
  • Video
    • H.265 up to 4K @ 30 fps Decode
    • H.264 up to 1080p @ 60 fps Encode
  • Connectivity
    • Gigabit Ethernet
    • Cypress based 802.11ac WiFi and Dual-Mode Bluetooth wireless module;
    • SIM card socket
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports,  1x Micro-USB B port
  • Expansion
    • 40-Pin Low-Speed Connector, 60-Pin High-Speed Connector with UART, SPI, I2C, GPIO, I2S, CAN, camera and USB
    • mini PCIe socket for 3G/4G modem
  • Misc – 6x LEDs
  • Dimensions – 100 x 85 mm as per 96Boards CE Extended specification
AI-ML i.MX 8X Board
Click to Enlarge

Eventually you’ll be able to buy the board on that page, but it’s unclear when it will be available and at what price.

Arrow Thor96 Board

Thor96Thor96 specifications:

  • SoC – NXP i.MX 8M quad core Arm A53 processor @ 1.5 GHz, Cortex-M4F real-time core @ 266 MHz, GC7000 Lite 3D GPU with 4x Vec4 Shaders with 16 Execution Units
  • System Memory – 2 GB LPDDR4 @ 1,600 MHz Industrial Temp by Micron
  • Storage – Micro SD card slot
  • Video Output / Display Interface
    • HDMI Output + DSI to HDMI port
    • Dual MIPI Display support
  • Video
    • H.265 up to 4K @ 60 fps Decode
    • H.264 up to 1080p @ 60 fps Encode
  • Audio – Analog Devices A2B multi-channel digital audio codec for microphone arrays and speakers
  • Connectivity
    • Gigabit Ethernet
    • Cypress based 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Dual-Mode Bluetooth wireless module;
    • Silicon Labs MGM111 Thread / Zigbee Module
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports,  1x Micro-USB B port
  • Expansion
    • 40-Pin Low-Speed Connector, 60-Pin High-Speed Connector with UART, SPI, I2C, GPIO, I2S, CAN, dual camera and USB
    • mini PCIe socket for 3G/4G modem
  • Misc – 6x LEDs
  • Dimensions – 100 x 85 mm as per 96Boards CE Extended specification
96boards NXP i.MX 8M
Click to Enlarge

Just like for AI-ML SBC, we don’t have availability nor pricing information, but the board is already listed on Arrow Electronics.

Applications and Software Support

Both boards target similar applications including home & building automation, drones, and low energy applications thanks to the Cortex-M4F real-time core which can wake the Cortex-A cores only when needed to extend battery life.

The company will provide support for the Yocto OS Project in order to allow designers to customize and build their own Linux distributions best suited for their project.

You may find a few more details in Arrow announcement.

Thanks to Nobe for the tip.

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TLS
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TLS

Amazing cooling solution, in the worst possible way. How are you supposed to put these on a desk?

blu
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blu

Stand-off screws. It’s even shown on the first Thor96 picture, if you pay close attention to the perspective/parallax.

TLS
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TLS

Well, the other two pictures have a tiny heatsink attached to the SoC, so good luck using that as is…
I really don’t get the 96board form factor, it’s just awkward, yet so many companies seem to build boards around it.

blu
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blu

I don’t like the 96boards factors either, and I have no idea how adequate the thermal solution would be for the boards from the article — I was just commenting on the placement on desk problem ; )

tkaiser
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tkaiser

Given that the mezzanine boards are covering the PCB area where you would place the SoC I would believe moving the SoC to the lower PCB side is the only option anyway?

One single metal enclosure (or at least a metal base plate) to be used with thermal pads or copper shims could then provide a sufficient heat dissipation approach for all affected 96boards. Though no idea whether something like this exists or is planned (I usually skip looking at everything with 96boards in its name).

TLS
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TLS

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the processor on the bottom, but the way these boards are made is simply stupid, even more so when they stick a tiny heatsink like that on them. If they’d provided a full-surface piece of metal that screws on to the boards, no problem. But that’s not what Arrow have done, although one picture implies that they might have that as an option, but it comes with a fan?

blu
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blu

As far as I can tell, the fan blows in between the metal bottom and the board, right at the space where the heatsink sits. This is not bad thermal design, per se, without having seen the thermal readings from the board.