What is an Embedded-CPU?

After we recently explained the difference between mobile and desktop CPUs, we would now like to go into a third type: the embedded CPUs.

What does "embedded" mean?

An embedded system is a computer that is integrated in a technical environment and takes over tasks such as monitoring, control or data processing. These include, for instance, small computers in washing machines, televisions, routers, refrigerators or cars. However, we are now talking about somewhat larger systems: Embedded PCs that are equipped with a corresponding CPU.

Where are embedded CPUs used?

Embedded CPUs are mainly used in the professional environment, for example for industrial applications, in vehicles or in medical technology.

What are the advantages of an embedded CPU?

The CPUs are characterized by increased reliability, an extended temperature range and above all by a long component availability. For example, Intel guarantees long-term availability of up to 15 years for its embedded processors. The advantage of this: once an application is running, its use is secured for the next few years and the developers do not have to adapt the hardware and software again after a short time. In addition, embedded systems are often certified. If the CPUs are available for many years, there is no need for expensive re-certifications.

Another advantage is that embedded CPUs are extremely robust, since they are usually soldered processors with BGA (Ball Grid Array), which bring a high level of mechanical and thermal robustness with them. This means, that Embedded PCs can run 24/7 in harsh environments without problems. Thanks to their compact design, embedded CPUs are made for Mini-PCs and score with low power consumption.

What are the disadvantages of an embedded CPU?

With all the advantages, the question arises whether an embedded CPU has any negative properties. In fact, we can only mention the low performance here, since, as with mobile CPUs, not much can be accommodated in a small space. However, a lot has happened here in recent years. And it is always enough for the areas in which embedded CPUs are mainly used.

Intel and AMD embedded CPUs

Both major processor manufacturers have various models on offer: Intel has embedded CPUs in the Celeron, Pentium and Core i3 series. AMD offers the Ryzen Embedded and Epyc Embedded series.

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15 Oct 2019 Array ( [id] => 463 [title] => What is the difference between mobile and desktop CPUs? [authorId] => [active] => 1 [shortDescription] => CPUs are not always the same. Depending on the device in which a processor is installed, different characteristics with regard to performance, power consumption or waste heat are important. Which types there are and what distinguishes them, will be clarified in this article. [description] =>

What is a desktop CPU?

A desktop CPU is, as the name suggests, usually built into a desktop PC. Therefore, heat development and power consumption play a minor role. On the one hand, there is enough room for fans and a cooling airflow, and on the other hand, there is no battery runtime that has to be taken into account, as desktop PCs are permanently connected to a power supply. In return, desktop processors offer good performance, a bigger cache and more turbo.

Intel desktop CPUs

The Intel Core i processors (e.g. i3/i5) comprise both mobile and desktop CPUs. These can be recognized by the one or two letters at the end of the product name. These include, for example:

  • K = can be overclocked (open at top)
  • S = energy savings through reduced performance (performance-optimized lifestyle), turbo mode is used less
  • T = power optimized lifestyle due to reduced equipment, often with fewer cores than the regular model
  • No letter = unspecified desktop CPU

An explanation of the structure of the processor names can be found at Intel.

AMD desktop CPUs

AMD uses entirely different names for its CPUs or APUs ("Accelerated Processing Unit" refers to a main processor with an integrated coprocessor – usually the GPU – which supports the main processor and can also be superior to him). The series carry certain names. Most of the desktop processor series also have a mobile variant, which then has the corresponding name. Among the current AMD desktop CPUs are:

  • AMD Ryzen = powerful processors of the so-called "zen architecture" for gaming and high end graphics, comparable to Intel Core i processors
  • AMD Athlon = multi-core processors with Radeon Vega graphics unit for the desktop as well as the mobile segment
  • AMD A series = entry-level processors with Radeon graphics unit
  • AMD FX series = multi-core processors designed for high-end applications, high overclocking is possible

What is a mobile CPU?

For mobile processors efficiency is more important than performance. The standing out feature is a low power consumption, since, for example, notebooks are not permanently connected to the power outlet and must therefore be able to run only with battery. In addition, they have less performance than desktop CPUs, because a lot of performance also means a lot of heat, and mobile devices offer little space for fans and heat loss. Nonetheless, thanks to modern technology, there are also mobile processors that are suitable for 4K gaming and other high-performance applications.

Intel Mobile CPUs

The Intel Mobile processors include the following series:

  • Intel Atom = range of microprocessors and system-on-chips (SoC) for low-cost and energy-efficient systems (also used in tablets, smartphones and infotainment systems in cars)
  • Intel Pentium = series of microprocessors and single-chip systems, more powerful than Atom

But even among the Celeron and Core-i CPUs there are mobile processors that are identified by the following letters, among others:

  • U = "ultra-low power", referred to CPUs with lowered voltage and TDP of about 15 W. They are mainly used in ultrabooks, where the power consumption plays a major role
  • Y = extremely low power, similar to U series, but TDP less than 13 W
  • M = mobile Dual-Core
  • QM = mobile Quad-Core
  • HQ = high performance graphics, quad core, especially for gaming laptops because of good performance, TDP around 45 W
  • HK = high performance graphics, unlocked similar to HQ, can be overclocked

AMD mobile CPUs

As mentioned earlier, most AMD product lines also have mobile variants:

  • AMD Ryzen Mobile = powerful APUs with Radeon Vega graphics unit
  • AMD Athlon = multi-core processors with Radeon graphics unit
  • AMD A-Series = for notebooks, suitable for gaming

Which CPU is suitable for what?

Typically, desktop CPUs are installed in desktop PCs, while mobile processors are used for notebooks, ultrabooks and Mini-PCs. However, as desktop CPUs are getting more and more power efficient, they are more and more being installed in laptops. In addition, the manufacturers also offer server and embedded CPUs. While the former are similar to the desktop CPUs, but offer even more power, the latter are characterized by their long-term availability.

Mini-PCs with desktop CPU

Due to their characteristics, Mini-PCs often incorporate mobile CPUs that consume much less power and generate less heat. However, many applications require good performance, so many spo-comm Mini-PCs are also equipped with desktop CPUs. These include the KUMO IV and KUMO Ryzen models for high-end graphics applications, the rugged outdoor and vehicle PCs RUGGED GTX1050 Ti and RUGGED Ryzen, as well as a few models where the CPU is even freely selectable: TURO Q87, CORE 2, NANO H110 and NOVA CUBE Q87.

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know-how
What is the difference between mobile and desktop CPUs?
CPUs are not always the same. Depending on the device in which a processor is installed, different characteristics with regard to performance, power consumption or waste heat are important. Which types there are and what distinguishes them, will be clarified in this article.
11 Dec 2019 Array ( [id] => 481 [title] => Industrial PCs part 5: Long-term availability [authorId] => [active] => 1 [shortDescription] => Ever wondered what would happen if a large project can not be supplied with the required PC systems, already after a short time? Exactly: it would not be that great. In the last part of our blog series about industrial PCs we reveal, why long-term availability is the icing on the cake. [description] =>

Long-term availability of industrial PCs

Once you settled for on an industrial PC, it probably means everything fits: the PC's performance, its price, various software compatibilities, the dimensions and the cooling system. But what if, even years after the first purchase, there is still a need for the same industrial PC, perhaps because, let’s say, the project is to be expanded further, or because a replacement system is needed? For this reason, the hardware manufacturer ensures long-term availability. For instance, to avoid costly and time-consuming recertification procedures, Intel guarantees long-term availability of its embedded CPUs up to a maximum of 15 years.

Identical successors: Industrial PCs from msi IPC and spo-comm

Let's assume the following scenario: You are using a specific Mini-PC. But after countless years of reliable use, it is time to go with the state of the art and rely on the latest technology. So what you would like to do is to buy a new Mini-PC. But in your product solution there is only a certain amount of space provided. So the new computer may, regarding its size, not be greater than the previous system. Best case would be to have a successor model that is identical to its predecessor, right? Sounds like a dream to you? It is not. Because msi IPC shows with a storybook-like product development how to establish identical successors in the market.

A prime example of identical successor models are the industrial PCs from the WINDBOX series. Due to the very flat design of the passively cooled Embedded-PCs, the systems fit easily into their environment. Thanks to the close cooperation and continuous development of Mini-PCs between msi IPC and spo-comm, it has been ensured, since 2008, that this will still be the case for future scenarios. The industrial PCs from the WINDBOX family can easily be replaced by newer models, without having to worry about the fact that the available space would not be enough. New models of the WINDBOX series always have exactly the same dimensions as their predecessors, while the interior / hardware and connections are brought up to date.

Any questions? Or are you looking for a suitable industrial PC? Our consultants will gladly assist you in the selection!

##Contact us!

 

Curious about industrial PCs? Click here for all industrial PCs from spo-comm:

##Discover our industrial PCs

 

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know-how
Industrial PCs part 5: Long-term availability
Ever wondered what would happen if a large project can not be supplied with the required PC systems, already after a short time? Exactly: it would not be that great. In the last part of our blog series about industrial PCs we reveal, why long-term availability is the icing on the cake.
28 Jan 2020 Array ( [id] => 496 [title] => BGA, PGA and LGA – What is behind the different grid arrays? [authorId] => [active] => 1 [shortDescription] => If you take a closer look at different CPU types, you will inevitably come across terms such as BGA, PGA and LGA. We will explain to you what these abbreviations actually mean. [description] =>

The terms BGA, PGA, LGA and CCGA are name types of integrated circuit packaging. However, they differ in the type of connections.

Ball Grid Array (BGA)

The abbreviation BGA stands for "Ball Grid Array". In this package, small solder balls form the connections, which are arranged in a square grid made up of columns and rows on the bottom surface of the chip. This design enables considerably more connections to be accommodated, roughly twice as many as with PGA. The solder balls provide short connections and therefore an enormous performance.

The advantages of BGA lie in the small space requirement, the good heat dissipation and the low impedance due to short connection paths to the circuit board. In addition, the chips can be unsoldered from the circuit board without damaging them. This enables the removal of old solder balls (deballing) and populating with new balls (reballing). The chip can then be soldered to a new circuit board. Since soldered processors are mechanically and thermally extremely robust, BGA is mainly used for embedded CPUs.

A major disadvantage is that the solder joints can only be checked by X-ray, as the connections are covered and difficult to access. This also severely limits repair options. Special equipment, a so-called reflow oven, is required for safe soldering. In addition, BGA chips can only be used effectively on multilayer boards, which limits their application possibilities.

Pin Grid Array (PGA)

The so-called "Pin Grid Array" (PGA) is mainly used for processors. While soldering balls are used with BGA, the pin grid array - as the name suggests - uses small pins as connections. These are also arranged in a square grid, but the number of connections and arrangement of the arrays varies, so that there is a large number of variants and thus different CPU sockets. The rows of pens can be arranged in parallel or offset, they are identified with numbers and letters.

There are different types of PGA:

  • With the Ceramic Pin Grid Array (CPGA), the semiconductor chip is fixed on a heat-conducting ceramic carrier. It is used in the first generation Intel Pentium, socket A variants of the AMD Athlon and the Duron family.
  • With the Plastic Pin Grid Array (PPGA), the carrier for the semiconductor chip is made of plastic. This variant is a little cheaper, has better thermal properties and also an improved electrical performance than ceramics. PPGA is mainly used for the Pentium MMX processors and Celeron.
  • The Staggered Pin Grid Array (SPGA) is characterized by staggered connection rows. This variant is required for CPUs that have more than 200 connections, because the offset layout offers more space. It is used on the Pentium and later central processing units.
  • With the Flip-Chip Pin Grid Array (FCPGA), the integrated circuit is attached to the top of the carrier ("flip-chip" means "inverted, turned chip"). This design is used for example in Pentium III and some Celeron processors.

Since the pins for PGA are on the CPU, the corresponding holes are on the mainboard so that the CPU can be installed without much pressure.

Land Grid Array (LGA)

The Land Grid Array (LGA) is the exact opposite of PGA. The contact pins are on the base of the mainboard. The CPU has the same number of contact points with which a connection is established. Intel has been using LGA for the majority of its Celeron, Pentium, Core and Xeon CPUs for many years.

The advantages of LGA are, on the one hand, the smaller size of the pins, which enables a larger number of pins in the same area. Secondly, they are not easily damaged because the socket has no pins that can be crushed. Compared to LGA, PGA sockets have the advantage that the mainboard cannot actually be damaged. In addition, pins are easier to repair on a PGA processor than on a LGA mainboard.

Ceramic Column Grid Array (CCGA)

Even if it has nothing to do with Mini-PCs, we want to mention the Ceramic Column Grid Array (CCGA) here for the sake of completeness. CCGA housings are extremely reliable and are used in space and military technology. The solder connections on the underside of the housing are columnar (hence the name “column”) and consist of heavily leaded solder. Similar to BGA, the columns are arranged in a grid. They cannot be used in the civilian market because they are not permitted under the RoHS guidelines due to the high lead content due to EU trade bans.

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know-how
BGA, PGA and LGA – What is behind the different grid arrays?
If you take a closer look at different CPU types, you will inevitably come across terms such as BGA, PGA and LGA. We will explain to you what these abbreviations actually mean.