Since there are many types of single board computers, choosing the right one for an application requires many considerations. The following are the most critical factors that will help when selecting the best single-board computer.
Choose a single board computer that matches the power requirements for the specific application. As a complement to control, make sure the system’s thermal management capabilities are up to the task of cooling the chosen computer for the course.
Essential in any decision is the form factor of available single board computers. Form factors common in COTS embedded single board computers are VME, VPX, CompactPCI, and ComExpress. 6U VME has been the most commonly used in the past, but that is slowly changing to VPX, with increased interest in 3U for SWaP reasons.
Backward pin compatibility
When choosing a single board to be used for technology insertion in an existing system (either for obsolescence or increased performance reasons), make sure it is designed for the specific pinout of the existing backplane to avoid having to redesign or replace the backplane. Curtiss-Wright Defense Systems differentiates itself in the embedded systems market by maintaining consistent pinout.
The three primary options seen in the embedded COTS marketplace are Intel, Power Architecture, and ARM. Many customers choose a specific type of processor because of their experience working with it, but the application may dictate a leaning to one over the other. Some of the considerations that follow will also influence processor choice.
With advancing technology, memory requirements have increased dramatically. Ten to 12 years ago, 512 MB of memory was considered sufficient. And a gigabyte of memory was unheard of. Today many Intel processors offer 16 to 32 GB of memory. The memory demand of an application can influence the processor choice. Compared to Intel, Power Architecture and ARM typically offer less memory and less power.
Operating systems many impact the processor and single board computer choice due to availability on the chosen one. Typical OS-es available for embedded use are Linux (of which there are many versions), INTEGRITY, Greenhills LynxOS, QNX, and Wind River VxWorks. A variety of processors support Linux. But not all processor families can support the design tools of Wind River VxWorks 5.5 for developing safety and mission-critical applications certified to standards such as RTCA DO-178B/C, EUROCAE ED-12B/C, and IEC 61508. For applications requiring these safety and mission-critical certifications, choices include DDC-I Deos, Greenhills INTEGRITY-178, Lynx Software LynxOS-178, or Wind River VxWorks 653.
For a particular application, a single board computer must provide the right I/O complement in the right types and quantities, such as Ethernet, DIO, SATA, USB, serial ports (232, 422, 485) as well as board interconnect (VME, SRIO, PCIe, Ethernet). This consideration is available to support the add-on of a mezzanine card to expand on I/O not provided by the base SBC.
Application requirements vary vastly from short version (and with that low power) to extremely high-performance applications. And single board computers have the qualities to meet the demand of different applications. Users should go for the SBC that can perform excellently with a given application perfectly.
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