Sixth Generation of Intel Core Processors: New Options for Industrial PCs and Embedded



The sixth generation of the Intel Core i CPU family’s innovations has benefits for demanding digital signage, medical and industrial automation applications.

Intel® has launched the sixth generation of its Core™ i CPU family (formerly Skylake) and the corresponding 100 Series chipsets. The first mainboards for traditional desktop PCs have already been available and are now followed by boards for the industrial sector.

Improved hardware features for continuous operation in extended temperature ranges, extensive documentation and software tools, and special lifecycle management distinguishes these latest industrial motherboards. They can be used in many ways, for example in digital signage, industrial automation, POS or in medical technology.

Figure 1: Boards developed to target the demands of industrial operations can now take advantage of the sixth generation of the Intel Core i CPU family.

Figure 1: Boards developed to target the demands of industrial operations can now take advantage of the sixth generation of the Intel Core i CPU family.

Longevity and Easier Cooling

The DDR4 memory is supported with 2133 MHz. Although the DDR3 memory can still be used with a maximum clock speed of 1600 MHz under the Skylake platform, for industrial customers in particular a change makes sense: DDR4 brings significantly enhanced performance and increases longevity. And DDR4 pricing stands to become more affordable as it establishes itself as a standard technology in the first half of 2016.

Instead of the LGA 1150 the CPU socket is now an LGA 1151. After the 5th generation Core processors (formerly Broadwell) the Skylake processors belong to the second generation, which uses a fine 14-nanometer structure. The 14nm structure makes it possible to fit more circuits into the same amount of space while reducing switching distances and times. Thus, the CPU can work faster and consume less power.

Industrial customers can use boards with less energy consumption in a higher temperature range. Also, cooling is easier to handle. Furthermore, Intel has revised the functional units on the processor. The cache, for example, can now hold up to 8 megabytes.

Another innovation is the HD 530 graphics. The new graphics engine also promises high performance when playing and editing videos, and it features low energy consumption. For example, the processor uses up only one watt when playing a video in MP4 format.

New Chipsets Specially Designed for Embedded

For embedded systems with a guaranteed availability of seven years Intel offers three chipsets with different functions and price levels. The C236 chipset supports the server processors of the Intel Xeon® E3-1200 V5 processor series. These offer, compared to the previous Intel Xeon E3-1200 V3, a 32-gigabyte Video Memory and DDR4 memory, compared to 16 gigabytes of video memory and DDR3 memory. There are also significantly more USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports and PCIe 3.0 lanes. For the desktop variants of the sixth generation of the Intel Core i7 / i5 / i3 processors the chipset supports four sockets for DDR4 memory with Error Correction Code (ECC). The out of band management is offered by Intel vPro™ Technology and Intel Active Management technology. Due to its advanced software stability the Intel Stable Image Platform Program (SIPP) guarantees no changes for the chipset and at least 15 months of platform stability for drivers. Up to three independent displays can be used with the Intel C236 chipset.

The Intel Q170 chipset is almost identical to the Intel C236 chipset in terms of functionality, but doesn’t provide Xeon and ECC support. For lower requirements the Intel chipset H110 is available. It also supports only the sixth generation Intel Core i7 / i5 / i3 processors. Four SATA ports and two DDR4 bases, also without ECC support, can be used. In addition, the PCIe 3.0 is only available for the x16 slot. The Intel H110 chipset supports two independent digital displays.

Limitations

Despite all the changes, there are also certain limitations of Skylake platforms. As with the fourth generation of the Intel Core processor platform PCI support is eliminated. Applications needing PCI support will need to spring for an additional PCI Bridge Controller. Also, in the 6th generation Intel Core processors analog graphics (VGA) is omitted. Accordingly, customers have to resort to adapters or VGA cards.

The Intel 100 Series chipset, unlike the company’s fourth generation Core processors, does not allow on all desktop chipsets the use of Intel Xeon processors. The use of Intel Xeon processors requires appropriate server or workstation mainboards with server chipsets such as the Intel C236.

Also, the USB Enhanced Host Controller Interface is omitted. This means that with a Windows 7 installation USB ports no longer work. Thus, the operating system can only be installed on a SATA optical drive and requires a PS / 2 keyboard and mouse. The support of the SATA IDE mode is not continued. Additionally the LPC DMA mode isn’t supported for the parallel port.

Figure 2: Fujitsu’s D3446-S  mainboard. The author notes that industrial customers will find migrating to motherboards with the new Intel chipsets a good move, thanks to robust performance and functionality.

Figure 2: Fujitsu’s D3446-S mainboard. The author notes that industrial customers will find migrating to motherboards with the new Intel chipsets a good move, thanks to robust performance and functionality.

Future-Proof Investment

For industrial customers, the transition to motherboards with the new Intel chipsets is worthwhile. The new platform is durable and offers state-of-the-art performance and functionality. As soon as the new 6th generation of Intel Core processors and technologies of DDR4 memory has established itself as a standard its price will be cheaper compared to DDR3 memory. The described limitations must be taken into consideration, but can usually be bypassed easily. Therefore the conversion to the new platform as a whole is a future-proof investment for businesses.


Peter Hoser is Director OEM Mainboard Sales, Fujitsu. Hoser has worked for almost 30 years for Fujitsu and all its predecessors such as Siemens, Siemens-Nixdorf and Fujitsu-Siemens Computers. His experience includes five years as developing engineer for various production equipment and another five years as a process engineer in mainboard production. In 1996 he started to develop the sales of mainboards designed and made in Augsburg/Germany. During 20 years of heading the mainboard sales Hoser established Fujitsu as the number 1 vendor of industrial mainboards within EMEA.

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