One of the most common pieces of equipment that has been part of revolutionizing technology in industrial applications has to be the Panel PC. These robust, all-in-one computing devices have become the cornerstone of modern industrial operations, offering seamless control and monitoring capabilities across a spectrum of sectors, from manufacturing and automation to logistics and process control. There are numerous components that make up the modern Panel PC, but the processor stands out as one of the most pivotal elements, serving as the brain that empowers these systems to execute complex tasks, enhance efficiency, and facilitate real-time decision-making.
When you think of a processor, the brands Intel and AMD often come to mind, and rightfully so—these are top names in the x86 processor industry. However, NXP, a Dutch company specializing in semiconductors, is a leader in connectivity solutions for embedded applications and we find their ARM processors a great fit for Panel PCs. Did you know that NXP holds the title as a top automotive semiconductor manufacturer in the world? That’s impressive!
AMD, Intel or NXP? It Depends.
The choice between Intel, AMD, and NXP’s i.MX ARM family of embedded processors depends on your specific project requirements, including performance, power efficiency, software support, and long-term availability.
Intel and AMD processors follow the x86 architecture, offering high computational power and compatibility with various operating systems. NXP’s i.MX application processors, based on ARM architecture, prioritize energy efficiency, making them ideal for low-power applications. NXP processors excel in power efficiency, suiting battery-powered devices, while Intel and AMD models differ in power efficiency, with some embedded versions designed for lower consumption. NXP prioritizes long-term availability and support, while Intel and AMD processors may have shorter life cycles. Intel and AMD processors enjoy broader software support, whereas NXP’s i.MX processors fit better for projects requiring more customized or niche software solutions . NXP processors often come with integrated connectivity and multimedia features, making them suitable for IoT and industrial applications. In contrast, Intel and AMD processors may need additional components. The cost varies greatly based on the specific model and features required for your embedded application.
If your HMI device requires high computing performance, extensive software compatibility with Windows-based applications, or specific architectural features, Intel or AMD processors might be a better fit. Nonetheless, for many industrial HMI applications, NXP’s processors, like those of the i.MX8M family, offer a compelling set of features and benefits. Continue reading to learn more about NXP’s i.MX8M family features.
NXP i.MX 8M Family: Versatility, Security, and Longevity for HMIs and Panel PCs
The NXP i.MX 8M family processors used in industrial applications, which include i.MX8M Quad, i.MX8M Nano, i.MX8M Mini and i.MX8M Plus, boast a comprehensive set of features that cater to a wide range of applications. They are built on a multicore ARM architecture, featuring ARM Cortex-A53 cores for general processing and ARM Cortex-M4 or M7 cores for real-time tasks. These processors excel in multimedia applications with hardware acceleration for video, exceptional audio, voice, and advanced GPU and VPU. This is advantageous for HMI applications that require high-quality display and video playback, allowing for smooth user interfaces and the ability to support high-definition content.They offer diverse connectivity options, including Ethernet, USB, PCIe, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. The i.MX 8M family processors are also well-equipped for HMI developments, supporting various display interfaces.
Security is a top priority, with features like hardware encryption, and tamper detection. Specifically, NXP application processors often include dedicated hardware security modules (HSMs) or Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs) that provide a secure foundation for protecting sensitive data, cryptographic operations, and secure boot processes. These hardware-based security features are more resistant to tampering and attacks than software-based solutions. In a world where cyber breaches and ransomware are very real threats, this can give a company a bit more confidence.
Additionally, NXP provides Linux and Android BSPs, simplifying software development, Plus, NXP’s software support allows for customization of software components to meet specific project requirements. Developers can tailor the software to suit their application’s unique needs.
NXP’s i.MX8M family processors are designed with a focus on low power consumption, making them well-suited for energy-efficient devices and offers a variety of form factors and temperature ranges to suit diverse environments and applications. (More about waterproof Panel PCs that withstand high temps and moisture here.) In HMI applications, where devices often run 24/7 and require fanless, passive cooling solutions, low power consumption is crucial.
What we particularly love about the i.MX8M processor family is that it has a very long life cycle, which is very important for industrial applications like Panel PCs. When a processor has a long life cycle, it means that the manufacturer commits to producing and supporting that specific processor model for an extended period of time, typically well beyond the initial release. This ensures that components will be available for a longer period, reducing the risk of obsolescence. This extended support duration offers several benefits to both customers and industries including stability, compatibility and interoperability, long-term support and updates, predictable planning, risk mitigation, and reduced development costs.
10.1” Panel PC for Medical and Industrial Use
Recently, we have announced the release of our Panel PC-4910– This touch panel PC is based on NXP’s i.MX8M Plus Quad Core ARM processor with a guaranteed 10+ years of lifespan and integrated AI/ML Neural Processing Unit (NPU) that focuses on edge AI, vision processing and other multimedia applications. As with all of our products—rugged tablets, HMIs and Panel PCs—our engineers are able to customize or integrate the features required for your project and manufacturer in large quantities. Click here to schedule a time to discuss your project with one of our specialists.