The difference between Single Board Computers & Core Modules

Choosing between a Core Module and a Single board computer can sometimes be a challenging decision. What is the difference between the two? What are the drawbacks? We answer these questions and more in this week's blog post.

A core module (sometimes known as a computer-on-module (COM) or system on module (SOM) can be thought of as half-way between an SBC and a discrete microprocessor IC.

Choosing between an SBC and a core module is a trade-off between time to market and flexibility.

single board computer, as described in our last post, offers a ready to go instant platform that ships with all the drivers needed in the form of a board support package. This can save a lot of integration effort and development time. An SBC offers a fixed package of processor, memory and interfaces on a single circuit board, whose size and configuration is also fixed. 

Embedded Core Module and Single Board Computer with hand

The issues we run into most often are the size and I/O. If a key interface is lacking, then it is sometimes possible to create an adaptor, using the pin header frequently provided. If the board won’t fit into the system caseworkers, that’s generally a deal breaker.

The only way forward is to use a core module, which separates the processor and memory from the I/O section of the design. Both the drawback and the advantage of the core module path is that you develop your own baseboard. Clearly, this will take time and design effort but will allow you to create a board with exactly the I/O that you need for your design and of the right form-factor. You’re not left with interfaces that you don’t need but can’t get rid of, wasting space. A potential advantage of the core module route is that it may be possible to upgrade the processor and the memory later without rebuilding the baseboard, by using a pin-compatible replacement module.

There is a third potential avenue. Some suppliers like Anders with our DX range has developed its own range of baseboards with interchangeable core modules. You can start your development on these platforms, work on the software and in the meantime develop your own baseboard if you choose to. 

Get in touch with our engineers to find out more about these solutions!

In our next blog post, we are switching back to looking at the display and will look at the place of mono displays in an ever more colourful world. 


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