Re: I just bought myself one of these : (Vortex)
Exactly. For the few days since the Quark was announced, I've been itching with curiosity, how it compares to the Vortex. And I'll keep on itching for a few more weeks (months?) till I put my hands on the Quark and run nbench on the critter. For the time being, could anyone please publish the contents of /proc/cpuinfo ?
The Vortex boards typically eat something between 2.5 and 5 Watts (between 500 mA and 1 A from a 5V adaptor) depending on Vortex generation, additional chips on the board, the SSD used and CPU load (and OS power saving capabilities). The 5W is a well equipped Vortex86DX board including Z9s graphics at full throttle. The MX/DX2 reportedly need less power. The Vortex SoC contains a programmable clock divider, you can underclock it to 1/8th of the nominal clock - but the undeclocking doesn't achieve much more than what Linux can achieve at full clock, merely by properly applying HLT when idle.
I'd expect the Galileo board to have a similar power consumption.
With switch-mode power supplies (the general cheap stuff on today's market), it's not a good idea to use a PSU or Adaptor whose specced wattage exactly matches your device's consumption. It's advisable to use a PSU that's twice to three times overestimated. Hence perhaps the recommendation to use a 3amp adaptor. Intel knows that these adaptors are crap. You may know them from SoHo WiFi routers/AP's. The router comes with a 2amp adaptor, likely extremely cheap, which only lasts for a year or two, 24/7. Then the elyts bid you farewell. Buy a 3amp adaptor for 10 USD and it will lasts forever.
Also note that Intel may be hinting that you need to reserve some PSU muscle for some "Arduino IO shields".
The DX vortex is made using 90nm lithography, not sure about the MX and DX2 (possibly the same). Makes me wonder what Intel could do, with all its x86 know-how, using a 32/22nm process. Run a 386 at 10 GHz maybe? I've been wondering about this for years before the Quark got announced, and now I'm puzzled - "so little so late".
I've been a Vortex fanboy for a few years - specifically, I'm a fan of the boards made by ICOP ( www.icop.com.tw ). Interestingly, I've seen other Vortex-based boards that are not as good, although using the same SoC. BTW, I don't think even the MX Vortex has MMX - it's more like an overclocked Cyrix 486, but with a well-behaved TSC and CMPXCHG, so it can run Windows XP (not Windows 7, sadly).
Vortex86SX and DX didn't have on-chip graphics, but the ICOP portfolio contains boards with or without VGA. ICOP uses an SIS/XGI Volari Z9s with 32 megs of dedicated video RAM, other board makers use different VGA chips, such as an old Lynx3D with 4 megs of video RAM. The Vortex86MX SoC (and the new Vortex86DX2) does have some VGA on chip, possibly not as powerful as the Z9s. The on-chip VGA uses shared memory (steals a few megs of system RAM). I understand that the system RAM on the Vortex chips is only 16 bits wide, which might be a factor in the CPU core's relatively poor performance.
The Geode has significantly better performance per clock tick than the Vortex86DX. The new DX2 should perform better than the older DX/MX cores (closer to the Geode). I expect the Quark at 400 MHz to be about as fast as an 800MHz Vortex86DX. The "Pascal CRT 200 MHz bug" occurs at around 400 MHz on the Vortex86DX.
The Vortex SoC traditionally contained a dual-channel parallel IDE controller. This is nowadays still useful for ATA Flash drives of various form factors (including CompactFlash), but to attach some new off-the-shelf spinning rust, you need an active SATA/IDE converter... The new DX2 SoC features a native SATA port. Since I guess Vortex86DX, the second IDE channel can alternatively be configured as an SD controller.
Since Vortex86SX, the SoC has about 40 GPIO pins - the boards by ICOP typically have 16 GPIO pins on a connector (with ground and a power rail). The DX/MX/DX2 SoC can even run HW-generated PWM on the GPIO pins (each pin has its own individual PWM config). The only thing it's missing for general tinkering is possibly an on-chip multichannel ADC.
Sice Vortex86SX, the SoC has two EHCI controllers (four ports of USB 2.0 host).
The MX/DX2 have on-chip HDA (audio).
All the Vortex SoC's have an on-chip 100Base-TX Ethernet MAC+PHY (the RDC R6040).
The SX/DX/DX2 have 4+ COM ports, one of them with RS485 auto RX/TX steering capability. (the MX has only 3 COM ports.) All of them have a good old-fashioned LPT (parallel printer port) with EPP/ECP capability, whatever twisted use you may have for that nowadays. Note that all the COM ports and LPT are on chip in the SoC - yet the SoC also has LPC, should the board maker want to expand the legacy stuff with an added SuperIO chip...
In terms of "system architecture feel", the Vortex reminds me of the 486 era. Simple hardware. Might be useful for realtime control (think of RTAI). There's a full-fledged ISA and a basic PCI (able to serve about 3 external devices). The DX2 has two lanes of PCI-e. The SX/DX/MX (not sure about the DX2) doesn't contain an IO/APIC, which means that it's a bit short of IRQ's, considering all the integrated peripherials. Yet all the integrated peripherials work fairly well. I've seen an odd collision or two: the PXE ROM is defunct if you enable the second EHCI, but both the second EHCI and the LAN work fine in Linux if you leave them both enabled (= as long as you don't need to boot from PXE). The BIOS does't provide ACPI if memory serves. All the Vortex-based hardware uses AT-style power.
The SoC doesn't have an APIC, but there's an interesting twist to the (otherwise standard) AT-PIC: the SoC allows you to select edge-triggered or level-triggered logic individually for each interrupt channel. Not that I've ever had any use for that, but it might be interesting for some custom hacks (with a number of devices that need to share a single interrupt).
And, oh, the Vortex boards all have a BIOS, i.e. can boot DOS, various indee bootloaders, and stand-alone bootable tools (think of Memtest86+). I've already mentioned PXE booting. You're free to insert your own bootable disk (SSD or magnetic) and some boards also contain an onboard SPI-based flash drive, which acts like a 4meg floppy. The AMI BIOS in the ICOP boards allows you to configure a number of the SoC's obscure features, and can be accessed via a terminal on RS232 if the board is "headless" (no VGA).
In terms of features, compared to the Vortex, the Galileo board (the Quark?) seems underwhelming. Ahh yes, it's also cheaper... And I understand that it's a first kid in an upcoming family.
When I first read about the Quark, I immediately thought to myself "Vortex is in trouble". Looking at the Galileo, I think "not yet, maybe next time". We have yet to see how the Quark copes on the compatibility front etc., what novel quirks get discovered etc.