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Advantech ARK-6320

Economical embedded Intel Atom D510-based Mini-ITX Box PC for automation, kiosks, POS, gaming, signage and more
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer; photography by Carol Cotton)

In this article we're looking at the ARK-6320, yet another very compact box PC from Taiwanese industrial and embedded systems specialist Advantech. This is essentially a full computer in a very compact, industrial-strength package with emphasis on connectivity and longevity. Advantech describes the ARK-6320 as an all-in-one embedded box PC with great expansion capability, and is especially suitable for industrial automation, KIOSK/POS, digital signage (DSA), gaming, and other embedded applications. As you can see in the picture below, the 6320 is simply a black box, with a design dominated by the large finned cooling sink on top of the unit. This means no fan, no noise from a fan, and no fan that can break. That can be crucial in applications where absolute 7/24/365 reliability is a must.

What you get with the ARK-6320 is a standard Mini-ITX motherboard packaged into a compact steel chassis. Mini-ITX is a motherboard form factor standard designed specifically for low power consumption and passive cooling. The board itself measures 6.7 x 6.7 inches and shares mounting points and expansion slot and interface areas with the ATX standard, meaning they easily fit into regular ATX tower and desktop housings. Mini-ITX isn't about a lot of expansion via multiple slots. Instead, the small form factor is geared towards providing full PC functionality in compact, fanless systems, and that's how Advantech used it in the ARK-6320.

The ARK-6320 measures 7.9 x 7.9 x 2.9 inches and weighs about seven pounds, with a good deal of that accounted for by the precision-machined aluminum top that serves as a massive heatsink. The housing itself is well made and extremely rigid, and much more solid and trust-inspiring than what you get in a consumer housing.

While Mini-ITX was initially developed by VIA Technologies specifically for their low power C3 and then C7 processors, most recent Mini-ITX boards are designed for Intel Atom processors (we've even seen one that can handle a Core 2 Duo). For the ARK-6320, Advantech is using a 1.66GHz Intel Atom D510 processor, a dual core CPU that offers more than acceptable performance (not to be confused with the mobile Atom chips in netbooks).

The image below shows the top view and all four side views of the ARK-6320. Almost all I/O is concentrated on the backside of the unit. That's because Mini-ITX boards have standard I/O blocks just like regular ATX boards.

In terms of functionality and connectivity, this compact Advantech all-in-one embedded PC is clearly designed for applications that require lots of legacy and current I/O. The ARK-6320 is configured to offer the following external and optional ports:

  • 8 x USB 2.0 (4 front, 4 back)
  • 5 x Serial RS232
  • 1 x Serial RS232/422/485
  • Line-out, Mic-in, Line-in
  • Optional 16-bit digital I/O
  • 2 x RJ-45 gigabit LAN
  • 1 x DVI-I video
  • Power (12 Volt DC)
Note the additional blocked-off cutouts in the front of the 6320. They are for the optional LVDS port, inverter, and an external antenna.

The ARK-6320 can either run off a shock/vibration-mounted SATA 2.5" hard disk that fits inside the enclosure, or solid state memory placed in a CompactFlash card slot that can easily be accessed upon removal of the bottom cover of the unit.

Below you can see what's inside the ARK-6320.

After removing four screws, the bottom part of the system comes off and provides access to the Mini-ITX board. Compact board form factors often use both the top and bottom side of the board, and Mini-ITX is no different. In the picture you can see the Compact Flash slot (unused in our eval unit) next to where the disk is mounted. On top of the board are the sole 200-pin SODIMM socket as well as the mini-PCIe expansion slot (also unused in our tester). Memory is up to 2GB of single channel 667MHz DDR2.

The massive heat sink on top of the unit does not actually sit right on top of the processor and chipset. Instead, Advantech used clever thermal engineering to transfer the heat from the chips via two solid metal heat-pipe cylinders to the finned heat sink. Also, note how neat and clean the board is. There aren't any loose wires or quick fixes here.

In terms of ruggedness, the requirements for systems used in industrial automation, KIOSK/POS, digital signage, gaming, and similar embedded applications are a bit different from those that apply to traditional mobile computers. While the latter need to be sealed against dust and water, and be able to survive drops and such, the former primarily require total reliability, perhaps vibration resistance, and the ability to reliably operate in their target temperature and humidity range. For the 6320 that means an operating temperature range of 32 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, vibration resistance, and the ability to handle 10 to 85% humidity and operation in altitudes up to 10,000 feet (note that airplanes are usually pressurized to the equivalent of about 7,000 feet).

Relative performance

The ARK-6320 is equipped with a 1.66GHz Intel Atom D510 processor that Intel introduced at the end of 2009. It is a dual core processor specifically designed for use in low end desktops and similar devices. It has Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150-based integrated graphics, and compared to the original Atom N230/N330 that the D410 and D510 processors replaced, the chip count is down from three to two. The graphics core is running at a respectable 400MHz, compared to just 200MHz in the Atom N450 of the same Atom generation, the chip that powered many millions of netbooks.

The D510 is a very economical processor that, combined with its companion ICH8M chip, has a thermal design power of no more than 15 watts. It provides the relative simplicity and low price of the Atom line with a nice performance advantage over "lesser" Atoms, and thus makes it interesting for applictions that require a bit more than just the basics. RuggedPCReview.com ran full performance benchmarks, and the below table shows those that relate to the processor itself (it'd make little sense to list all system benchmarks as graphics, disk, etc., depend on drivers and type of storage):

Atom D510 Core i7-610E Atom D510 Core i7-620LE Core 2 Duo T7400 Core Duo L2400 Atom N270 Atom Z530
Clock speed 1.66GHz 2.53GHz 1.66GHz 2.0GHz 2.16GHz 1.66GHz 1.6GHz 1.6GHz
Tested in Advantech: ARK-6320 ARK-3440 ARK-3403 SOM-5788 PPC-157T ARK-3399 SOM-5761 SOM-6760
Thermal Design Power: 13 watts 35 watts 13 watts 25 watts 34 watts 15 watts 2.5 watts 2 watts
ALU 10829 35793 11083 31419 19311 12971 5413 5376
FPU 9272 40328 9704 35007 22560 15353 4726 4667
MEM 6527 18458 6447 23251 10867 6407 4172 3667

What the benchmarks show (higher is better) is that processor performance of this Atom D510-based system is very clearly above that of Atom N270 and Z530-based boards or systems. It's also not far from that of lower end Core Duo systems, and even at about the 50% level of powerful Core 2 Duo setups. Higher speed Core i5 or i7 systems, however, are in a different class entirely, and the ARK-6320 is not designed to compete with them on performance.

So the ARK-6320 is not designed to be a high performance speed demon or a system for advanced imaging applications. It is, however, plenty capable of running a wide range of complex automation tasks, signage applications even with high-quality 3D/video/graphics, and all sorts of kiosk and interactive applications. And the starting price is US$655, a total bargain for this much machine. -- Conrad H. Blickenstorfer

Advantech ARK-6320 Specs:

Type Fanless Mini-ITX system
CPU Type 1.66GHz Atom D510 with 1MB L2 cache
Chipset Intel ICH8-M
OS Windows XP Embedded or XP Professional (plus several others, including Windows CE and Linux)
Memory Max 2GB single channel DDR2 667MHz in 1 SDRAM 200-pin SODIMM socket
Graphics Controller Embedded Gen3.5 + GFX Core
Watchdog Timer 1 to 255 second timer for system reset
LVDS Single channel 18-bit LVDS (up to 1366 x 768 pixel)
LAN 2 x 10/100/1000 Mbps (GbE LAN1: Intel 82567V; GbE LAN2: Intel 82583V)
Storage HD Supports drive bay space for one 2.5-inch SATA HDs
Storage SSD 1 Compact flash type I/II slot
Expansion 1 mini-PCIe
Housing Aluminum housing for desk/wall mounting
Vibration 1 Grms, IEC 60068-2-64, random, 5 ~ 500 Hz, 1 Oct./min, 1 hr/axis
Shock unknown
EMC unknown
Safety unknown
Operating temperature 0 ~ 50 C (32 ~ 122 F)
USB 8 x USB 2.0 (4 front, 4 back)
Serial 1 x RS232/422/485, 5 x RS232)
Parallel NA
Audio 3 (Mic-In, Line-In, Line-Out)
Communication Optional ARK-6 series wireless LAN 802.11 b/g module via expansion slot
DIO There is an extra cutout for DIO
Size 7.9" x 7.9" x 2.9"
Weight 6.75 lbs.
Power 12VDC
Price Starting at US$655 (see price configurations)
Datasheet Advantech ARK-6320

Advantech Corporation
38 Tesla, Suite 100
Irvine, CA 92618
Toll Free: 1-800-866-6008
Ph: 949-789-7178
Fax: 949-789-7179

Advantech Co. Ltd.
No.1, Alley 20, Lane 26, Rueiguang Road
Neihu District, Taipei Taiwan 114, R.O.C.
Tel: 886-2-2792-7818
Fax: 886-2-2794-7301