Once again a new generation of Intel® Core™ processor raises the bar for digital signage systems. Retailers and other digital signage users looking to add Ultra HD 4K images and video to their signage systems will find the 6th generation Intel® Core™ processor product family (formerly codenamed “Skylake”) their best option. The processors offer a full line of scalable choices for making immersive Ultra HD 4K experiences the standard in the industry.
In this post, we look at the advantages of these new processors. We also look at two media players already available with them, as well as a selection of boards for developers to use in refreshing their product line.
A Giant Step Up in Graphics and Performance
Early documentation compares the performance of the mobile versions of this processor family to older generation processors in 5-year-old notebook PCs. This comparison works well for the digital signage market as many digital signage players use low-power versions of embedded processors that are 5 years or older. According to a recent Intel Factsheet, the 6th generation Intel Core processors are "setting a new standard of computing with 2.5x better productivity performance, 3x longer battery life, and 30x better 3D graphics performance when compared to a 5-year-old notebook PC."
For signage applications, the processors' new Intel® 500 Series graphics – Intel Gen9 Graphics – deliver up to 40% better graphics performance and 20% faster Ultra HD 4K transcode. Their dedicated hardware supports Ultra HD 4K playback for an Ultra HD 4K experience at a fraction of the power of previous generation systems (Figure 1). The dedicated hardware also frees up processor resources, ensuring faster, smoother response on interactive signage systems.
Figure 1. The expanded dedicated hardware of Intel® 500 Series Graphics mean improved Ultra HD 4K performance at lower power.
HEVC/H.265 encoding and decoding capabilities, as well as a better, lower-power H.264 encoder, allow Ultra HD 4K videos to take less bandwidth and storage space (Figure 2). The processors can transcode an Ultra HD 4K video up to 20 percent faster than the prior generation. What’s more, these new processors can drive up to three Ultra HD 4K monitors at once.
Figure 2. Codec support includes hardware acceleration for HEVC/H.265.
The higher performance members of the processor family include Intel® Clear Video HD Technology, an HD version of Intel® Clear Video Technology. The new version improves HD video playback with a suite of image decode and processing technologies built into the integrated processor graphics. You get cleaner, sharper images, more natural, accurate, and vivid colors, more realistic skin tones, and a clear and stable video picture.
The new processor family also supports the latest multimedia and graphcs APIs. This includes Microsoft DirectX 12 and Open GL 4.4.
Look, No Wires – and Faster Wakeup, too
The new processor family also delivers an advanced “no wires” experience based on Intel® Wireless Display (WiDi) and Intel Pro WiDi. For retailers, this means easier setup and fewer wires to try to hide. An integrated image signal processor (ISP) also enables designs incorporating a built-in camera, eliminating the need for adding a camera (and wires) to implement solutions like Intel® RealSense™ technology and Intel® Retail Client Manager.
Based on Intel’s leading 14nm process, the 6th generation Intel Core processors enable thinner form factors with wake-up times as short as 0.5 seconds when running Microsoft Windows 10 with Modern Standby implemented. That translates into smaller media players that can fit unobtrusively in more places and start up immediately when the doors open and customers come filing in.
Security and Scalability
Security is improved as well. New features include Intel® Software Guard Extensions (Intel® SGX) that add an additional level of hardware-based protection by putting data into a secure container on the platform. Intel® Memory Protection Extensions (Intel® MPX), another security measure, can help prevent buffer flow attacks. (Note: to be fully utilized, Intel SGX and Intel MPX require additional software capabilities which will begin to be delivered by the ecosystem later this year.)
The 6th generation Intel Core processor family is Intel’s most scalable processor family ever, enabling a diverse range of form factors to meet every media player need. Intel plans to deliver more than 48 processors in the 6th Gen Intel Core processor family, including more than 25 products for the Internet of Things (IoT) with up to 7-year long-life supply and error correcting code (ECC) at multiple TDP levels.
Two Players Already Available
Fast out of the gate with two systems is NEXCOM. Their fanless NDiS B535 media player features a choice of the Intel Core i7-6700TE, i5-6500TE and i3-6100TE processors with support for up to 32GB of DDR4 2133 MHz dual-socket memory (Figure 3). For in-store promotions, the NDiS B535 supports creative, video game-like, 4K2K contents with the unified display output of three HDMI 2.0 ports, accelerated media codecs including HEVC, and the latest API support such as Microsoft® DirectX® 12 on Windows® 10. The digital signage player has a range of interfaces to connect to IP cameras, product tags, and ambient detectors.
Figure 3. NEXCOM NDiS B535 media player.
For those looking for OPS-compliant systems, NEXCOM offers the NDiS M535 OPS player (Figure 4). Powered by 6th generation Intel® Core™ processor i5-6440EQ, the quiet NDiS M535 delivers triple independent outputs supporting 4K display. Dual DDR4 memory sockets with up to 32GB at 2133MHz enable high-speed responsiveness while fast USB 3.0 ports facilitate interactive peripherals including touchscreen displays and cameras. Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) 11.0 allows the OPS player to be remotely accessed and diagnosed. Software issues can be repaired wirelessly, while failing hardware components can be identified early for preventive maintenance, lowering maintenance costs and on-site visits.
Figure 4. NEXCOM NDiS M525 OPS-compliant media player
Boards, Boards, and More Boards
The following table provides a sampling of available boards and those soon to be released. I’ve selected one example from a number of Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance members, but many of these members offer other choices. In coming months, many more boards based on these processors will be available.
|Product||6th GEN Intel® Core™ Processors||Form Factor||Features|
|AAEON COM-SKHB6||i7/i5/i3 series||COM Express Type 6||
|ADLINK Express-SL||i7-6822EQi7-6820EQ i5-6442EQ i5-6440EQi3-6102E
|COM Express Type 6||
|Avalue BCM MX110H||i7/i5/i3 series||Mini-ITX||
|Axiomtek CEM501||i7/i5/i3 series||COM Express Type 6||
|IEI Nano-ULT3||i7-6600U i5-6300U i3-6100U||EPIC||
|MSC C6C-SLU||i7-6600U i5-6300U i3-6100U||COM Express Type 6||
|Protech BU2509||i7/i5/i3 series||Micro-ATX||
|RICOH Mini-ITX||i7/i5/i3 series||Mini-ITX||
|Supermicro X11SSQ||i7/i5/i3 series||Mini-ITX||
Sign of the Times
To add systems and boards based on 6th generation Intel Core processors to your digital signage solutions, see the full collection of available solutions in our regularly updated Solutions Directory.