TECH REVIEW - Embedded PC System
Lex CV860C Light
The reason for writing this review of the Lex CV860C Light embedded PC is because there is so little information available about it on the internet. I felt that since it was so difficult to find much information, I would try and provide information for anyone else interested in this PC.
The purpose of getting this compact appliance style computer was to use it as a headless data logging, but fully fledged PC for experimental research in the field, where it could be powered from DC battery power sources. In this case, its main use has become a data logging and control system for large rocket engine tests.
The CV860C is exceptionally useful for data logging since it comes with 3 RS232 com ports and an RS232/RS422/RS485 com port, as well as an RJ-45 network port. I already knew of a friend using several Lex CV860C Light PCs for a balloon project going nearly to the edge of space, so I thought that it certainly was rugged enough.
The CV860C uses a fanless, low power CPU, and for rugged, field work, this in itself is exceptionally useful, since it means one less failure mode.
The CV860C enclosure is made of aluminium with 2 plastic end pieces to keep the case together. The aluminium enables the case to conduct the internal heat away effectively. The enclosure is not the most stunning design on the planet, but then again it could be a lot worse. Non descript would be about the best way to describe it.
The front panel has a minimal number of connectors, with only a USB 1.1 port, and audio in and audio out ports. Again, it is just non-descript.
The rear panel of the CV860C has all the usual ports one would expect, namely a VGA connector (15 pin high density socket), a PS/2 keyboad connector (Mini-DIN socket), a PS/2 mouse connector (Mini-DIN socket), a 10/100Mbps Ethernet connector (RJ-45 socket), 2 USB 1.1 ports (USB A style sockets), a 25 pin Parallel port (DB-25 socket), a 12V DC-IN power jack, and in a slight departure; 4 x COM ports ( 2 x COM by pin head)
The CV860C is fitted with an embedded processor, the VIA Eden Processor running at a clockspeed of 533 Megahertz. Although not particularly fast, this CPU can be run fanless, which makes the PC virtually silent.
The memory used by the CV860 is standard PC 133/100 SDRAM DIMM, with the CV860C supporting 1 DIMM socket of up to 512 Megabytes.
HARD DISK STORAGE
For my build, I fitted a Seagate Momentus 80 Gigabyte, 2.5", 4200rpm Hard Disk. I wanted a large disk drive because of the notion of using the CV860C for data logging, and at the same time, I wanted a lower power consumption hard disk, and the 4200rpm Seagate Momentus fitted the bill perfectly.
The motherboard would seem to be a custom motherboard, similar in size to a Mini-ITX motherboard. It is slightly longer (190mm), and slightly less wide (150mm) than a Mini-ITX motherboard. The CPU is passively cooled by a solid metal heatsink, and the single DIMM socket is located at the front of the motherboard, with the main I/O ports located at the rear of the motherboard.
If a 2.5" hard disk is to be fitted, an assembly is included to mount a 2.5" hard disk directly above the motherboard, keeping the hard disk within the overall footprint of the motherboard.
The Motherboard chipset is the VIA PLE133 VT8601A.
In terms of expandability, the only options for expansion, are in terms of storage. In this area, the CV860C is well equipped with onboard storage connection options. A CompactFlash connector is built in to the motherboard, as is the much less widely used DiskOnChip connector. It would be relatively straightforward to fit a CompactFlash card with a full Linux installation, to enable the PC to boot straight from the CompactFlash. The same is true of the DiskOnChip, however, with a maximum size of 1Gb for a DiskOnChip package on the CV860C, a smaller, less well featured version of Linux would need to be installed compared to that that could be installed using a CompactFlash card.
The Lex CV860C supports the following Operating Systems; Linux, Windows XP, Windows CE, Windows 2000, Windows Me, Windows 98 and Windows 95
The Lex 860C uses an Award BIOS.
Maximum input is rated at 30 Watts (12V x 2.5A). Note, this is the maximum input, and the average input is somewhat lower than this.
- Low power requirements
- Too slow for video tasks
For any PC use where graphics requirements are not excessive, such as general web browsing or email, or for in field use or light industrial use, the LEX860C is an excellent choice of small form factor PC. The inclusion of the 4 RS-232 ports marks it as a very good choice for in-field or light industrial data logging tasks, and its low power consumption provides cost effective performance.