1 2 3 Previous 113 Replies Latest reply on Oct 22, 2013 2:28 PM by jamodio

    Olimex A10S/A20-OLinuXino boards quite BBB-like

    morgaine

      I've gathered together some pieces of information on Olimex's latest Cortex-A* board range, which I think is an interesting one.

       

      Allwinner's new A20 device has almost the same pinout as their old A10, so Olimex developed an A20 board very quickly by upgrading an earlier A10-based prototype with the new SoC.  They already had a different OLinuXino board based on the lower-cost A10S in early production, so the future A20 board is being positioned as a more capable version of this product.

       

      This pair of boards have the product names A10S-OLinuXino-MICRO and A20-OLinuXino-MICRO, and Olimex's price list shows that each of these will also be available with 4GB of NAND flash on board, respectively named as A10S-OLinuXino-MICRO-4GB and A20-OLinuXino-MICRO-4GB.    Summary of the range:

       

       

      SoCCoresARM Core
      RAMProduct ModelPriceFeatures
      A10S1Cortex-A8512MBA10S-OLinuXino-MICRO45 euro
      A10S1Cortex-A8512MBA10S-OLinuXino-MICRO-4GB55 euroFlash
      A202Cortex-A71GBA20-OLinuXino-MICRO55 euroSATA
      A202Cortex-A71GBA20-OLinuXino-MICRO-4GB65 euroFlash, SATA

       

       

      Note that there is more symmetry in the  product naming  than in the actual board layouts, as A10S and A20 boards are quite different to reflect the differences in their SoCs.

       

      The NAND-less A10S-OLinuXino-MICRO [summary pdf] is already listed at Farnell UK, delivery projected for end of July, and development work on the A20-OLinuXino-MICRO seems to be progressing well.

       

      The A10S-OLinuXino-MICRO-4GB is pretty similar to the BeagleBone Black (BBB) in several ways.  The A10S has a Cortex-A8 CPU just like the BBB's TI AM3359, and both are clocked at the same speed of 1GHz.  Both provide native Ethernet, not over USB.  Both boards offer 512MB of RAM.  Likewise both feature on-board embedded flash as well as sockets for external cards, although the OLinuXino has double the flash and two different card sockets.  Both provide HDMI for video output (the A10S's GPU is a MALI-400), although the OLinuXino also provides analogue audio input and output sockets.  Both provide roughly the same kind of expansion connector concept, ie. a connector on each of the opposing long edges of the board.  As usual on Olimex boards, the OLinuXino also provides a UEXT connector which allows Olimex's large range of expansion modules to be attached.

       

      The above isn't intended to portray the A10S-OLinuXino-MICRO-4GB as "better" despite it having several extra features.  The BBB is quite a lot cheaper and provides stackable capes and the AM335x's exceptional PRUs, so it'll always be "horses for courses" between the two.  I do think that the two boards are close enough in features to be considered ballpark-similar.

       

      The A20-OLinuXino-MICRO and -4GB version will be quite a significant step up from their A10S-based siblings.  The CPU is a dual-core Cortex-A7 (see the A20 and Allwinner family brief pdf and short A20 datasheet for more details), RAM is doubled to 1GB of DDR3, video output is through both HDMI and VGA, and SATA data and power connectors are provided.  For 55 to 65 Euro, I expect that Olimex are going to have a serious hit on their hands.

       

      And the entire OLinuXino range is both open hardware and open software, give or take Allwinner's somewhat lacklustre understanding of the concept of documentation.  TI is way ahead on quality of open documentation for the BBB, except for its GPU which remains closed.  Apparently the open source Lima driver for the OLinuXino's MALI-400 is better than the Allwinner binary blob anyway, so at least for graphics support it might not matter much.

       

      Interesting times ahead.  I'm certainly keeping an eye open on Olimex, they're a very competent and extremely productive outfit.  Progress on their OLinuXino boards and other newsworthy developments are typically announced on their blog.

       

      Morgaine.

        • 1. Re: Olimex A10S/A20-OLinuXino boards quite BBB-like
          morgaine

          The A10S-OLinuXino-MICRO isn't in the exceptionally low Raspberry Pi and BBB price niche, but it may be worth pointing out that this board has Raspberry Pi-like graphics and media capability (unlike the BBB), and so will the A20 version.  This suggests that the A10S/A20 range of OLinuXino boards may provide the best of Pi graphics/media handling and BBB hardware interfacing capability for some users, when price is not the commanding factor.

          • 2. Re: Olimex A10S/A20-OLinuXino boards quite BBB-like
            morgaine

            Olimex has blogged instructions on building Linux for A10S from scratch.  Since the A10S has a Cortex-A8 CPU like the BBB, these instructions and the linux-sunxi Github repositories to which they refer could be of interest to the BBB community as well.

            • 3. Re: Olimex A10S/A20-OLinuXino boards quite BBB-like
              Drew Fustini

              Very nice, I really like what Olimex is doing.  Hoping we'll get some of the more exciting OLinuXino's stocked soon in North America (I think Newark element14 only has iMX.233 last I checked; the Allwinner models are available via Farnell direct ship to US).

              • 4. Re: Olimex A10S/A20-OLinuXino boards quite BBB-like
                morgaine

                Indeed Drew.  In particular, the SATA capability on the two A20 models is going to open up a whole new set of applications in the conventional "computing" sphere, as storage performance is so lacklustre with SD cards.  I expect them to be popular as lightweight Internet servers positioned slightly above BBB, aided also by their dual cores.

                 

                These two A20 models are going to be competing at the low end with Sabre-Lite, Wandboard and Minnowboard, and low-end/low-price is a good niche to be in.  I expect that Olimex are going to be selling a lot of them, while those competitors hold the high ground with their gigabit Ethernet and Cortex-A9 or Atom processors but sell far fewer.

                 

                PS. Summary table added to first post.

                • 5. Re: Olimex A10S/A20-OLinuXino boards quite BBB-like

                  Drew Fustini wrote:

                   

                  only has iMX.233 last I checked;

                  I got one of the iMX.233 olinuxino boards and while I don't want to put anyone off, you'll be amazed at just how poor the comparative performance is to a cheaper R-Pi never mind a BBB.  While it does have much better IO than the RPi, I kind of wonder which niche, if any, it actually fits into.

                  Hoping we'll get some of the more exciting OLinuXino's stocked soon

                  Hoping we'll get any stocked soon... They've been on backorder for ages now. The BBB snuck in there and stole the show while Olimex weren't paying attention.

                  I really want to like the Olimex stuff, but it's hard when you can't easily get hold of them.

                  • 6. Re: Olimex A10S/A20-OLinuXino boards quite BBB-like

                    Morgaine Dinova wrote:

                     

                    the SATA capability on the two A20 models is going to open up a whole new set of applications

                    The way I see things is that there's three distinct features that people want:

                    1. GPU
                    2. GPIO
                    3. SATA

                     

                    While some uses are completely different, there's a fair amount of overlap - if you're doing XBMC then it'd be nice to have better storage than SD cards to keep your films on.

                    So I tend to see the addition of SATA as being a plus point for all the other uses as well as a distinct feature. It makes all manner of other stuff so much easier.

                     

                    As such, I'll give any board with a SATA port a +1 on my list. With the A20 being a dual core it's even better.

                     

                    Do we know what speed the A20 boards will run at ?  I don't see anything obvious on that front on the Olimex page.

                     

                    I still think that 2Gb Wandboard Quad is going to be a hard one to beat though.

                    • 7. Re: Olimex A10S/A20-OLinuXino boards quite BBB-like

                      Morgaine Dinova wrote:

                       

                      The A10S-OLinuXino-MICRO-4GB is pretty similar to the BeagleBone Black (BBB) in several ways. 

                      I'm conflicted here...  I very much want to like the Olimex stuff, especially the A10 boards.  However, video isn't even on my list of things to have.  So I'm left wondering what the advantages of the A10S-Olinuxino is for the extra cost. As you say, they are very similar in a lot of other ways.

                       

                      If Olimex could get their boards out of the door a bit quicker and a bit cheaper I think I'd have several by now.

                      • 8. Re: Olimex A10S/A20-OLinuXino boards quite BBB-like
                        John Beetem

                        Speaking of Allwinner A10/A20, Rhombus-Tech is back in the news with their EOMA-68 card.  Latest news is that they've got Debian 7.0 Wheezy running on the A10, and are planning to make an A20 version thanks to the compatible pinout.  I've always liked the EOMA-68 form factor, which uses the same 50 mil 68-pin connector as PCMCIA [*] cards.  There's a GNU/Linux laptop in the works called Vivaldi "Flying Squirrel" which used an EOMA-68 as its brains so that it's easy to upgrade to a new CPU instead of tossing the old laptop into Morgaine's collection

                         

                        No idea when anybody is going to be able to buy any of this stuff.

                         

                        EOMA-68 A20 and mini-docking card: http://liliputing.com/2013/06/eoma-68-pc-on-a-card-goes-dual-core-supports-debian-linux-has-new-accessories-in-the-works.html

                         

                        Rhombus-Tech news including Debian 7.0 Wheezy and first samples of A10 EOMA-68: http://rhombus-tech.net/allwinner_a10/news/

                         

                        [*] PCMCIA = People Cannot Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms.

                        • 9. Re: Olimex A10S/A20-OLinuXino boards quite BBB-like
                          morgaine

                          selsinork wrote:

                           

                          I very much want to like the Olimex stuff, especially the A10 boards.  However, video isn't even on my list of things to have.  So I'm left wondering what the advantages of the A10S-Olinuxino is for the extra cost. As you say, they are very similar in a lot of other ways.

                           

                          As always, it's a matter of matching features to problem requirements.  Like yourself, I have no significant interest in media, so while I might dedicate a board to such functions one day, it's not even on my TODO list at present.

                           

                          In contrast, low-consumption Internet servers are an active area of interest for me, which makes the SATA interface a very attractive feature in the A20-based OLinuXinos, strongly helped by the dual cores since Internet service can make good use of hardware parallism.  I'm sure to get some of those A20 boards if Farnell or some other local UK company stocks them.

                           

                          The A10S-OLinuXino[-4GB] lacks SATA and costs more than BBB, so its niche appears to be "An open hardware version of Raspberry Pi with expanded hardware interfacing and faster."  If that spec is what someone needs and the extra cost is still viable, then it has a niche.  We'll see.  Personally I don't have that set of requirements, since BBB covers my interfacing needs nicely.  The A20-OLinuXino will fulfill a completely different requirement for me, Internet servers.

                           

                          Morgaine.

                           

                          Addendum.  Of course, the Wandboard would make an even better Internet server with its gigabit Ethernet, SATA, and 1-2-4 cores.  Unfortunately it's not sold in the UK and so they didn't get my money.  I hope that Olimex takes note of this.

                          • 10. Re: Olimex A10S/A20-OLinuXino boards quite BBB-like

                            John Beetem wrote:

                             

                            Rhombus-Tech is back in the news with their EOMA-68 card. 

                            Unfortunately they're taking way too long to actually produce a working product. Until they can it's all just vapourware. Don't get me wrong, the RPi and many of the others could easily have gone the same way, but most of them seem to have jumped that last hurdle and actually got their product to market.

                             

                            As for EOMA-68, I think it's interesting that a lot of other devices are opting for the EDM format like the wandboard. Searching for EOMA-68 pretty much gets you Rhombus-Tech and nothing else and maybe some other un-realised ideas several pages down..

                             

                            How good, or bad, the technology is doesn't seem to matter. The competition have built the boards and sold them to people already, so the question becomes whether anyone will care about Rhombus & EOMA when they're a year late to every party and the tech has moved on to something better.

                             

                            I think we had a similar discussion about Rhombus way back last year, and sadly I can see us doing it again next year

                            • 11. Re: Olimex A10S/A20-OLinuXino boards quite BBB-like

                              Morgaine Dinova wrote:

                               

                              If that spec is what someone needs and the extra cost is still viable,

                              I can't see it, not unless you've had your head in the sand for a couple of years and don't know the RPi or BBB exist. Sure, there are philosophical reasons for wanting a more open platform than an RPi, but I always wonder how those sorts of reasons stack up against the financial cost. Sure, there are those of us who might believe it's worth it, but the masses won't.

                               

                                Unfortunately it's not sold in the UK and so they didn't get my money.  I hope that Olimex takes note of this.

                              I do too.  I'm still considering getting a couple of wandboards from future-electronics who seem to offer the best gbp price while still shipping from the US. Olimex are in the same boat though, while there's some limited availability here, I'm unlikely to invest a lot of time/effort building something around a board that I can't easily replace if something ever does go wrong.

                               

                              While we don't seem to have had much luck with Farnell getting a better range of these boards, I wonder if someone at CPC might be listening.. Could be an opportunity for them

                              • 12. Re: Olimex A10S/A20-OLinuXino boards quite BBB-like
                                Brian Welsby

                                selsinork wrote:

                                 

                                 

                                While we don't seem to have had much luck with Farnell getting a better range of these boards, I wonder if someone at CPC might be listening.. Could be an opportunity for them

                                 

                                I Hope so   It does look like Farnell is pitching CPC  more for the "Maker" market they have produced a MakerTech catalogue.

                                I have driven past CPC twice this week without calling in, suffering withdrawal symptoms.

                                • 13. Re: Olimex A10S/A20-OLinuXino boards quite BBB-like
                                  morgaine

                                  One thing that has long puzzled me is why no ARM licensee has seen fit to release a board providing two NICs, AFAIK.

                                   

                                  Such boards are common in the x86 world, especially ATX server boards and those using the Mini-ITX form factor, but because they are generic motherboards and thus contain (as usual) everything, their prices are typically high.  So high in fact that networking enthusiasts have to resort to hacking commodity routers like the Linksys WRT54GL to obtain a dual NIC comms device at a reasonable price.

                                   

                                  The first open hardware dual-NIC ARM board that appears at a "Pi era" price is going to have the market almost to itself, and I think it is reasonable to expect that legions of WRT users would snap it up.  Also, the A20 SoC provides 1000Mbps Ethernet capability, and it would be low-hanging fruit to harness this.

                                   

                                  To that end, here is a little suggestion for Olimex's hypothetical OLinuXino comms and servers product line:

                                   

                                   

                                  Single-NIC comms:

                                   

                                  SoCCoresARM Core
                                  RAMProduct ModelPriceFeatures
                                  A202Cortex-A71GBA20-OLinuXino-NANO-GIGA35 euroNo video, No SATA, gigabit
                                  A202Cortex-A71GBA20-OLinuXino-NANO-GIGA-4GB45 euroNo video, No SATA, gigabit, Flash
                                  A202Cortex-A71GBA20-OLinuXino-MICRO-GIGA55 euroNo video, SATA, gigabit
                                  A202Cortex-A71GBA20-OLinuXino-MICRO-GIGA-4GB65 euroNo video, SATA, gigabit, Flash

                                   

                                   

                                  Dual-NIC comms:

                                   

                                  SoCCoresARM Core
                                  RAMProduct ModelPriceFeatures
                                  XXX *2Cortex-A7/A91GBXXX-OLinuXino-2NIC40 euroNo video, No SATA, 2xNIC
                                  XXX *2Cortex-A7/A91GBXXX-OLinuXino-2NIC-4GB50 euroNo video, No SATA, 2xNIC, Flash
                                  XXX *2Cortex-A7/A9
                                  1GBXXX-OLinuXino-2NIC-GIGA60 euroNo video, SATA, 2xNIC, gigabit
                                  XXX *2Cortex-A7/A9
                                  1GBXXX-OLinuXino-2NIC-GIGA-4GB70 euroNo video, SATA, 2xNIC, gigabit, Flash

                                  (*) A20 seems not to have dual MAC capability, so replaced here by i.MX6.**

                                  (**) It turns out that i.MX6 doesn't have dual MAC either and can't handle full gigabit anyway, so replaced i.M6 by "XXX".

                                   

                                   

                                  The proposed pricing is just guesstimate figures intended to reflect the BOM cost savings made by omitting the HDMI and VGA support devices and sockets, since the intended application area is headless communication devices and servers.  Devices like routers and firewalls typically wouldn't need SATA either, so even more savings are possible.  As a result, some of these boards in the hypothetical comms and servers product range could in principle be cheaper than Olimex's currently listed A20 OLinuXinos.

                                   

                                  Of course, this assumes that a dual-MAC SoC offering full gigabit performance exists at A20 prices ... a tall order!  That said, today's wishful thinking is tomorrow's reality, and these suggestions are for tomorrow.

                                   

                                  It's a nice sunny Sunday afternoon for dreaming up products.

                                   

                                  Morgaine.

                                   

                                  PS. The second table has been evolving as a result of our discussions, from its original A20 to i.MX6 and now to just an XXX placeholder.  These changes may confuse any references in the thread below a bit, but if in doubt, just blame me.

                                  • 14. Re: Olimex A10S/A20-OLinuXino boards quite BBB-like

                                    Morgaine Dinova wrote:

                                     

                                    One thing that has long puzzled me is why no ARM licensee has seen fit to release a board providing two NICs, AFAIK.

                                    The AM3359 does include two NICs, and there is a board using it with two ethernet ports 21030432103043 however when you read the doc for that board, it appears that both ethernet ports are connected to the PRUs and hence you get access to EtherCat, but it's not clear if or how you would use them for normal ethernet.

                                     

                                    It's not immediately clear to me that the iMX6 has dual mac capability either. The reference manual is huge though, so I may have missed it. Got a pointer to that bit of useful information ?

                                    That said, as the i.MX6 has PCIe capability it's certainly possible to simply add multiple extra nics that way.

                                     

                                    While dual, or triple, nic configurations (perhaps similar to the PCEngines ALIX boards http://www.element14.com/community/community/knode/single-board_computers/blog/2013/06/06/alix-boards-the-open-source-alternative-to-proprietary-routers ) would be nice, if you have a vlan capable switch then it's possible to get to the same place with a single nic. Although that does bring us back to the point you made in another thread - 10/100 network is no longer good enough and it appears as if the A20 is similar to the A10 in only having 10/100, although you'd be forgiven for thinking neither of them have any network capability since it doesn't seem to get a mention in any of the datasheets.

                                     

                                    So while we're dreaming up products for Olimex, there's already an A20 MarsBoard http://www.hotmcu.com/marsboard-a20-dev-board-p-60.html

                                    which has 1GB, SATA, Video, Flash at $58 or approx 45 euro, downside of course is the 10/100 nic.

                                    1 2 3 Previous