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:
|SoC||Cores||ARM Core||RAM||Product Model||Price||Features|
|A20||2||Cortex-A7||1GB||A20-OLinuXino-MICRO-4GB||65 euro||Flash, 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 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.