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Allwinner octacore SoC due first on pcDuino8 SBC

May 5, 2014  |  Eric Brown
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LinkSprite and Allwinner are prepping a new SBC based on Allwinner’s UltraOctaA80 SoC, featuring four Cortex-A15 cores, four -A7 cores, and a PowerVR 6 GPU.

LinkSprite, which hosts the open source project for Allwinner-based pcDuino single board computers, will be Allwinner’s “earliest access” partner to develop a “pcDuino8″ SBC based on UltraOctaA80 (“A80″). This gives it a head start versus other open hardware projects that have focused on Allwinner’s A10 and A20 SoCs, such as Cubieboard.org and OLinuxino. The A80 began sampling in April, and first commercial devices based on it are set to ship starting in late June.



pcDuino8 prototype (or maybe a Photoshop’d pcDuino3)
(click image to enlarge)

There were no details on the pcDuino8 board, nor was a ship date announced. No OS support was announced for either the A80 SoC or the pcDuino8 SBC, but previous Allwinner SoCs and pcDuino boards have supported Linux and Android. A photo of the SBC was supplied, but this may well be a Photoshop’d image of LinkSprite’s current high-end model, the dual-core, Cortex-A7-based pcDuino3. On the other hand, it’s possible the boards are identical aside from the new octa-core SoC, since some of Allwinner’s earlier A-series SoCs have been pin-compatible with each other. (See farther below for more details on the pcDuino3.)

Allwinner announced its UltraOctaA80 in late February at Mobile World Congress, where it vied for attention with several other major processor announcements. These include Qualcomm’s octa-core Cortex-A53 based Snapdragon 615, MediaTek’s quad-core, Cortex-A53 MT6732 SoC, Marvell’s quad-core, Cortex-A53 PXA 1928, and Intel’s Atom Z34xx (“Merrifield”), among others.

The Allwinner A80 is designed for tablets, OTT media players, notebook PCs, all-in-ones, and even smart TVs, says the fabless chip designer. Like Samsung’s similarly 28nm fabricated Exynos 5422 octa-core, also announced at MWC, Allwinner’s A80 combines four Cortex-A15 cores with four Cortex-A7 cores in a Big.Little configuration. Like the Exynos 5422, it provides full heterogeneous multi-processing (HMP), enabling power and performance optimizations for each Big.Little core. Linaro, which offers tools and expertise in Big.Little, is also collaborating with pcDuino and Allwinner on the pcDuino8.



Two block diagrams of the Allwinner UltraOctaA80
(click images to enlarge)

The 64-bit SoC enables 4K multimedia capture, and supports H.265, eDP, USB 3.0, and HSIC technologies, says Allwinner. The A80 SoC also integrates an Imagination Technologies PowerVR G6230, the first of its Series6 Rogue GPUs, which is also found in Intel’s new Atom Z34xx. The GPU is a more closed design compared to ARM’s Mali-400 GPU found on the pcDuino3, but it ranks at the top of the current mobile GPU market in power/performance ratio.

The PowerVR G6230 features two shader clusters and 64 ALU cores, and provides low-power PVRTC and PVRTC2 texture compression formats. It also offers PVRIC lossless image compression and PVRGC lossless geometry compression for further power efficiency, according to Allwinner.



OptimusBoard with Allwinner A80
(click image to enlarge)

The Allwinner A80 will also appear in an Allwinner OptimusBoard development board that was revealed in early January and is due to ship later this month. The 135 x 70mm SBC ships with 2GB of DDR3 RAM, 8GB of NAND flash, and offers wireless, Ethernet, USB, HDMI, camera, and IR connectivity, according to a January CNX-Software report.

 
pcDuino3 and earlier models

The $77 pcDuino3 SBC, which is also available within an enclosed mini-PC called the pcDuino3S, is the latest, fastest board supported by pcDuino.org. The open source board is available with full schematics, and provides images for Android 4.2 and Ubuntu 12.04.



pcDuino3
(click images to enlarge)

The pcDuino3 runs on a 1GHz, dual-core Cortex-A7 Allwinner A20. The board supports 1080p video decoding at 60fps and encoding at 30fps.

Like earlier pcDuino boards, the 121 x 65mm pcDuino3 offers built-in Arduino Uno headers that support Arduino shields. The SBC ships with 1GB of RAM, and 4GB of flash, plus a 32GB-ready microSD slot. It offers Fast Ethernet and WiFi communications, and provides an LVDS interface and an HDMI 1.4 port with HDCP for displays.

Additional interfaces include USB host and OTG ports, 3.5mm analog and I2S digital audio interfaces, and a SATA host socket. You’ll also find IR and MIPI interfaces, and a 5V, 2000mA power supply that supports batteries.

The following specifications are listed by pcDuino.com for the pcDuino3 SBC:

  • CPU — AllWinner A20 SoC, 2x ARM Cortex-A7 cores @ 1GHz
  • GPU — Mali 400 Dual Core (supports OpenGL ES2.0, OpenVG 1.1)
  • Onboard memory — 1GB DRAM; 4GB flash
  • Storage expansion:
    • SATA
    • microSD card (TF) slot for up to 32GB
  • Display outputs:
    • HDMI 1.4 with HDCP support; 1080p@60fps
    • LVDS LCD interface
  • Audio output:
    • 3.5mm analog audio output
    • I2S stereo digital audio output
  • Networking:
    • On-board WiFi
    • 10/100Mbps Ethernet
  • Arduino Uno-compatible expansion headers:
    • Signals — 14x GPIO, 2x PWM, 6x ADC, 1x UART, 1x SPI, 1x I2C
    • Supports Arduino shields
  • Other I/O:
    • USB — 1x USB host, 1x USB OTG
    • IR receiver
    • MIPI camera interface
  • Power input:
    • 5V @ 2000mA max.
    • Li-Poly battery interface
  • Dimensions — 121 x 65mm
  • Supported OSes — Android 4.2, Ubuntu 12.04

The other four pcDuino boards all run on the single-core, Cortex-A8 Allwinner A10 SoC, once again paired with a Mali-400 GPU. The pcDuino Lite and pcDuino Lite WiFi offer 512MB and 256MB of RAM, respectively, while the pcDuino and pcDuino2 each supply 1GB. They also offer 2GB of flash, as does the Lite WiFi model. The Lite model has no onboard flash at all.

The pcDuino2 offers HDMI, WiFi, and Ethernet, and is limited to one USB port. It lacks most of the other interfaces available on the pcDuino3 except for the Arduino headers.

“Allwinner has contributed to open source projects since open-sourcing the single-core Allwinner A10’s code in 2011 and joined Linaro as a founding member of Digital Home Group in 2014,” stated Jack Lee, Chief Marketing Officer of Allwinner. “We are glad to further strengthen the relationship with community by collaborating with pcDuino to provide UltraOcta A80 powered pcDuino 8 to benefit community developers as well as industrial users.”

 
Further information

No pricing or availability details were provided for the pcDuino8, which was announced here. More information on the UltraOctaA80 may be found in an Allwinner A80 announcement update, posted in April, as well as on Allwinner’s A80 product page. More on the pcDuino3 may be found on pcDuino.org’s pcDuino3 product page and on LinkSprite’s pcDuino3 shopping page.
 

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