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BeagleBone hops up to 1GHz. Drops price to $45. Woof!

Apr 22, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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BeagleBoard.org on April 23 will officially announce a faster 1GHz version of its hackable, open-source BeagleBone SBC for only $45. The BeagleBone Black runs Linux or Android on a 1GHz TI Sitara AM3359 processor, doubles RAM to 512MB of DDR3, adds 2GB of onboard flash, and features a new micro-HDMI port.

The BeagleBone Black’s low price, almost half the previous $89, reflects the growing competition from the $25-$35 Raspberry Pi open-source Linux board. The Pi offers less I/O than either BeagleBone model, and its ARM11 processor is too slow to efficiently run Android, but its sales have still been off the charts. One of its main advantages over the original BeagleBone, however — its micro-HDMI port — is now moot. Plus, the BeagleBone’s price includes a power supply and network cable — items not included with the Pi.



BeagleBone Black SBC
(click image to enlarge)

To save money, the BeagleBone Black sticks with its ARM Cortex-A8 system-on-chip (SOC), instead of upgrading to a Cortex-A9, as have a number of open-source embedded Linux development single-board computers (SBCs), from the PandaBoard to the Wandboard. It does, however, graduate from a 720MHz Sitara AM3358 SOC to an almost identical new 1GHz Sitara AM3359. The AM335x family block diagram appears below.



TI AM335x block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

 

The industrial-focused processor is notable for its numerous analog interfaces, including PWM, as well as its programmable real-time unit (PRU), which comprises dual 32-bit RISC microcontrollers that enable customization of I/O.



Dave Anders displays a 2×3 sheet of BeagleBone Blacks
(click images to enlarge)

According to BeagleBoard.org cofounder Jason Kridner, interviewed in a Linux.com report today, cost savings also came from removing the default serial port as well as USB-to-serial and USB-to-JTAG interfaces, and including a cheaper single-purpose USB cable. (Three serial interfaces are available via the expansion headers.) In addition, the power expansion header for battery and backlight has been removed.



BeagleBone Black block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Kridner noted that despite doubling RAM to 512MB, due to recent DDR3 price drops, it was still cheaper than the slower DDR2 memory on the original. Also, by adding 2GB of onboard eMMC flash in addition to the existing microSD port, BeagleBoard.org decided it could stop providing a free 4GB microSD card, which costs about $10 retail. For the most part, according to Kridner, the $45 price was enabled by the large volume of BeagleBones sold by BeagleBoard.org and its manufacturing partner CircuitCo.

The much-requested new micro-HDMI port makes life easier for customers, who don’t need to buy one of the BeagleBone Black’s LCD touchscreen “cape” add-on boards or otherwise extend the device’s LCD interface.

As before, the BeagleBone Black is equipped with a fast Ethernet port, a USB 2.0 host port, and a mini-USB 2.0 client port. The device’s dual 46-pin extension connectors are backward compatible with the BeagleBone’s over 30 capes, including wireless extensions, touchscreens, motors, and I/O breakouts. Up to four boards or capes can be stacked.

Power consumption appears to be slightly lower than the original, or 210-460 mA at 5V compared to the earlier 300-500mA at 5V. This is about 2.3 Watts for peak kernel loading (460 mA at 5V).

The 2GB of onboard flash is preloaded with an updated, newly Yocto Project compatible version of Angstrom Linux. The flash frees the microSD slot for storage or loading alternate OSes, including Android and supported Linux distros ranging from Fedora to Ubuntu. Among other components, the BeagleBone distribution includes Linaro toolchain, a C compiler, Python, Qt, OpenCD, and the Cloud9 IDE complete with a “Bonescript” Linux/Javascript scripting language.
 

BeagleBone Black specs

Specifications listed for the BeagleBone Black include:

  • Processor — TI Sitara AM3359 (Cortex-A8 @1GHz)
  • Memory — 512MB DDR3 RAM (606MHz); 2GB onboard eMMC flash; microSD slot
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet
  • Other I/O:
    • Micro-HDMI
    • USB 2.0 host
    • Mini-USB 2.0 client
    • 20-pin CTI JTAG interface (optional)
  • Expansion connector I/O:
    • 3x serial
    • McASP0, SPI1, I2C
    • 65x GPIO
    • CAN
    • LCD
    • GPMC, MMC1, MMC2
    • EHRPWM
    • 7x AIN (1.8V max.)
    • 4x timers; XDMA interrupt
  • Other features — reset, boot, power buttons
  • Power:
    • Mini-USB, DC jack, or 5VDC external (via header) source
    • PMIC regulator
    • Approximately 2.3 Watts max power consumption
  • Dimensions — 3.4 x 2.1 inches
  • Weight — 39.7 g (1.4 oz)

Here’s a short, silent video introducing the BeagleBone Black:




 

The BeagleBone Black is on sale in limited quantities for $45 apiece, with volume shipments expected by May. More information is available at the BeagleBone Black product page.
 

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