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HummingBoard Ripple SBC combines i.MX8M Mini with Lightspeeur AI chip

Apr 9, 2020 — by Eric Brown — 3325 views

SolidRun has launched an open-spec, $170 and up “HummingBoard Ripple” Pico-ITX SBC, a stripped-down version of the HummingBoard Pulse that runs Linux on an i.MX8M Mini module with optional Lightspeeur SPR2803 neural accelerator.

As we reported in our January catalog of 136 community-backed SBCs, SolidRun has been working on a more affordable, feature-reduced-feature HummingBoard Ripple variant of the HummingBoard Pulse SBC, which was originally launched with NXP’s i.MX8M, but last year expanded to supporting the i.MX8M Mini. SolidRun has now launched the Ripple, which joins the identically sized Pulse, as part of a new HummingBoard-M family. The family also includes the i.MX8M SOM and the i.MX8M Mini SOM, which can power either the Pulse and the Ripple, and which are available separately as well.



HummingBoard Ripple
(click images to enlarge)

The HummingBoard Ripple removes several features found on the Pulse, including the MIPI-DSI, digital audio, and one each of the dual GbE and MIPI-CSI links. It also switches the HDMI port to micro-HDMI. Originally, SolidRun had said the M.2 and optional PoE would go too, but they’re still listed.

Eventually, both the Ripple and Pulse will be available with either the i.MX8M SOM or i.MX8M Mini SOM in all their core configurations: dual- and quad for the i.MX8M and single, dual, and quad for the Mini. For now, however, the Ripple ships only with the quad-core, 1.8GHz i.MX8M Mini SOM, at least for single-unit purchases, and only with 2GB LPDDR4 and 8GB eMMC. The currently available SKUs have an extended 0 to 70°C range, although the optional industrial -40 to 85°C model is likely available now for volume orders.

The HummingBoard Ripple starts at $170 or $186 with a WiFi/Bluetooth module.
For $202 or $218 (with WiFi/BT), SolidRun adds a Gyrfalcon Lightspeeur SPR2803 AI acceleration chip. SolidRun also integrates the SPR2803 with i.MX8M SoCs in up to 128-AI chip clusters on its Janux GS31 AI Inference Server.

The SPR2803 (or just 2803) provides 24 TOPS/W AI processing per chip, with optimal peak performance at 16.8 TOPs @ 300MHz and a low-power mode of 16.8 TOPs @ 700mW. It supports deep learning frameworks including TensorFlow, Caffe, and PyTorch. (More details on the Ripple may be found in the spec list farther below.)

The HummingBoard Pulse lacks the SPR2803 option but offers both i.MX8M and i.MX8M Mini SoCs starting with a dual-core i.MX8M SKU with 1GB RAM and 8GB eMMC for $182. The highest-end, $276 Pulse model also taps the i.MX8M, but with 3GB RAM, 8GB eMMC, and WiFi/BT. (Note that the $134 starting price for the Pulse shown on the HummingBoard-M product page comparison chart is incorrect.)

The Ripple joins other similarly sandwich-style, Linux-driven HummingBoards, including the i.MX6-based HummingBoard Pro — the heir to the original HummingBoard — and the i.MX6-based HummingBoard Edge, which shares many features with the slightly stripped down i.MX6-driven HummingBoard Gate and CAN-enabled HummingBoard CBi. Pricing and other details for all these open-spec boards may be found in our hacker board catalog.

 
i.MX8M SOM and i.MX8M Mini SOM

Thanks to its 14nm fabrication process, NXP’s 1.8GHz i.MX8M Mini SoC is faster and more power-efficient than the earlier i.MX8M. However, it’s limited to [email protected] instead of the [email protected] resolution found on the i.MX8M, which also adds support for HDMI 2.0, HDR video, and 20 audio channels. The i.MX8M features a Vivante GC7000 Lite GPU while the Mini has GCNanoUltra (3D) and GC320 (2D) graphics cores. Both provide 400MHz Cortex-M4 MCUs.



HummingBoard-M family
(click image to enlarge)

The i.MX8M SOM arrived in 2018 while the i.MX8M Mini SOM was announced last summer. The i.MX8M SOM, which was originally called the i.MX8 SOM, is available in a dual-core model with up to 3GB LPDDR4-3200 and a quad-core model with up to 4GB LPDDR4-3200.

The i.MX8M Mini SOM is available in a single-core Solo model with up to 3GB LPDDR4-3200, and the Dual and Quad versions support up to 4GB LPDDR4-3200. They both measure 47mm x 30mm and support Linux and Android. The modules support external eMMC, NOR-flash, microSD, and PCIe SSD storage, with optional QSPI-NOR flash.

 
HummingBoard Ripple

At 102 x 69mm, the HummingBoard Ripple and Pulse SBCs are essentially Pico-ITX boards, which typically measure 100 x 72mm. The only other i.MX8M Mini-based Pico-ITX SBC we’ve seen was Estone Technology’s recent, voice-control focused EMB-2237-AI, which similarly uses a sandwich-style, COM-and-carrier design by way of its SOM-2237 module.



HummingBoard Ripple front and back detail views
(click images to enlarge)

The HummingBoard Ripple has a microSD slot in addition to 8GB eMMC and offers a GbE port with optional PoE. There’s also an optional WiFi/BT module and an HD-ready micro-HDMI port. One of the spec sheets hints that the single MIPI-CSI connector could support dual CSI connections when used with the non-standard i.MX8M SOM. Similarly, the dual USB host ports listed as USB 3.0 are downgraded to USB 2.0 unless you have the i.MX8M SOM.

The Ripple is further equipped with micro-USB host and MikroBus connectors, as well as mini-PCIe and M.2 slots. No further details were provided, but there’s a SIM card slot, and the M.2 slot likely supports SSDs.

The Ripple has a wide-range, 7-36V input and a real-time clock. There’s also an optional IP32-protected extruded aluminum enclosure, but it did not show up as an option on the standard shopping pages. Schematics and mechanical files have been posted, and there’s a software wiki for various flavors of Linux 4.4x.

Specifications listed for the HummingBoard Ripple include:

  • Processor (via i.MX8M Mini SOM) — NXP i.MX8M Mini Quad (4x Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.8GHz) with GCNanoUltra GPU for 3D, GC320 for 2D, and Cortex-M4F @ 400MHz; Solo and Dual versions “coming soon,” and Ripple will eventually support i.MX8M SOM; optional GTI optional Lightspeeur SPR2803 AI chip
  • Memory/storage:
    • 2GB LPDDR4 RAM (via i.MX8M Mini SOM); 4GB possible on volume orders
    • 8GB eMMC; more eMMC possible on volume orders
    • MicroSD slot
  • Networking/wireless:
    • Gigabit Ethernet port with optional PoE
    • Optional WiFi/Bluetooth module
  • Other I/O:
    • Micro-HDMI port for up to HD resolution
    • 4-lane MIPI-CSI
    • 2x USB 3.0 host ports (only USB 2.0 with Mini)
    • Micro-USB OTG port
  • Expansion:
    • M.2 slot
    • Mini-PCIe slot
    • SIM card slot
    • MikroBus interface
  • Other features — RTC with battery; configurable push button; optional enclosure (141.5 x 78 x 30mm)
  • Power – 7-36V DC jack; optional PoE; reset button; optional power adapters
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 70°C; -40°C to 85°C model likely available for volume orders; 10% to 95% non-condensing humidity tolerance
  • Dimensions – 102 x 69mm
  • Operating system — Linux kernel 4.4x (Debian, Yocto, BuildRoot, OpenWrt)




HummingBoard Ripple has its YouTube moment

 
Further information

The HummingBoard Ripple is available starting at $170 (see pricing above). More information may be found in SolidRun’s announcement and product page, which links to shopping pages. There’s also a HummingBoard Ripple wiki with open source hardware files and a software page.

 

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