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Latest Banana Pi showcases a new quad -A7 SoC with FPGA extensions

Nov 12, 2019 — by Eric Brown — 3388 views

[Updated: Nov. 13] — The Banana Pi project and SunPlus have unveiled a “Banana Pi BPI-F2S” SBC with 40-pin RPi GPIO and an optional Artix-7 FPGA module. The SBC runs Linux on a new quad -A7 “SP7021” SoC from SunPlus and Tibbo with Arm9 and 8051 co-processors.

The Banana Pi project has teamed with Taiwanese automotive infotainment manufacturer SunPlus Technology to create an industrial development board that showcases a new SP7021 (Plus1) SoC developed by SunPlus and Tibbo Technology. The upcoming, yet-to-be-priced Banana Pi BPI-F2S board, which was announced on Hackster.io, runs a Yocto-based Linux distribution on the quad-core Cortex-A7 SP7021.



Banana Pi BPI-F2S
(click images to enlarge)

The Banana Pi BPI-F2S is designed for voice image processing, communication, portable industrial control equipment, and other applications including AI and machine vision. The SBC has dual Fast Ethernet ports, dual USB ports, HDMI, MIPI-CSI, and more. There’s also a 40-pin Raspberry Pi GPIO connector and an Artix 7 FPGA expansion module from Trenz.

 
SP7021 (Plus1)

The “low-cost,” highly integrated SP7021, which is also referred to as the “Plus1” and the “Linux Computing Unit,” appears to be the first SoC from either SunPlus or Tibbo. Delivered in a low-profile LQFP package, the SoC “adds a plethora of features targeting IoT and industrial control applications,” says the Banana Pi project. In addition, the SP7021 “delivers the resulting design in a simple microcontroller-like package that needs few external components, simplifies the schematic diagram, and reduces the PCB complexity.”

The SP7021 combines the 1GHz quad -A7 block with an old-school 8051 microcontroller clocked at 32KHz or 202MHz for I/O control. There’s also an equally venerable, unnamed 202MHz Arm926 CPU core used here as a “real-time” co-processor.

There’s nothing particularly real-time about the Arm9 core compared to any other Arm processors, but it is highly energy efficient so it is likely serving a similar purpose as a low-power offline coprocessor such as a Cortex-M real-time MCU. Once common as a CPU architecture for lightweight embedded Linux devices, Arm9 last showed up on LinuxGizmos in 2016 on Boardcon’s i.MX276 based MINI287 compute module.

A reader, Arnd Bergmann, tells us the Arm9 core is delivered via Microchip’s new SAM9X60. (We have yet to confirm this.) Announced last month, the up to 600MHz SAM9X60 is a follow-on to Atmel’s 180MHz SAM9260, which was followed by faster Arm9-based Atmel SoCs that arrived before Microchip acquired Atmel, including the SAM9G25 found on Acme Systems’ Arietta G25 module.



Microchip SAM9X60 and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

Microchip’s SAM9X60 has a larger 32KB/32KB cache and advances to faster DDR2 memory. Compared to the SAM9260, it also lowers the core operating voltage from 1.8V to 1.2V and adds an HD-ready 2D GPU and 24-bit LCD-TFT interface. The SoC is priced at a low $4.34 in 5K volume.


SP7021 (Plus1) block diagram (left) and system block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The SunPlus SP7021 further integrates 512KB L2 cache, 512KB SRAM, crypto engine. secure boot chip, RTC, and a 3.3V PMIC. The SoC also features built-in 128MB or 512MB DDR3-1066. I/O linked to the Cortex-A7 cores includes 2x USB 2.0 OTG, MIPI-CSI, Parallel LCD, and HDMI 1.4 at up to 720P.


SP7021 (Plus1)

The SoC is further equipped with an FPGA interface that controls a variety of networking and industrial interfaces. These include 8-bit 5V-tolerant I/O ports, a high-current port, a Flexible Peripheral Multiplexing (PinMux) interface, 2x pin-muxable Ethernet MACs that support 4x Ethernet ports, 4x pin-muxable “Enhanced” UARTs, and a console UART.

Other interfaces, including SDIO, I2C, I2S, SPDIF, PWM, 9x 8-bit GPIO, and support for memories including eMMC are shown in the block diagram above. The SoC supports -40 to 85°C temperatures, and there’s a 10-year lifecycle guarantee.

It’s unclear what the respective roles of SunPlus and Tibbo Technology are, but it would appear that SunPlus is the chief designer and Tibbo is the distributor. Tibbo has the only product page for the SoC, which is referred to as the Plus1, no doubt a play on the SunPlus name. In 2016, Tibbo released a TI Sitara based Size 3 Linux Tibbo Project PCB (LTPP3) development kit that supports its Tibbit I/O and sensor modules

 
Banana Pi BPI-F2S

The BPI-F2S board is larger than any other Banana Pi we’ve seen – it appears to be about 110 x 75mm. Like other Banana Pi boards, the SBC has a Raspberry Pi compatible 40-pin GPIO connector. This year’s $38 Banana Pi BPI-M4, which runs on a quad -A53 Realtek RTD1395 is typical of BPI hacker boards in that it has a Raspberry Pi-like layout and price.



Banana Pi BPI-F2S detail view
(click image to enlarge)

It’s unclear if the BPI-F2S is an open-spec board like the other Banana Pi offerings — there is a wiki page and software posted on GitHub, but schematics have yet to be posted. The wiki does not yet include full specs.

The SBC is equipped with 8GB eMMC and a microSD slot, and there appears to be no other RAM aside from the SP7021’s built-in RAM (presumably the 512MB version).

The BPI-F2S is equipped with 2x 10/100 Ethernet, 2x USB 2.0, and single micro-USB and HDMI ports. There’s a MIPI-CSI connector, TPM 2.0 security chip, a boot select switch, and ICE, JTAG, and serial console debug connectors. The 12V DC input is accompanied by reset and power switches.

In addition to the 40-pin GPIO, there are dual 50-pin connectors linked to the SP7021’s FPGA interface that support a Trenz Electronic TE0725LP-01-100-2D module equipped with a Xilinx Artix-7 FPGA. The 73 x 35mm module has 32MB flash, 95 I/Os, a 1.8V power supply, a 25MHz system clock, and a JTAG/UART connector. Up to 32MB of Cypress HyperRAM is optional.



Banana Pi BPI-F2S with Trenz TE0725LP FPGA module mounted at right and an unnamed RPi GPIO HAT extending from the board at far right
(click image to enlarge)

The detail view shows the 40-pin Raspberry Pi GPIO located in between the dual FPGA connectors. However, judging from the image above, the GPIO appears to be rerouted to the edge of the board. The image appears to show a Raspberry Pi HAT extending from the side of the board.

If we are reading this About Us statement correctly, the Banana Pi project goes by the name BPI Tech. SinoVoip seems to have spun off a unit called GuangDong BiPai Technology Co. back in 2015 to run BPI Tech.

 
Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the Banana Pi BPI-F2S. The SunPlus’ SP7021 SoC is available for $20 at Tibbo Technology’s Plus1 (SP7021) shopping page.

More information may be found on the BPI-F2S wiki and SunPlus’ SP7021 wiki.
 

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3 responses to “Latest Banana Pi showcases a new quad -A7 SoC with FPGA extensions”

  1. Arnd Bergmann says:

    Nice find, this looks like an interesting chip, hope we can add support to mainline Linux (anyone with access to the kernel sources, feel free to contact me about upstreaming).

    Regarding the ARM9 processor, https://www.microchip.com/wwwproducts/en/SAM9X60 is a brand-new SoC based on that core, released last month!

  2. pepa65 says:

    Why is the 12V necessary? (Not to power any 3.5″ SATA drives unfortunately…)
    In any case, not a board that suits my needs & interests.

  3. bobdvb says:

    Could be interesting as a new platform for MiSTR FPGA emulation given that the FPGA is just €89+tax for 201k LUTs.

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