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MinnowBoard 3 will offer Apollo Lake, triple M.2s, and Raspberry Pi expansion

Jun 21, 2017 — by Eric Brown — 2,865 views
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[Update: June 28] — Minnowboard.org is prepping an open spec “MinnowBoard 3” SBC with a quad-core Apollo Lake, 4GB LPDDR4, 8GB eMMC, 3x M.2 sockets, and an RPi connector.

The Intel-backed Minnowboard.org project has posted preliminary specs for an open-spec MinnowBoard 3 model to follow the recently shipped MinnowBoard Turbo Quad. Due to ship in the fall, the community-backed MinnowBoard 3 stands out with a 14nm Apollo Lake Atom, three M.2 sockets, and an “RPI” adapter. The only RPI we know of is Raspberry Pi, or more specifically, its much copied 40-pin expansion connector.


MinnowBoard
Turbo Quad

The MinnowBoard 3 will use a quad-core Atom x5-E3940 from Intel’s most recent Apollo Lake family of embedded SoCs. Clocked from 1.6GHz to 1.8GHz with 2MB L2 cache, the x5-E3940 has a lower 9W TDP than the top-of-the-line, up to 2GHz x7-E3950 with 12 Watts.

The only other community-backed board with an Apollo Lake is the UP Squared, but it uses the dual-core Celeron N3350 or quad-core Pentium N4200. Also, the otherwise maker friendly UP Squared does not ship with the open source hardware guarantees and complete schematics that are typically provided with the MinnowBoards.

The MinnowBoard 3 appears to have first gained the notice of Engadget in a story yesterday about Intel’s apparent discontinuation of its Quark-based Galileo SBC and maker-oriented Intel Joule and Intel Edison computer-on-modules. While the Joule and the Edison offered oddball variants of Apollo Lake and Merrifield Atom SoCs, respectively, the MinnowBoard 3 follows the MinnowBoard tradition of using a mainstream Atom SoC.

Minnowboard.org has yet to publish a photo, but Intel has posted open source UEFI firmware on GitHub based on the Intel Firmware Support Package (Intel FSP) and an EDK II package developed by the TianoCore EDK II project. Developers can download pre-built UEFI firmware images, utilities, binary object modules, and project release notes.

The MinnowBoard 3 is equipped with 4GB LPDDR4, 8GB eMMC, and a microSD slot. By comparison, the Turbot Quad offers only 2GB DDR3L-1067 and a microSD. Instead of single USB 3.0 and 2.0 host ports, the MinnowBoard 3 steps up with dual USB 3.0, one of them OTG, as well as a USB Type C OTG port and USB-based serial debug port. As before, a GbE port is available.

For multimedia, the MinnowBoard 3 provides an HDMI port and a mini-DisplayPort plus 4-lane MIPI-DSI and -CSI connections and an audio interface. (The Turbot Quad is limited to a single micro-HDMI port.) Next to the CSI notation it says “(RPICam),” which suggests support for the official Raspberry Pi Cameras.

The MinnowBoard 3 provides a low-speed LSEv1 connector for SPI, 2x I2C, 2x UART, 3x GPIO, and I2S. This appears to be same as the previous 26-pin low-speed connector, as the SBC is said to support legacy Lure add-on boards from earlier MinnowBoards. It’s also available with an optional LSEv1 breadboard.

In place of the previous 60-pin high-speed expansion connector, the MinnowBoard 3 offers three M.2 sockets that were missing on the Turbot Quad. These include a Key A slot for PCIe and USB, which is populated, perhaps optionally, with a WiFi/Bluetooth module. There’s also an M.2 Key B for a SATA SSD (solid state drive), a feature supported on the Turbot Quad with a dedicated SATA port, as well as a Key M slot with 4x PCIe Gen 2 interfaces that support NVMe SSD with Non-Volatile Memory Express drives.


UP Squared

The 5V, 6-layer board is said to offer a “Lauterbach footprint” and EMI/EMC protections per FCC Class B. Adapters are also available for MikroBus (Click IoT modules) and “RPI.” We can’t imagine what else RPI would mean but the Raspberry Pi connector, which would open up the MinnowBoard to hundreds of add-on boards, far more than the limited number of Lures available. If so, it would join Aaeon’s UP Board and UP Squared among RPi-compatible x86 hacker SBCs.

The MinnowBoard 3 will support various Linux distributions based on Linux 4.4+, as well as Yocto Project and the Yocto-based Automotive Grade Linux (AGL’s Unified Code Base). It also supports Android and Android Things as “target” distributions, as well as Windows 10 and Windows 10 IoT Core.


MinnowBoard
Turbot Dual-E

 
MinnowBoard Turbot Dual-E available at Netgate for $146

No manufacturing partner was listed for the MinnowBoard 3. Previous Turbot models were built by ADI Engineering, including the MinnowBoard Turbot Dual-E SBC announced by ADI a year ago, which adds a second GbE port. Thanks to a reader tip, we finally found the Turbot Dual-E available for sale at Netgate for $145.95. However, it’s said to be out of stock until Aug. 21. The specs appear to be the same as originally listed except that there’s no quad-core option, only the dual-core Atom E3826 model. In addition to doubling up on GbE, the board added M.2 and micro-SIM interfaces for WiFi, LTE, or SSDs.

 
Further information

The MinnowBoard 3 will ship in the fall at an unstated price. More information may be found on the Minnowboard.org MinnowBoard 3 page and the Intel MinnowBoard 3 firmware page.
 

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