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Open source, sandwich-style CubieAIO SBCs tap the Actions S700 and S500 SoCs

Dec 28, 2017 — by Eric Brown — 1766 views

CubieTech unveiled “CubieAIO-S700” and “CubieAIO-S500” SBCs, and opened global sales of the CubieBoard6. Like the CubieBoard7, all are based on Actions Sx00 SoCs.

CubieTech’s CubieBoard line of open source ARM SBCs was once a major contender in the hacker board market, but there hasn’t been much shaking over the last few years. That changed in May with an Allwinner A20-based CubieAIO-A20 SBC. In July, CubieTech acquired the application processor unit of Actions Technology. Since then, CubieTech has launched several Actions-based open source SBCs that run Linux and Android.

We missed the first Actions-based, CubieBoard last Spring — the CubieBoard6, an update to the four-year old CubieBoard2, based on a quad-core, Cortex-A9 Actions S500. This week, the CubieBoard6 became available for the first time outside of China.



CubieAIO-S700 (left), which looks much like the CubieAIO-S500, and at right, the now globally available CubieBoard6, which looks like the CubieBoard7
(click images to enlarge)

CubieTech followed up with a CubieBoard7 in July, based on a more powerful, quad-core, Cortex-A53 Actions S700. Otherwise, the two boards appear to be same. The 6 and 7 even have identical feature placements, so we have covered them together below.

CubieTech’s two new CubieAIO sandwich style boards appeared on the CubieTech website earlier this month: the now shipping CubieAIO-S700, as well as a CubieAIO-S500, which does not yet appear to be for sale. Like the CubieAIO-A20 and all the CubieBoards, these are open source boards, but they use Einstein-branded computer-on-modules in a sandwich-style design, integrating the Actions S700 and Actions S500 respectively.

As with the CubieBoard 6 and 7, the new CubieAIO SBCs are identical in features and layout, so we have covered them together. The only exceptions are the different Einstein modules with different processors, and the fact that the CubieAIO-S700 has Gigabit Ethernet while the CubieAIO-S500 has Fast Ethernet. Aside from the different Einstein processor module, the boards are also very close matches in features and layout with the Allwinner based CubieAIO-A20.

In its marketing materials, CubieTech praised Actions for being more amenable to open source developers compared to most chip vendors. This was specifically a dig at fellow Chinese semiconductor firm Allwinner, which remains popular among open SBC projects primarily due to the efforts of third party communities like Armbian. The CubieBoard community supports all four boards with Actions-tailored images for Android 5.1 and Debian with Linux Kernel 3.10. CubieTech says Ubuntu, Fedora, and OpenWrt will run with the help of “many open source organizations.”

Note, however, that none of these boards — the CubieBoard 7 and 6 and the CubieAIO -S700 and -S500 — have yet to receive product pages on the CubieBoard.org community site. Yet, the detailed CubieTech product pages’ Downloads tabs point to extensive documentation hidden away at CubieBoard.org.

 
Einstein-S700 and Einstein-S500

The CubieAIO-S700 builds on CubieTech’s separately available Einstein-S700 COM. No clock rate is listed for the module’s quad -A53 Actions S700 SoC, which has a hexa-core Mali-450 MP4 GPU. The SoC also provides an integrated VPU with support for H.265 [email protected] video playback and H.264 [email protected] capture. The S700 integrates TrustZone Security, as well as a memory controller that supports 2GB of DDR3/DDR3L/LPDDR2/LPDDR3 RAM.



Einstein-S700 (left) and Einstein-S500
(click images to enlarge)

The 66 x 50 x 5.2mm Einstein-S700 module features 1GB or 2GB LPDDR3 and a default of 8GB eMMC. There’s also an Ampak AP6212 wireless chip that is said to be compatible with the AP6255. The AP6212 provides dual-band 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0.


Actions S700 (left) and S500 block diagrams
(click images to enlarge)

The Einstein-S500 module found on the CubieAIO-S500 uses a 1.2GHz quad -A9 Actions S500, which is found on LeMaker’s Guitar SBC. Instead of providing a Mali-450 GPU, the S500 integrates an old-school PowerVR SGX544. The SoC’s lesser powered VPU tops out at 1080p video using H.264. RAM support is the same, but there’s no TrustZone.

Einstein-S500 module is identical in size to the Einstein-S700. Its RAM similarly defaults to the maximum 2GB LPDDR3, but you can purchase the module with as little as 512MB. Like the Einstein-S500, the module features an AP6212 wireless module, but the WiFi is 802.11n instead of ac. The module supports -20 to 70°C temperatures.

 
CubieAIO-S700 and CubieAIO-S500

The CubieAIO-S700 is now selling for $141 (118.95 Euros) on AliExpress while the CubieAIO-S500 does not yet appear to be available for sale. These otherwise almost identical boards build on the Einstein-S700 and Einstein-S500 modules, respectively. Both provide 2GB LPDDR3 and 8GB eMMC, and their wireless chips offer 802.11ac and 802.11n WiFi respectively.



CubieAIO-S700, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The 170 x 106mm SBCs have a high 20mm profile due to their 6x, double-stacked USB 2.0 host ports. The CubieAIO-Sx00 boards also supply a micro-USB OTG port, microSD slot, and a non-native SATA 2.0 interface with mSATA support via one of the two mini-PCIe slots.


CubieAIO-S700 portside views
(click images to enlarge)

The second mini-PCIe slot supports 3G or 4G modules with the help of a SIM card slot. An external antenna is provided for the Einstein module wireless chips.

The HDMI 1.4a port and VGA interfaces top out at 1080p @ 60fps, and there’s also an LCD interface for an optional 7-inch 1024 x 600 touchscreen. Audio support includes headphone and mic jacks, as well as a Toslink SPDIF interface.



CubieAIO-S500
(click image to enlarge)

The CubieAIO-S700 has a GbE port while the CubieAIO-S500 gets by with Fast Ethernet. Both models are further equipped with dual coastline serial DIN sockets, as well as an additional UART header. A 54-pin expansion interface supports UART, audio, PWM, ADC, SPI, I2C, LCD, GPIO, CCIR656, MIPI-CSI, and I2S.


CubieAIO-S700 detail views, which are almost identical to those of the CubieAIO-S500
(click images to enlarge)

Other features include an IR sensor, 2x LEDs, 3x keys, a fan interface, and a buzzer. There’s also an RTC with 3.7V battery input. The boards have a 5V input, and ship with a [email protected] wall adapter, as well as multiple cables.

 
CubieBoard7 and CubieBoard6

The $98 CubieBoard7 and $88.50 CubieBoard6 are the monolithic SBC alternatives to the sandwich-style CubieAIO-S700 and CubieAIO-S500, respectively. They supply the same Actions S700 and Actions S500 SoCs, respectively. (See the Einstein section above for details on the SoCs). The CubieBoard7/6 boards match the CubieAIO boards’ 2GB LPDDR3, 8GB eMMC, and microSD slot. They also have the same AP6212 WiFi/BT chip and antenna, although like the CubieAIO-S500, the WiFi is only 802.11n instead of 802.11ac.



CubieBoard7, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The CubieBoard7/6 SBCs are much smaller than the CubieAIO models, and they also provide fewer features. Their 100 x 60 x 18mm footprint matches the older CubieBoard2. The SBCs have non-native SATA 3.0 ports implemented via a USB 3.0 switch, which should provide better performance than most non-native solutions. However, they’re limited to 10/100 Ethernet instead of Gigabit Ethernet.


CubieBoard6, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The CubieBoard7/6 boards have 2x USB 2.0 host ports, as well as a mini-USB device port that offers power input as an alternative to the 5V DC jack. There’s also a PMIC and support for a 3.7V Li-Po battery. An RTC circuit accepts a separate 3V battery.


CubieBoard7 detail view (left) and the two portside views from the short end
(click images to enlarge)

Media features are limited to an HD-ready HDMI 1.4a port plus headphone and line-in jacks. Dual 48-pin expansion headers provide I/O that includes I2C, FM-IN, ADC, CVBS out, audio out, RGB, LVDS, DVP, SPI, HSIC, INT GPIO, and MIPI-DSI and -CSI.


CubieBoard6 detail view (left) and comparison chart with some much earlier CubieBoards
(click images to enlarge)

Other features include an IR sensor, UART header, and various keys and LEDs. The standard price includes a kit with various cables and a heatsink. A case is optional.


DVK522
(click image to enlarge)

A CNXSoft post on the CubieBoard7 from July offered details on CubieTech’s DVK522 carrier board, which lets you plug in any CubieBoard, including the 7 and 6 models to gain additional features. The carrier emphasizes video and camera features, and there are also debugging ports and an Arduino header.

 
Further information

The CubieAIO-S700 is now selling for $141 (118.95 Euros) on AliExpress. More information may be found on CubieTech’s CubieAIO-S700 product page.

The CubieAIO-S500 does not yet appear to be for sale. More information may be found on the CubieAIO-S500 product page.

The CubieBoard7 is available for $98 on Amazon, but with only two boards in stock. It sells in volume on AliExpress for 84.72 Euros ($101.72). Essentially the same information provided on the shopping pages is posted on the CubieBoard7 product page.

The CubieBoard6 sells for $69, according to this week’s CubieTech announcement, but the best we could find was $88.50 at Amazon, which says there are only two boards available. Since the SBC is only just now being released outside China, this should change soon. More information may be found on the CubieBoard6 product page.

The Einstein-S700 and Einstein-S500 are available for sale from CubieTech, and details are in the product page links offered above. More information on all these boards should eventually appear on CubieBoard.org.
 

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