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SBC, COM, and dev kit tap octa-core, Cortex-A53 Samsung SoC

Jul 15, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 1742 views

sModule’s SBC, COM, and development kit run Ubuntu 12.04 or Android 4.4 on a 1.4GHz octa-core, Cortex-A53 Samsung S5P6818 SoC.

Shenzhen-based sModule Technology is a subsidiary of CoreWind that has primarily made wireless modules, but has recently jumped into Linux- and Android-ready computer-on-modules and development kits, as does CoreWind itself. Recently, sModule released several boards based on the octa-core, Cortex-A53 Samsung S5P6818, clocked at 1.4GHz: a $75 iBox6818 SBC, a $56 Core6818 COM, and a CORE6818-equipped, $119 SBC-x6818 development kit.

SBC-x6818 with optional touchscreen

These S5P6818-based boards follow a $49 Core4418 COM built around a quad-core, 1.4GHz Cortex-A9 Samsung S5P4418 SoC announced last December. This was followed by a $109 SBC-x4418 dev kit built around the Core4418, and a $59 iBox4418 SBC that also uses the same quad-core -A9 SoC.

The Samsung S5P6818 and S5P4418 are layout compatible, offering OEMs an easy upgrade path or two-prong product line. As a result, the new iBox6818 SBC, a Core6818 COM, and SBC-x6818 carrier are all essentially identical to their S5P4418-based counterparts.

Samsung SSP6818 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

We’ve seen this synergy recently in other Samsung S5Px based product lines. The octa-core S5P6818 recently appeared on FriendlyARM’s, open-spec, $35 NanoPi M3 and $60 NanoPC-T3 SBCs. The latter is almost identical to an earlier NanoPC-T2, which used the quad-core S5P4418 SoC. The octa-core S5P6818 also showed up on Boardcon’s MINI6818 COM, along with a similar MINI4418 module based on the same design, which similarly works with an EM3288 carrier board.

The eight Cortex-A53 cores on the S5P6818 can be clocked dynamically from 400MHz to 1.4GHz. There’s also a Mali-400MP GPU.

All the boards here support Android 4.4, Ubuntu 12.04, and Linux Kernel 3.5 with Qt. 5.0. There are no community forums or the like, but schematics are available for the iBox6818 SBC and SBC-x6818 carrier board, and all the boards are documented with detailed wikis with pin assignments, driver lists, and the like. There are some discrepancies and ambiguities in the various product listings, but to be fair, such sloppiness is all too common in embedded documentation.

iBox6818 SBC

The 100 x 68mm, 22-gram iBox6818 SBC backs up its S5P6818 SoC with either 1GB ($75) or 2GB ($79) of DDR3 RAM (DDR2 optional). Obviously, for only $4 more, you’ll want the 2GB of RAM, which you’ll need to keep up with the Samsung SoC’s eight 64-bit cores.


The iBox6818 is further equipped with 8GB of eMMC flash and two microSD slots. WiFi-n and Bluetooth BLE 4.0 are onboard, and the detail image shows an Ethernet port, which is not listed in the specs. Presumably, this is a Gigabit Ethernet port, which is offered on the SBC-x6818 carrier.

For display, you get LVDS and MIPI-based RGB LCD interfaces, as well as coastline VGA and HDMI 1.4A ports. There’s no mention of HDMI audio out, although sModule’s Core6818 COM and SBC-x6818 carrier supports it. No additional audio interfaces are listed, although the detail image shows mic and speaker interfaces. A BT651 and BT656 compliant camera interface is said to support “500W pixel cameras.”

iBox6818 detail views
(click images to enlarge)

The iBox6818 has two USB 2.0 host ports and a micro-USB OTG port. A 71-GPIO expansion interface supports SPI, UART, RGB, camera, and I2C signals. Two UARTs are indicated in the image, although one of these may be the listed 4-pin serial debug interface.

Other features include an RTC with battery, an IR transceiver, a reset button, and a pair of user keys. A DC 5V power jack and PMU are also provided. The SBC is available in a development kit version with a 7-inch TFT LCD capacitive touchscreen with 1024 x 600 resolution. The kit also offers a USB cable and a DVD-ROM with source code, system image, manual, and schematics.

Core6818 COM

sModule’s COM implementation of Samsung’s octa-core S5P6818 SoC connects to its carrier board via a 180-pin QFP expansion interface. The 68 x 48 x 3mm module ships with just 1GB of DDR3, but an unpriced 2GB version is also available. Perhaps like the iBox6818, it would only add $4 more to the $56 price. The Core6818 module integrates 8GB eMMC of flash, which can be expanded to up to 32GB, and two SDIO interfaces are available.


An RTL8211E GbE PHY is onboard, along with a TFT LCD interface with RGB TTL, LVDS, and MIPI signals and capacitive touch support. There’s also a VGA output, an HDMI output with audio support, and an AC97/IIC audio interface. A BT656/BT601 camera interface is available along with one MIPI-CSI input.

The Core6818’s USB support includes dual USB host ports, a USB HSIC, and an OTG 2.0 port. The five serial UART interfaces include RTS/CTS support, and you also get 4x PWM, 2x IIC, 2x ADC, and an SPI interface.

The module runs on 3.7V to 5.5V, with 3.3V/4.2V power output, and includes ab AXP228 power IC. The operating temperature range is said to be -10 to 70°C.

SBC-x6818 development kit

The 185 x 110mm SBC-x6818 development kit is implemented as a sandwich-style SBC that expands upon its soldered-on Core6818 module with more interfaces and more coastline ports than are available on the more monolithic iBox6818 SBC. Thanks to the pin compatibility of the Core4418 and CORE6818 COMs, this dev kit uses the same carrier board as that of the SBC-x4418 development kit.

You get a GbE port, two microSD slots, and three USB 2.0 host ports, as well as a “mini micro” USB OTG port.

SBC-x6818 development kit

An audio-enabled HDMI port for up to 1080p30 playback is available along with coastline LCD, LVDS, and MIPI-DSI interfaces. The LCD connection supports an optional 7-inch, 1024 × 768 capacitive touchscreen, while the MIPI-DSI can connect to an optional 10.1-in, 1280 x 800 model.

MIPI-CSI and 20-pin Parallel camera interfaces are onboard, and there’s an optional 5-megapixel MIPI-CSI camera. The board also provides a 3.5mm headphone jack, speaker header, and microphone.

SBC-x6818 port detail
(click image to enlarge)

The SBC-x6818 has an RS232 DB9 port and four onboard UART headers. There’s a GPIO header with SPDIF support in addition to other interfaces, plus an ADC terminal block.

Unlike the iBox6818 SBC, there’s also a PCIe expansion slot and SIM card slot supporting an optional 3G/4G module. For WiFi and Bluetooth, sModule instead offers USB-based WiFi or WiFi/BT modules.

The SBC-x6818 is further equipped with an IR receiver with optional remote, various buttons and buzzers, a watchdog, and an RTC with battery. A 5V/2A DC power jack is available along with a 2-pin 4.2V battery header. There’s also a power-out header with 12V, 3.3V, and GND support.

Further information

The $75 iBox6818 SBC, $56 CORE6818 COM, and $119 SBC-x6818 development kit (which includes a soldered-on CORE6818 COM) are available now with 2GB, 1GB, and 1GB RAM, respectively. Also available are the previously released, $59 iBox4418, $49 Core4418, and $109 SBC-x4418 based on the same board designs, but using the quad-core, Cortex-A9 Samsung S5P4418 instead of the octa-core, Cortex-A53 S5P6818.

The schematic diagram for the SBC-x6818’s carrier board (also used in the SBC-x4418 dev kit) is available for download from the sModule’s wiki site. According to the wiki, the iBox6818 and iBox4418 each ship with a CD that contains “schematics, bootloader, kernel and file systems, and provides plenty of tutorials and code samples.” Given the availability of schematics, the monolithic SBCs and sandwich-style development kits could be considered open-spec SBCs.

More information may be found at sModule’s website.

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