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Cortex-A9 based Pico-ITX SBC starts at $99

Oct 31, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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Via Technologies announced a line of ARM-based Via Springboard SBCs supported with Android and Linux BSPs, and support services from prototyping to pre-production testing and diagnostics. The first Springboard is the $99, Pico-ITX-based VAB-600, built around a Via WM8950 SoC with a single 800MHz Cortex-A9 core, and featuring an I/O extender card and an optional WiFi module.

Via was once known as an x86-only company, and while it’s still primarily an x86 house, ever since it launched its Wondermedia ARM system-on-chip subsidiary several years ago, it has been moving steadily ARM-ward. Earlier this week we saw a VAB-820 Pico-ITX SBC based on a quad-core Freescale i.MX6 SoC, and now Via has launched an entire product line built around ARM SoCs. The first kit is a Pico-ITX-based VAB-600 Springboard Kit based on the previously released VAB-600 SBC.



Via VAB-600 Springboard WiFi Kit
(click image to enlarge)

 

The Via Springboard Kits come with a soup-to-nuts collection of development kits and presumably extra cost services. Springboard Kits are designed to “provide embedded developers, start-ups, and DIY enthusiasts with the fastest and most stable path for prototyping next-generation ARM-based smart connected devices and taking them to mass-production,” says Via.



VAB-600
(click image to enlarge)

 

Each Springboard Kit is available with Android and Linux software development packages, as well as support services. The latter include rapid system prototyping, application development, hardware and software customization, and pre-production testing and diagnostics, says Via. The kits also come with a three-year longevity guarantee.
 

Via VAB-600 Springboard Kit

The VAB-600 SBC is built around Via’s WM8950 system-on-chip, which integrates a single ARM Cortex-A9 core clocked to 800MHz along with a 2D/3D graphics engine that supports OpenGL ES 2.0. The SoC supports a variety of video formats up to 1080p.

Because the Via VAB-600 Springboard Kit adds an I/O extender card – and a WiFi module on the $129 VAB-600 Springboard WiFi Kit — we’ve developed a combined spec list below that mixes in all the I/O, but details each interface’s location. For more on the VAB-600 itself, please see our earlier VAB-600 coverage.



VAB-600 rear panel I/O
(click image to enlarge)

 

The VAB-600 kit comes with 1GB of DDR3 RAM, 512KB of SPI flash, and 4GB of eMMC flash. The board also offers a microSD slot. A 3G cellular module is optional either via a extra-cost SIM card slot or one of the available mini-USB ports. The WiFi Kit version also adds an Atheros-based 802.11n radio with antenna that provides additional support for 802.11e WiFi Multimedia (WMM).

A Fast Ethernet port is provided on the rear panel, along with a mini-HDMI port, and dual mini-USB ports. Other real-world ports are available on the 100 x 20 x 1.6mm I/O extender card, including two more USB 2.0 ports, and audio Line-out and Mic-in jacks. Additional I/O is spread out across the main board, including an LVDS connector with resistive touch support, dual COM interfaces, and a fifth USB interface, among other options.



VAB-600 Springboard Kit extender card
(click image to enlarge)

 

The VAB-600 kit offers Android 4.0.3 and Debian Linux images available for download from the Via Springboard website. The Springboard Android Software Development Package includes the kernel and bootloader source codes. It offers a Smart ETK with APIs for features including a watchdog, GPIO, COM access, RTC for auto-power on, and a sample app. The Springboard Linux Software Development Package includes the kernel and bootloader source codes, and also comes with toochain for making adjustments to the kernel, as well as onboard pin-headers, GPIO, I2C, and more.

Specifications listed for the Via VAB-600 Springboard Kit and the Via VAB-600 Springboard WiFi Kit include:

  • Processor — Via Wondermedia WM8950 (1x Cortex-A9 core @ 800MHz) with 2D/3D OpenGL ES 2.0 accelerators
  • Memory:
    • 1GB DDR3 1066MHz RAM
    • 512KB SPI flash for boot
    • 4GB eMMC flash
    • Micro-SD slot
  • Wireless:
    • optional 3G module
    • optional SIM card slot for 3G module (can also use one of the mini-USBs)
    • WiFi (only on VAB-600 Springboard WiFi Kit model, shared with 1x USB port):
      • 802.11b/g/n and 802.11e WiFi Multimedia (WMM) via Atheros AR9271 controller
      • Antenna
      • Supports 64/128/152 bit WEP, WPA/WPA2, WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK, and 802.1X security modules
  • Networking – 10/100 Ethernet port (back-panel) with Via VT6113 PHY
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x Mini-USB 2.0 ports (rear panel) with 1x cable
    • 2x USB 2.0 full-sized ports (on extender card)
    • Onboard USB 2.0 connector
    • USB board-to-board connector (on extender card)
    • Mini-HDMI port (rear panel)
    • DVO connector for TTL or LVDS display
    • 2x COM connectors (supports Tx/Rx) with 1x cable
    • SPI connector for SPI flash ROM
    • Keypad connector
    • CIR connector
    • Line-out and Mic-in (on extender card)
    • Front audio pin header for Line-in, Line-out and Mic-in (VT1603A I2S codec)
    • 4-wire resistive touch FPC connector (through VT1603A)
    • Miscellaneous pin header for 1x I2C pair and 8x GPIOs
    • 3x board-to-board connectors (on extender card)
  • Power:
    • AC adapter
    • 12-24V DC-In jack and onboard connector
    • Battery charger connector with smart battery function (manufacturing option)
    • Power on/off button (on extender card)
    • RTC battery pin header
    • Front pin header for system power-on, reset, and power LED
    • Suspend LED power indicator (on extender card)
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 60°C
  • Dimensions — 100 x 72mm (3.9 x 2.8 inches); Pico-ITX form factor
  • Operating system — Android 4.0; Debian Linux

“The growing availability of affordable open hardware platforms is leading to an explosion of exciting new concepts for innovative new connected devices, but taking a great idea from a prototype to mass production remains a major challenge with many such projects,” stated Epan Wu, Head of the Via Technologies Embedded Platform Division, “Our goal with VIA Springboard is to provide highly stable and scalable development platforms backed up by a comprehensive range of hardware and software support services that will enable them to reduce new system development costs and speed up their time to market.”

 
Further information

The Via VAB-600 Springboard Kit and the Via VAB-600 Springboard WiFi Kit are available for $99 and $129, respectively, plus shipping. More information may be found at the Via Springboard website.
 

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