SolidRun refreshed its line of tiny 2 x 2 x 2-inch mini-PCs with four new community-backed models based on 1.2GHz multi-core Freescale i.MX6 SoCs. The CuBox-i devices run Android 4.2.2 and Linux, offer HDMI, S/PDIF, IR, eSATA, GbE, USB, WiFi, and Bluetooth interfaces (depending on model), and are currently available for pre-order starting at $45.
The CuBox-i mini-PCs look to replace the earlier CuBox and CuBox Pro models, which cost $120 and $160, respectively, and ran on a Marvell Armada 510 system-on-chip. The four new CuBox-i models advance to Freescale’s Cortex-A9-based i.MX6 SoC, which is also used in mini-PCs including the Utilite from fellow Israeli firm CompuLab. A wide range of potential applications are said to include use as a desktop replacement, presentation device, digital signage system, and XBMC-based media center.
SolidRun’s tiny CuBox-i mini-PC
(click image to enlarge)
The CuBox-i models continue to use the same basic 2 x 2 x 2-inch packaging design and 5V@2A power supply of the original CuBox, and provide a similar feature set. The main difference is in the capability of the more robust processors. All the models offer 1GHz to 1.2GHz clock speeds, OpenGL/ES 2.0 3D support, and video acceleration for 1080p video. The two higher-end models furnish more robust graphics processing units that add OpenCL 1.1 support.
Block diagrams: CuBox-i mini-PC and its i.MX6 SoC
(click image to enlarge)
With its focus on the general embedded market rather than smartphones and tablets, Freescale’s i.MX6 doesn’t have the same name recognition as other multicore Cortex-A9 SOCs like the Tegra 3 or Samsung Exynos. Yet, it’s an increasingly popular choice for embedded-oriented single-board computers (SBCs) and computer-on-modules (COMs), in part because it offers a choice of one, two, or four cores.
Feature differences among models
As detailed in the feature list farther below, there are numerous differences among the four models:
- CuBox-i1 — The entry-level i1 model uses the single-core i.MX6 Solo with a GC880 GPU and 512MB of DDR3 RAM. Standard features include 10/100 Ethernet, an HDMI port, SPDIF out, an IR receiver, and dual USB 2.0 host ports. WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 are optional.
- CuBox-i2 — The i2 model moves up to the i.MX6 Dual Lite, which has the same GPU as the i1, but advances to two Cortex-A9 cores instead of one, and ships with 1GB of RAM. Otherwise, I/O and options are the same.
- CuBox-i2Ultra — The i2Ultra steps up the i.MX6 Dual, which also has two cores and 1GB of RAM, but boasts a more powerful GC2000 GPU and offers additional I/O. The i2Ultra offers all the features of the lower models, but swaps out the 10/100 Ethernet for a gigabit port, and provides standard WiFi and Bluetooth. In addition, it supplies an eSATA II port, an RTC with backup, and an IR transmitter, as well as a receiver. It also provides a micro-USB device port with an RS232 connection.
- CuBox-i4Pro — This high-end model advances to the i.MX6 Quad and boosts RAM to 2GB. Otherwise, it is identical to the CuBox-i2Ultra.
The CuBox-i mini-PCs ship with an optional microSD card loaded with Android 4.2.2 (“Jelly Bean”). The computers are supported with a Cubox-i.com community site where other builds are “already completed or in the progress of porting,” says SolidRun. This includes the latest versions of the Linux kernel and various Linux distributions. There are also open source packages including the XBMC Media Center, as well as a forum, wiki, and other resources.
Specifications listed for the CuBox-i include:
- Processor — Freescale i.MX6 (Cortex A9 with NEON @1GHz-1.2GHz):
- CuBox-i1 — i.MX6 Solo (1x core); GC880 GPU (OpenGL/ES 2.0)
- CuBox-i2 — i.MX6 Dual Lite (2x cores); GC880 GPU (OpenGL/ES 2.0)
- CuBox-i2Ultra — i.MX6 Dual (2x cores); GC2000 GPU (OpenGL/ES 2.0, OpenCL 1.1)
- CuBox-i4Pro — i.MX6 Quad (4x cores); GC2000 GPU (OpenGL/ES 2.0, OpenCL 1.1)
- RAM (DDR3):
- CuBox-i1 — 512MB (32-bit, 800MHz)
- CuBox-i2 — 1GB (64-bit, 800MHz)
- CuBox-i2Ultra — 1GB (64-bit, 1GHz)
- CuBox-i4Pro — 2GB (64-bit, 1GHz)
- Storage — MicroSD slot with optional card with OS; eSATA II 3Gbps (i2Ultra and i4Pro only)
- CuBox-i1 and i2 — 10/100 Ethernet
- CuBox-i2Ultra and i4Pro — gigabit Ethernet; however, SolidCore’s website currently states that the “1000Mbps link is limited to 470Mbps actual bandwidth due to internal chip buses limitation”
- Wireless — WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth (both standard on i2Ultra and i4Pro, optional on i1 and i2)
- Other I/O:
- 2x USB 2.0 host
- MicroUSB device (to RS232) on i2Ultra and i4Pro only
- HDMI 1.4
- Optical audio SPDIF out
- Infra-red receiver
- Infra-red transmitter (i2Ultra and i4Pro only)
- Other features — Real Time Clock with battery backup (i2Ultra and i4Pro only)
- Power — 5V; 2.1/5.5mm power jack optional power or BYO that can source 2A (3A for CuBox-i4Pro)
- Dimensions — 55 x 55 x 42mm (2 x 2 x 2 inches)
- Operating system — ships with optional Android 4.2.2 microSD card; supports Android and Linux
“Given the open source SDK and tons of available software packages, our computers can be used in a huge range of scenarios limited only by your imagination; ranging from embedded, multimedia, education, cloud client, HMI and many other fields, as well as all the fun projects you always dreamed of,” stated Rabeeh Khoury, CTO of SolidRun.
Limited pre-orders are now available with shipments due by the end of November. Prices, listed here in both special and standard amounts, includes: CuBox-i1 ($45/$50), CuBox-i2 ($70/$75), CuBox-i2Ultra ($95/$105), CuBox-i4Pro ($120/$130); shipping costs range from $18 to $38. More information and direct sales are available at CuBox-i.com. Information on SolidRun’s original Cubox series can be found on the company’s Cubox page.