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Wandboard steps up to quad-core ARM, beefier GPU

May 27, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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Wandboard.org announced a quad-core version of its Linux- and Android-ready Freescale i.MX 6-based open source boardset. The Wandboard Quad moves up to four Cortex-A9 cores at the same 1GHz speed, provides a more powerful Vivante GC355 GPU, doubles DDR3 RAM to 2GB, and adds a SATA port.

In late February, Wandboard.org’s Wandboard entered the increasingly crowded open source ARM board arena with a few new tricks. It appears to be the first fully open source community board to offer the Freescale i.MX 6 Cortex-A9 system-on-chip (SoC), and one of the first to split the board into a carrier board and plug-in computer-on-module (COM) components.



Wandboard Quad is ready for action
(click images to enlarge)

 

As a result, new customers can buy the Wandboard Quad fully baked at $129 while existing users of the original single- or dual-core Wandboards can buy a cheaper COM and plug it into their 95 x 95mm carrier boards via their SODIMM/MXM-like, 314-pin EDM connector. According to Wandboard.org, several vendors are also working on their own EDM-compatible third-party carrier boards that will support the Wandboard modules. The project also noted that several board vendors are developing EDM COMs and baseboards, and that several EDM products are already available from TechNexion.



Wandboard’s COM is the EDM “compact” option
(click images to enlarge)

 

The Wandboard Quad moves up to the i.MX 6Quad SoC, doubles DDR3 RAM to 2GB, and adds a SATA port. In addition, the i.MX 6Quad brings with it a faster GPU (graphics processing unit), the Vivante GC2000. While the dual-core i.MX 6 (i.MX 6Dual) has the same GPU, the Wandboard uses the “i.MX 6DualLite” and i.MX 6Solo processors in its dual- and single-core models, both of which integrate the slower Vivante GC880 GPU.



Freescale i.MX 6Quad SoC block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

 

Running OpenGL ES 2.0 3D graphics, the GC2000 offers 200Mtri/s and 1000Mpxl/s performance compared to only 35Mtri/s and 266Mpxl/s for the GC880, according to Freescale claims. 2D vector graphics are also improved to 300Mpxl/s on OpenVG 1.1. Video could already be encoded at 1080p, but the faster GPU bumps that from 30 frames per second (fps) to 60fps. MIPI-CSI2 camera lanes double to four.

Otherwise, the Wandboard Quad’s specs are identical to Wandboard Dual, similarly adding WiFi and Bluetooth compared to the Wandboard Solo. Not one, but two, microSD slots are provided, as well as single helpings of gigabit Ethernet, USB, USB OTG, HDMI, and serial ports. Audio and optical S/PDIF ports are also available, along with a camera interface.

Summary of Wandboard features

Wandboard Solo Wandboard Dual Wandboard Quad
Processor Freescale i.MX6
Solo
Freescale i.MX6
DualLite
Freescale i.MX6
Quad
CPU cores Single-core Cortex-A9 Dual-core Cortex-A9 Quad-core Cortex-A9
GPU Vivante GC880 Vivante GC880 Vivante GC2000
Memory 512 MB DDR3 1 GB DDR3 2 GB DDR3
Audio Yes
Optical S/PDIF Yes
HDMI Yes
Camera interface Yes
micro SD cardslot 2
Serial port Yes
Expansion Header Yes
USB Yes
USB OTG Yes
SATA connector Not populated Yes
Gigabit LAN Yes
WIFI (802.11n) No Yes Yes
Bluetooth No Yes Yes

 

Via the Wandbpard’s expansion header, one also gains access to much more I/O, including LVDS and TTL touchscreen display interfaces, I2C, I2S SPI, UARTs, GPMC, and PCI Express expansion, as indicated in the diagram below.



Block diagram of Wandboard’s COM and baseboard
(click image to enlarge)

 

The photos below are labeled to show the various connectors and components of interest.



Wandboard top and bottom details
(click images to enlarge)

 

Recent Wandboard news

Since our initial Wandboard coverage in March, the Wandboard has gained options including a 3D-printed enclosure and a wireless antenna. On the firmware side, Yocto support arrived, and board support code has been submitted to the mainline Linux kernel and U-Boot. The Wandboard Quad is newly supported with Linux source code, as well as images for Ubuntu and Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean”).



Wandboard gets supported by Yocto, the Linux kernel, and U-Boot
(click images to enlarge)

 

Wandboard is an open community project, with full schematics posted and code released under a Creative Commons ShareAlike license. Recent postings on the Wandboard forums have noted some S/PDIF bugs, which Wandboard says it is working on, as well as slower than advertised video performance on the Dual version. Some suggested that the quad-core version might improve video, which seems likely given the faster GPU, while others said YouTube video run fine, and that the problems likely came from running video from slower microSD cards. Still others were excited about the Wandboard Quad’s new SATA connection.

Other open source, Linux-ready development boards built around multicore Cortex-A9 processors include PandaBoard (TI OMAP4430), the Snowball Board (ST-Ericsson Nova A9500), and the Origen 4 Quad Board (Samsung Exynos 4 Quad). The PandaBoard appears to have gained the most traction, but none have come close to the appeal of cheaper, single-core ARM boards like the Raspberry Pi or BeagleBone.

Some 60 Wandboard Quad sample units are available now for purchase, with additional shipments due in early June, all at $129. No pricing was yet available for the Wandboard Quad module upgrade. More information may be found at Wandboard.org, as well as the updated Wandboard boardset datasheet (pdf) and the Wandboard EDM module datasheet (pdf)
 

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PLEASE COMMENT BELOW

3 Responses to “Wandboard steps up to quad-core ARM, beefier GPU”

  1. Maxim says:

    On my previous experience with Wandboard Dual – it’s a piece of crap because they simply don’t support the platform with necessary software. All they give is “images” that run so slow on a such performance processors. So I don’t find any reason to purchase the next-gen Wandboard. If you want to spend money – buy a Sabre Lite from Boundary. At least you will have latest Freescale software supported

    • Werner says:

      Maxim,

      since I am looking for a similar board, I am interested in your experiences.

      What “necessary software” is not supported on the Wandboard? Appears to me there is a Ubuntu 11.10 and Android Jellybean 4.2.2 available.

      Look at the SabreLite page ( http://www.element14.com/community/community/knode/single-board_computers/sabrelite ). Under the Software/BSP tab it seems like the only software available is some “LinuxLink embedded Linux framework”. And the software is not free (30-day trial).

      I cannot imagine why you would prefer that over a recent Android or a Ubuntu for free. With a user interface and full GPU/VPU support. But you have experience of the Wandboard; I don’t. Maybe it is a piece of cr*p, but I hear good things about it elsewhere.

      /W

  2. jai says:

    They provide an SDK where you can build your own custom kernel, so what exactly is missing? I have my own image using debian wheezy and it runs great. Was there some piece of critical hardware that you found wasnt supported?

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