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96Boards CE Extended SBC runs Linux or AOSP on Kirin 970

Apr 16, 2018 — by Eric Brown 2,796 views

Lenovator has opened $299 pre-orders on LeMaker’s 96Boards CE Extended “HiKey 970” SBC, which offers an octa-core Kirin 970 SoC, 6GB LPDDR4, 64GB UFS storage, wireless, GbE, M.2, and CAN.

The HiKey 970 was partially unveiled in March by Linaro as part of its joint announcement of a program for unleashing the potential of AI technology on Arm SoCs. The LeMaker version of the HiKey 970 — the board will also be offered by Hoperun — is now available for presale for $299 by Lemaker distributor Lenovator, with shipments due by the end of April.

LeMaker’s HiKey 970, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The HiKey 970, which was noticed on the Lenovator site by CNXSoft, follows the flagship 96Boards HiKey960 and the subsequent V2 model. The SBC runs Android AOSP and Linux (previously detailed as Ubuntu or Debian) on the octa-core, 10nm fabricated Kirin 970 from HiSilicon, the chip-making subsidiary of Huawei.

Unlike the 96Boards CE standard compatible HiKey960, the HiKey 970 adopts the similarly open source, 100 x 85mm Extended version of the 96Boards CE spec. The other new CE Extended board in the family is Arrow’s $199 DragonBoard 820c, which runs on a high-end quad-core Snapdragon 820E.


The Kirin 970 SoC, which is also available on Huawei’s new Mate 10 Pro phone, has 4x Cortex-A73 cores at up to 2.36GHz, 4x 1.8GHz -A53 cores, and a top-of-the-line Arm Mali -G72 MP12 GPU. It also features a neural-network processing unit (NPU) claimed to offer 256MAC/cycles @ 960MHz. The Kirin 970 and HiKey 970 board support Huawei’s HiAI framework, which can run AI calculations on the SoC’s CPU, GPU, and NPU, as well as other neural network frameworks.

The HiKey 970 96Boards page lists different versions for deep learning, smart city, automotive, and robotics, each with slightly different, although only partially detailed, specs. The LeMaker version appears closest to the deep learning and automotive profiles.

The HiKey 970 ships with 6GB LPDDR4x RAM, a microSD slot, and 64GB UFS storage — twice the amount provided on the DragonBoard 820c. Although the Kirin 970 supports 4K video, the HiKey 970 is limited to an HDMI 1.4 port that tops out at HD resolution. By comparison, the DragonBoard 820c has a 4K-ready HDMI 2.0 port.

The HiKey 970 is further equipped with a 4-lane MIPI-DSI and 4- and 2-lane MIPI-CSI. There’s also a GbE port and onboard dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1, with antennas. GPS with GLONASS are also available.

HiKey 970 detail views
(click images to enlarge)

For further wireless expansion, there’s a PCIe Gen2 connection available via an M.2 M-Key connector. Although not listed in the spec sheet, the detail diagram also shows a mini-PCIe slot with PCIe Gen3 support.

The HiKey 970 has four USB ports instead of three on the DragonBoard. In addition to the dual USB 3.0 ports, the spec lists a Type C and USB 2.0 host port. The detail diagram, however, describes these as two USB Type-C ports.

In addition to the CE standard 40-pin low-speed and 60-pin high-speed connectors, the HiKey 970 adds a CAN interface. This appears to have replaced the CE Extended standard second 60-pin high-speed connector found on the DragonBoard 820c. The HiKey also lacks the DragonBoard’s separate analog audio header.

Specifications listed for the HiKey 970 include:

  • Processor — HiSilicon Kirin 970:
    • 4x Cortex-A73 cores @ up to 2.36GHz
    • 4x Cortex-A53 cores @ up to 1.8GHz
    • Arm Mali-G72 MP12 GPU
    • Neural-network processing unit (NPU) with 256MAC/cycles @ 960MHz
  • Memory/storage:
    • 6GB LPDDR4
    • 64GB UFS 2.0
    • MicroSD slot
  • Display/camera interfaces:
    • HDMI 1.4 port with audio for up to HD resolution
    • 4-lane MIPI-DSI
    • 4- and 2-lane MIPI-CSI
  • Wireless:
    • Dual-band WiFi with 2x antennas
    • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x USB 3.0 host ports
    • USB 2.0 Type-C OTG port
    • USB 2.0 Type-C host port
    • CAN v2.0B port
  • Expansion I/O:
    • 40-pin low-speed connector (UART x2, SPI, I2S, I2C x2, GPIO x12, 1.8V, 5V, DC)
    • 60-pin high-speed connector (4L-MIPI DSI, USB 2.0, I2C x2, SPI,, 2L+4L-MIPI CSI)
    • M.2 M-Key slot with PCIe Gen2
    • Mini-PCIe slot with PCIe Gen3
  • Other features — 6x LEDs (4x user)
  • Power — 12V@2A adapter
  • Dimensions — 100 x 85 x 10mm (96Boards CE Extended)
  • Operating system — Linux; AOSP

Further information

The HiKey 970 is available for presale for $299 by Lemaker distributor Lenovator, with shipments due by the end of April. More information may be found on the Lenovator HiKey 970 shopping page. More information may eventually appear on the LeMaker website.

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One response to “96Boards CE Extended SBC runs Linux or AOSP on Kirin 970”

  1. Maximus Psychosis says:

    does one even know what a MAC/Cycle is?

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