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Allwinner H3 maker board could be smallest Linux-powered SBC yet

Nov 16, 2020 — by Eric Brown — 14494 views

Seeed’s $49.90 “Quantum Mini” dev kit features an M.2 form-factor “Quark-N” module that runs Ubuntu Core on an Allwinner H3 plus a 40 x 35mm “Atom-N” carrier with 3x USB ports and WiFi/BT.

The Quantum Mini Linux Development Kit is a collaboration between Seeed and Zhihui, a maker and AI algorithm engineer who has a half million followers on video sharing site BiliBili. Zhihui set up a Project Quantum to bring the board to market with the help of Seeed’s design and PCB prototyping and manufacturing services.



Quantum Mini from display side (left) and with CPU side showing Quark-N on top
(click images to enlarge)

Available for pre-order at $49.90, with shipments due Dec. 20, the Quantum Mini is a sandwich-style kit with a 31 x 22mm Quark-N module and 40 x 35mm Atom-N carrier board. This appears to be the smallest Linux-ready SBC we have covered, beating out FriendlyElec’s 40 x 40mm NanoPi Zero boards. The Quark-N runs Ubuntu Core Linux on a 1GHz quad-core, Arm Cortex-A7 Allwinner H3, which we have seen on Linux hacker boards including FriendlyElec’s 40 x 40mm ZeroPi.


Quantum Mini (left) and barebones Atom-N carrier from reverse side
(click images to enlarge)

As noted by the CNXSoft post that alerted us to the Quantum Mini, $50 is a lot to pay for such a minimalist SBC. Other H3-based boards in our catalog of 136 Linux hacker boards range from $10 for the ZeroPi to $42 for the much more feature rich Orange Pi Plus 2E.

Some developers will be willing to pay extra for the tiny footprint and the modularity available with the Quantum Mini’s sandwich-style, COM+carrier design. The GitHub page lists documentation for both the Allwinner H3 and Allwinner H5, which has a faster, 1.3GHz quad -A7 block and faster Mali-450 GPU. This suggests we will see an version of the Quark-N with an H5. The GPL 3.0 licensed SBC is supported with a work-in-progress GitHub page.



Quark-N module (left) and Quantum Mini display showing Zhihui demonstrating human pose estimator algorithm
(click images to enlarge)

This is the first compute module we can recall that uses an M.2 form factor, although we have seen several M.2-based NPU modules such as Hailo’s Hailo-8 M.2. The M.2 A-key card incorporates a smaller, 76-pin Quark Core module (see image below) with castellated stamp pins. Zhihui’s YouTube video farther below suggests the Quark Core module could alternatively be soldered to a baseboard.

The 6-layer, 0 to 80°C tolerant Quark-N module is equipped with 512MB LPDDR3 and 16GB eMMC. Its M.2 connector provides interfaces including 26-pin GPIO with USB OTG, USB-Serial, I2C, UART, SPI, I2S, and GPIO.



Quark Core module

The Atom-N carrier adds a microSD slot, dual USB 2.0 host ports, a Type-C port for power, and some golden finger pads for I/O. A small TFT display is mounted on the board along with a motion sensor, user buttons, and a microphone. There is no Ethernet port, but you get a 2.4GHz WiFi module with Bluetooth 4.0.

Specifications listed for the Quantum Mini include:

— ADVERTISEMENT —


  • Processor (via Quark-N module) — Allwinner H3 (4x Cortex-A7 @ 1.0GHz); Mali-400 MP2 GPU @600MHz; 256KB L1, 1MB L2 cache
  • Memory/storage:
    • 512MB DDR3 SDRAM (via Quark-N)
    • 16GB eMMC (via Quark-N), expandable to 64GB
    • MicroSD slot
  • Networking — 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n with Bluetooth 4.0 (Realtek RTL8723BU); Ethernet support available on Quark-N
  • Media I/O – TFT display; microphone
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x USB 2.0 host ports
    • USB Type-C port with power input
    • 8x golden finger pads with SPI, I2C, UART, GPIO, ADC, speaker, 5V, 3.3V, GND
  • Other features — Gyro/accelerometer (MPU6050); 4x buttons (GPIO-KEY, Uboot, Recovery, Reset)
  • Power – 5V via USB Type-C
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 80℃ for Quark-N
  • Dimensions — 40 x 35mm (31 x 22mm for Quark-N)
  • Operating system — Ubuntu Core




Quantum Mini overview on YouTube

 
Further information

The Quantum Mini is available for pre-order from Seeed at $49.90, with shipments due Dec. 20. More information may be found on Seeed’s shopping page and the Project Quantum GitHub page.

 

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PLEASE COMMENT BELOW

6 responses to “Allwinner H3 maker board could be smallest Linux-powered SBC yet”

  1. Mike says:

    Let hope Seed provides good documentation and firmware support, as this is not their strong suit.

  2. Bo says:

    Great job for Seeed, they do some really great stuff. Surprised if you haven’t covered the VoCore2 Linux SBC at about 26x26mm

  3. Jeff Child, Chief Editor- LinuxGizmos says:

    Bo,
    Yup. We covered the VoCore2 back in 2016.
    Here is the link:
    http://linuxgizmos.com/tiny-openwrt-wifi-module-updated-in-12-and-4-dollar-versions/

    You can search for past stories by using the “Search Linuxgizmos” box at the upper right.

  4. Bo says:

    Jeff, that’s great. The title of this article should probably be updated to say “one of the smallest linux powered SBCs yet” as the VoCore2 is smaller than this one.

  5. ngart says:

    who cares? 26×26 vs 31x22mm. vocore is also ancient and quite slow and doesn’t have much RAM

  6. Jeff Child, Chief Editor- LinuxGizmos says:

    Bo,
    We try to be fairly strict about our terminology on LinuxGizmos.
    We don’t consider VoCore2 an SBC. We categorize it as a module.

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