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Arduino compatible $39 SBC runs Linux on x86

Nov 26, 2013 — by Eric Brown 30,182 views

DM&P Group has begun shipping an Arduino compatible boardset and mini-PC equipped with a new computer-on-module based on a new 300MHz x86 compatible Vortex86EX system-on-chip. The new SoC and COM are available as part of a $39 “86Duino Zero” boardset that mimics an Arduino Leonardo, in a $49 “86Duino Educake” mini-PC, and will soon be available in a more I/O-rich, $69 “86Duino One” boardset.

DM&P has been minting its low-power, x86-based Vortex processors for the embedded market for over a decade. The Vortex86EX SOM-128-EX COM is built around DM&P’s most recent Vortex SoC, the Vortex86EX, which appears to replace the similarly 300MHz Vortex86SX for low-power applications. The Vortex86EX chip began shipping in September, according to an email from DM&P’s Anthony Lu. (DM&P also offers faster, 1GHz Vortex86DX and Vortex86MX processors, with the latter adding a GPU.)

Vortex86EX SoC


Compared to the Vortex86SX, the Vortex86EX adds an L2 cache (4-way 128KB) and moves up to DDR3 memory support, among other enhancements. The Vortex86EX is presented in a 288-pin LBGA package, and integrates a 16KB write-through, 4-way L1 cache. Typical power consumption is claimed to be 2 Watts, ranging up to a 3-Watt maximum.

The full set of functions offered by the Vortex86EX SoC are shown in its block diagram, below.

Vortex86EX SoC block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The Vortex86EX processor features a 2.5GHz PCI-Express bus, Fast Ethernet and SD/SATA controllers, as well as a USB 2.0 host interfaces. Additional I/O includes xISA, I2C, SPI, FIFO UART, and IPC (Internal Peripheral Controllers with DMA and interrupt timer/counter).


DM&P’s Linux-ready SOM-128-EX computer-on-module brings out most of the Vortex86EX SoC’s interfaces, with a subset of functions available via a configurable 80-pin multi I/O connector, says DM&P. The COM ships with 128MB of DDR RAM, 8MB of SPI flash, and a Fast Ethernet controller.

Vortex86EX SOM and connector details
(click images to enlarge)

The COM also offers PCI-Express (PCIe) control and target interfaces, and supports operating temperatures ranging from 0 to 60℃. A Vortex86EX SOM-128-EXm COM variation appears to be available, and is said to be based on a similar Vortex86EXm processor.

Specifications listed for the Vortex86EX SOM-128-EX module include:

  • Processor — Vortex86EX (1x 32-bit x86 core @ 300MHz)
  • Memory — 128MB DDR RAM; 8MB SPI flash
  • Networking – 10/100 Ethernet MAC + PHY
  • Standard I/O:
    • SATA
    • USB 2.0
    • 10x COM
    • 8x ADC
    • 80x GPIO
    • DMA and interrupt controllers
    • MTBF counter
  • Configurable I/O (not all available at the same time):
    • COM with TX/RX only
    • RS485 auto direction
    • SPI 1 or 2
    • Parallel port
    • SD/eMMC
    • I2C, CAN, PS/2
    • HD audio
    • Ethernet LED, watchdog
    • MCM (motion control module)
  • Expansion buses:
    • PCIe control and target interfaces
    • xISA bus
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 60℃
  • Operating system — Linux, Windows Compact 7.0, QNX, VxWorks, DOS

Pre-integrated boardsets

The Vortex86EX SOM-128-EX COM is available pre-integrated in a pair of boardsets — the 86Duino Zero and the 86Duino One — which are based on two open source baseboards. In addition, there’s a breadboard-based enclosed mini-PC configuration called the 86Duino Educake.

Like a number of recent embedded boards, including Intel’s Quark-based Galileo SBC, the 86Duino boardsets further integrate Arduino circuitry for applications such as robotics and motor control. The hardware and software for both boardsets are available under open source licenses.

86Duino Zero boardset

The currently available 86Duino Zero boardset combines the Vortex86EX SOM-128-EX module with a baseboard that contains a few standard interfaces, plus Arduino compatible circuitry and expansion connectors. In fact, the board itself adopts the Arduino Leonardo form-factor, as shown above.

86Duino Zero (left) compared to Arduino Leonardo
(click images to enlarge)

The Zero’s real-world ports include USB 2.0 host and device coastline ports, as well as a 10/100 Ethernet port and a microSD slot on the bottom of the board. The Zero’s baseboard also provides a 7-12V power jack, a reset button, and a PCIe expansion connector.

86Duino Zero pinout and connector details
(click images to enlarge)

The Zero supplies 14 digital I/O pins, half of which provide 32-bit PWM output, as well as six 11-bit analog input pins. Each standard I/O pin runs on 16mA DC current, while the 3.3V pins run on 400mA, says DM&P.

86Duino One boardset

The upcoming 86Duino One is similar to the Zero, but its baseboard is larger and offers more connectivity. The One may also ship with a Vortex86EX SOM-128-EX module with twice the RAM, at 256MB, according to Lu. He said this has yet to be confirmed, however.

86Duino One boardset
(click image to enlarge)

The One implements a superset of the Zero’s I/O ports. It offers far more digital I/O pins, with 45 pins, 11 of which have 32-bit PWM. There are seven 11-bit analog input pins, one more than on the Zero (see pinout details, below).

86Duino One connector pinout
(click images to enlarge)

The One’s baseboard design also moves up to 6-24V input, although DC pin voltage is identical.

86Duino Educake mini-PC

The 86Duino Educake mini-PC offers an integrated breadboard with expanded digital and analog inputs identical to those of the One baseboard. The 78.0 x 78.6 x 28.3mm chassis exposes the pin I/O through holes on its top.

86Duino Educake mini-PC and its internal electronics
(click images to enlarge)

The Educake’s real-world ports are similar, but the Ethernet and microSD connections have been moved from the bottom to the sides of the device, and it appears the microSD slot may have been replaced with a full-sized SD slot. New ports include headphone and mic ports and a COM port.

Further information

The 86Duino One baseboard and the 86Duino Educake are available now for $39 and $49, respectively. The One will be available in January for $69. All prices include the integrated Vortex86EX SOM-128-EX module, which itself is listed at approximately $32, but is only available without a baseboard under special arrangement. More information may be found at the DM&P Group’s 86Duino shopping page, as well as 86Duino’s product page.

(Thanks to reader “oso2k” for this tip!)

(advertise here)

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One response to “Arduino compatible $39 SBC runs Linux on x86”

  1. gautom bose says:

    when Can this be available to buy in the open market ?

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