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Debian-driven DragonBoard expands to 96Boards Extended spec

Mar 21, 2018 — by Eric Brown 2,504 views

Arrow has launched its $199 DragonBoard 820c, an open-spec, Snapdragon 820E based 96Boards CE Extended SBC with an audio header and a second 60-pin connector in addition to the usual 40- and 60-pin headers.

Arrow’s Qualcomm-backed DragonBoard 820c was teased over a year ago and then announced by Qualcomm last month in conjunction with the release of the Snapdragon 820E SoC. We briefly covered the SBC earlier this week as part of Linaro’s multi-board roll-out — Linaro said that it would soon qualify the 820c as compliant with its new AI-focused spec. There was no shopping link at the time, but now you can purchase this successor to the DragonBoard 410C for $199. The open-spec SBC runs Debian Linux, with planned support for OpenEmbedded.

DragonBoard 820c, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

Like Arrow’s DragonBoard 410C, the DragonBoard 820c is a 96Boards Consumer Edition (CE) compliant board. However, it uses the Extended (100 x 85mm) CE version instead of the standard (85 x 54mm) form factor.

The reason this CE Extended SBC is also a is that that is not a hardware spec per se, but rather a certification by Linaro for SBCs that follow one of the existing 96Boards hardware specs. The registration certifies they are running Linaro Linux and/or Android code that can fully exploit the neural processing components of the boards’ Arm SoCs. The AI may be found in algorithms running on a CPU, GPU, FPGA, specialized neural chip, or in the case of the Snapdragon 820E, primarily on the ISP (image signal processor).


In addition to the CE standard 40-pin low-speed and 60-pin high-speed connectors for adding 96Boards mezzanine add-ons, the Extended format supplies a second 60-pin high-speed connector with 4L-MIPI DSI, SSC serial buses, and TSIF. It also provides a separate analog audio header.

The Extended format previously appeared in 2016 on an eInfochips SD 600eval SBC announced by Arrow that had earlier been floated as the DragonBoard 600c. The boards are similar to the DragonBoard 820c in both layout and features. The 820c lacks the earlier SATA interface, and it ups the RAM to 3GB LPDDR4. In addition, a much faster 64-bit Snapdragon 820E replaces the quad-core, 32-bit Snapdragon 600, and you can USB 3.0 instead of 2.0, among other changes.

DragonBoard 820c (left) and the similar SD 600eval
(click images to enlarge)

In Oct. 2017, a Charbox video showed a demo of a Snapdragon 600 board that appeared to be almost identical to the SD 600eval. It does not appear as if either board ever shipped in any quantity. Arrow’s SD 600eval page has disappeared, and while eInfochips still has a SD 600eval page, it only has buttons for bulk order and custom design inquiries.

The Snapdragon 820E SoC is an almost identical, embedded variant of the Snapdragon 820, which joins other 10-year lifespan embedded Snapdragon variants such as the Snapdragon 600E. It has the same processing cores as the 820: four Kryo cores — two at 2.35GHz, and two at 1.6GHz — plus a 624MHz Adreno 530 GPU, a Hexagon 680 DSP, and a 14-bit Spectra ISP that here enables the SBC to support three sensors at up to 28-megapixels.

By comparison, the DragonBoard 410C’s Snapdragon 410 SoC had four 1.2GHz, Cortex-A53 Snapdragon 410 cores, plus a lower end, 400MHz Adreno 306 GPU and Spectra ISP, and it lacked the Linux-driven Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine SDK which is supported by the Snapdragon 820 and 820E. Linaro says Qualcomm will extend the SDK, which is also available for the higher-end Snapdragon 835 and Snapdragon 845, to support the DragonBoard 820c in 2Q 2018.

Inside the DragonBoard 820c

The DragonBoard 820c has 3GB of PoP based, dual-channel 1866MHz LPDDR4, as well as a microSD slot and 32GB of UFS 2.0 storage. For communications, you get a GbE port, 802.11ac, and Bluetooth 4.2, and a Qualcomm WGR7640 GNSS chip with location features.

DragonBoard 820c block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The DragonBoard 820c is further equipped with a 4K@60fps ready HDMI port, dual USB 2.0 host ports, and a micro-USB 2.0 device port. In addition to the 40-pin low-speed and dual 60-pin high-speed connectors, there are dual analog audio expansion headers.

The detailed user manual on the 96Boards site also mentions a mini-PCIe slot, as well as a 6-axis IMU and 3-axis magnetometer. These are not mentioned on the 96Boards, Arrow, or Qualcomm product pages, but since they’re also listed in the block diagram, we’ve included them below.

DragonBoard 820c portside detail
(click image to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the DragonBoard 820c include:

  • Processor — Qualcomm Snapdragon 820E:
    • 4x 14nm Kryo cores clocked at up to 2.35GHz
    • Adreno 530 GPU @ up to 653MHz with OpenGL ES 3.1 + AEP, OpenCL2.0 Full1, Vulcan, Renderscript, 64-bit virtual addressing
    • Hexagon 680 DSP with Hexagon vector eXtentions and Low Power Island for sensor processing — Miracast 2.0 streaming HEVC 10-bit and VP9 decode Direct Stream Video for Wireless Display, 3:1 Frame Buffer Compression ratio
    • Dual 14-bit Spectra ISP for28MP and 13MP cams at up to 600MHz
  • Memory/storage:
    • 3GB LPDDR4-1866 RAM in PoP format
    • 32GB UFS 2.0
    • MicroSD 3.0 slot (UHS-I)
  • Display/camera interfaces:
    • HDMI 2.0 port for up to 4k@60 (supports audio)
    • MIPI-DSI and -CSI via expansion connectors
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11b/g/n/ac 2×2 dual-band WiFi (QCA6174A)
    • Bluetooth 4.2 (QCA6174A)
    • Qualcomm WGR7640 GNSS RF receiver (GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, Galileo, QZSS, SBAS)
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x USB 3.0 host ports
    • Micro-USB 2.0 OTG port
  • Expansion I/O:
    • 40-pin low-speed connector (UART x2, SPI, I2S, I2C x2, GPIO x12, DC)
    • 60-pin high-speed connector (4L-MIPI DSI, USB,I2C x2, 2L+4L-MIPI CSI)
    • Second 60-pin high-speed connector (4L-MIPI DSI, SSC serial busses, TSIF — connection available only in hardware)
    • 2x analog audio connector (headset, speaker via sound-wire interface, microphones, line-outs) with PCM/AAC+/MP3/WMA, ECNS, Audio+ post-processing (optional)
    • Mini-PCIe slot
  • Other features — 6-axis IMU with accelerometer and gyroscope; 3-axis magnetometer; power/reset and volume controls; 12x LEDs (4x user)
  • Power — 6.5V to 18V input
  • Dimensions — 100 x 85mm (96Boards CE Extended)
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 40°C
  • Operating system — Debian Linux (OpenEmbedded in development)

Further information

The DragonBoard 820c is available for $199 with free shipping at this Arrow shopping page. More information may be found in Qualcomm’s DragonBoard 820c announcement, and much more info is detailed on the 96Boards products page.

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