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Snowball open ARM Cortex-A9 SBC price slashed

Jul 9, 2013 — by Eric Brown 6,060 views

The open source Snowball single-board computer project and Igloo Community have closed up shop after sponsor ST-Ericsson moved closer to dissolution. The good news is that Linux and Android software for the Cortex-A9 based SBC will continue to be available from third parties, including Linaro, and manufacturer Calao Systems is selling 1,500 remaining Snowball boards at a steeply discounted price, ranging from $64 to $98.

The Snowball SBC was launched with an Igloo Community website in Feb. 2011 by ST-Ericsson, which wanted to showcase its dual-core, 1GHz Nova A9500 system-on-chip. ARM’s Linaro not-for-profit Linux tools firm developed the Linux and Android firmware, and French embedded firm Calao Systems manufactured the hardware.

Like other open Cortex-A9 board projects that arrived around the same time, the Snowball never came close to matching the community involvement and sales of the cheaper, lower-power BeagleBone or Raspberry Pi. The PandaBoard (TI OMAP4430) gained somewhat greater traction, but like the Origen 4 Quad Board (Samsung Exynos 4 Quad), the Snowball suffered from the fact that it was using a smartphone-oriented SoC rather than a mainstream embedded processor. Snowball had the greater hurdle of using the largely unknown A9500 chip. Since then, the other main Cortex-A9 contender to arrive has been the Wandboard, which uses the more embedded-oriented Freescale i.MX6.


Following ST-Ericsson’s decision in March to start splitting itself up, with divisions sold off or sent back to partners STMicroelectronics and Ericsson, the Igloo Community decided to close its doors. The project officially ended on June 28. ST-Ericsson manufactured a variety of processors, including for a GPS chip business unit that was sold to Intel in late May.

Snowball PDK SBC
(click image to enlarge)


The Snowball PDK is based on Calao’s 85 x 85mm Sky form factor. It’s equipped with a 1GHz dual-core Nova A9500 SoC (note: url may change), with a built-in ARM Mali 400 GPU and a dual-core DSP. The board ships with 1GB of DDR2 RAM, 8GB of flash, a microSD slot. Communications features include a 10/100 Ethernet port, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS, while multimedia I/O includes an HDMI port, CVBS out, and audio I/O.

Nova A9500 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)


The SBC offers a USB OTG port, a USB port dedicated to serial communications, and a standard RS232 serial port. Other features include MiPi34 and JTAG ports, three expansion ports, and a full range of sensors.

Linux and U-Boot are pre-installed, with Android and Ubuntu images available for download. These and other firmware components will continue to be available at sources including Github, Linaro, and Movial’s Sandbox.

The discounted Snowball boards available at Calao include four models, now sharply discounted. For example, the Snowball PDK originally sold at 241 Euros, but now sells for 75 Euros, and the SDK version started at 165 Euros, but is now only 50 Euros.

The available models include:

  • Snowball PDK (SKY-S9500-ULP-C02) — 75 Euros ($98.50) — there are 605 pieces left of this high-end model (see specs above).
  • Snowball SDK (SKY-S9500-ULP-C12) — 50 Euros ($64) — 431 pieces remain of the SDK model, which is similar to the PDK, but has 4GB of e-MMC flash instead of 8GB, and lacks the PDK’s standalone serial port and three expansion ports.
  • Snowball PDK Lite (SKY-S9500-ULP-C32) — 75 Euros ($98.50) — the PDK Lite (29 pieces) is similar to the PDK, but lacks its WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS.
  • Snowball SDK Lite (SKY-S9500-ULP-C22) — 50 Euros ($64) — Like the PDK Lite, the SDK Lite (38 pieces) lacks wireless features. It otherwise mimics the 4GB SDK model.

Calao is planning on launching its own follow-up to the Snowball, due in 2014, which will offer a migration path from the current product.

More information and direct sales may be found at Calao’s online shop (see pricing above). Links to continuing software repositories for the Snowball, including Android may be found on Calao’s website, here.

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