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First Zynq UltraScale+ based 96Boards SBC runs PetaLinux

Mar 22, 2018 — by Eric Brown 4,339 views

Avnet has launched its open-spec Ultra96 96Boards CE SBC for $249, featuring a Zynq UltraScale+ ARM/FPGA SoC, WiFi, BT, 4x USB, a mini-DisplayPort, and support for Linaro’s

Avnet’s Ultra96 (AES-ULTRA96-G) was unveiled earlier this week as part of Linaro’s joint announcement of its program for unleashing the potential of artificial intelligence technology on selected Arm SoCs. Now this Zynq UltraScale+ based, 96Boards CE standard (85 x 54mm) SBC is available for pre-order at $249 with shipments starting in May.

Avnet Ultra96 (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The Ultra96 is one of three compliant boards featured on the site, along with the upcoming Rock960 and HiKey970. Two more boards will join the list in the coming months: Arrow’s $199, Snapdragon 820E based DragonBoard 820c CE Extended board and Rockchip’s 96Boards Enterprise Edition form factor Rock960 Enterprise Edition, a higher-end version of the similarly RK3399Pro-based, CE form factor Rock960. Socionext is also planning an board.

Avnet did not mention in its announcement, although it did note the capability of the Ultra96’s Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC system-on-chip’s FPGA for hardware acceleration of machine learning algorithms. The board is designed for machine learning, automotive, and industrial IoT.



According to Avnet, the Ultra96 “adds a wide range of potential peripherals and programmable logic acceleration engines not previously available on the 96Boards platform.” It is true that this is the first official 96Boards entry to incorporate an FPGA. Last year, however, NovTech and Arrow launched a 96Boards CE-like Chameleon96 SBC that runs Debian on a Cyclone V SE SoC, and which is available for $129.

The Chamelon96’s FPGA is not as powerful as the 16nm-fabricated Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC, which competes directly with the Intel/Altera Stratix 10. This is despite the fact that the UltraScale+ ZU3EG A484 model used on the Ultra96 has the second-lowest FPGA specs of the 11 available UltraScale+ EG models, with 154K logic cells, 141K flip-flops, and 70K LUTs.

Compared to Xilinx’s Zynq-7000, which runs on a number of Avnet’s backed boards, such as the MiniZed, the UltraScale+ has a faster, 1.5GHz quad-core, Cortex-A53 CPU block, and more powerful Mali-400 MP2 GPU and FPGA. The UltraScale+ also adds two 600MHz Cortex-R5 MCUs with vector FPUs and memory protection units for improved real-time processing.

Ultra96 (left)and Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The Ultra96 is equipped with 2GB of Micron LPDDR4, and boots from the provided 16GB Delkin microSD card, pre-loaded with Xilinx’s PetaLinux. The distribution includes a desktop environment viewable through the board’s mini-DisplayPort. The system can also be accessed via a web server using the integrated wireless access point capability enabled by the board’s 802.11b/g/n radio. Bluetooth 4.2 is also available.

The Ultra96 is a simple board compared to some CE entries such as the Hikey 960. In addition to the mini-DP, WiFi, and BT, it provides dual USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, and a micro-USB 3.0 port.

The 96Boards CE-standard CE 40- and 60-pin expansion headers are available with an optional Grove starter kit, and presumably they can run other 96Board Mezzanine add-ons as well. A USB-based JTAG connection is also optional.

A few more details should appear in the coming weeks or months. Schematics are available, but at publication time the 96Boards hardware guide link erroneously linked to the guide for the MediaTek X20 Development Board.

Specifications listed for the Ultra96 include:

  • Processor — Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC ZU3EG A484 (4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.5GHz); FPGA with 154K logic cells, 141K flip-flops, and 70K LUTs; Mali-400 MP2 GPU; 2x Cortex-R5 MCUs
  • Memory/storage:
    • 2GB LPDDR4 RAM (“512M x 32” configuration).
    • MicroSD slot with 16GB card pre-loaded with PetaLinux
  • Wireless — 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.2 BLE
  • Other I/O:
    • Mini-DisplayPort (w/optional conv. cables to DP or HDMI)
    • 2x USB 3.0 host ports
    • USB 2.0 host port
    • Micro-USB 3.0 “upstream” port
    • I2C interface
    • 40-pin low-speed connector
    • 60-pin high-speed connector
  • Other features — Optional USB-to-JTAG/UART pod; optional wireless KB/MS; optional Grove Starter Kit for 96Boards
  • Power — Optional external 96Boards compliant power supply kit (12V, 2A, US plug)
  • Dimensions — 85 x 55mm; 96Boards CE
  • Operating system — PetaLinux; voucher for Xilinx SDSoC license

“The Ultra96 board provides engineers a platform for software development and hardware acceleration of machine learning algorithms,” stated Sumit Shah, director of SoC product marketing at Xilinx. “The Ultra96 is designed so software engineers can immediately begin Linux application development.”

Further information

The Ultra96 (AES-ULTRA96-G) is available for pre-order for $249, with shipments beginning in May. More information may be found in Avnet’s Ultra96 announcement and Ultra96 page and Avnet’s Ultra96 shopping page.

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