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Handheld SDR Transceiver runs Linux on ARM+FPGA SoC

May 24, 2013 — by Eric Brown 15,607 views

Epiq Solutions announced a handheld software defined radio (SDR) device with an RF transceiver that tunes from 300MHz to 3.8GHz, plus a built-in 1PPS GPS. The Matchstiq Z1 is built around a Linux-ready iVeia Atlas-I-Z7e computer-on-module equipped with a Xilinx Zynq Z-7020 SoC, which integrates dual ARM Cortex-A9 cores along with FPGA circuitry.

The Matchstiq Z1 measures 4.6 x 2.2 x 0.9 inches, making it ideal for handheld point-to-point data modems, LTE survey tools, or spectrum analyzers, says Epiq Solutions. Its Xilinx Zynq Z-7020 system-on-chip (SoC), incorporated here by way of iVeia’s Atlas-I-Z7e computer-on-module (COM), is one of the lower end models in Xilinx’s 28nm-fabricated Zynq-7000 family of SoCs.

Matchstiq Z1 and its internal ARM/FPGA COM
(click images to enlarge)


Hailed as a breakthrough when it was announced in 2011, Xilinx’s Zynq-7000 family combines multiple Linux-programmable ARM Cortex-A9 cores with the circuitry found in the company’s traditional field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) — programmable logic chips used in SDR systems and other high-end communications, industrial, and scientific equipment. Xilinx bridges these two previously separate processing environments with an Extensible Processing Platform (EPP) architecture that puts the ARM processor in charge. As a result, Linux developers can control most FPGA signal processing functions, which previously required highly specialized FPGA programming expertise.


Matchstiq Z1 block diagram
(click images to enlarge)


The Zynq-7020 SoC integrated on the iVeia I-Z7e module and Matchstiq Z1 combines dual 800MHz Cortex-A9 cores with the equivalent of an Artix-7 FPGA with 85,000 logic cells, 53,200 look-up tables (LUTs), and 276 GMACS of peak DSP performance. The ARM and FPGA processors are linked with high-speed AXI interconnects and cross-point switches.

Xilinx Zynq-7000 CPU/FPGA SoC block diagram (two versions)
(click images to enlarge)


Instead of using the iVeia I-Z7e COM, Epiq’s customers can choose a presumably lower-cost option that appears to have formed the basis of the previous Matchstiq device. This includes a Texas Instruments 1GHz, Cortex-A8 OMAP DM3730 SoC and a separate Xilinx Spartan-6 LX45 FPGA.

The “rugged” iVeia I-Z7e COM measures 3.37 x 1.25 inches and supports Linux 2.x/3.x and Android 2.3. Dedicated I/O includes I2C, UART, analog audio, keypad, and JTAG interfaces. The module also offers 54 user-configurable flex-I/O pins for functions including gigabit Ethernet, SD/SDIO, HDMI, camera, CAN, SPI, I2S, GPIO, and ADC/DAC.

Little of this I/O appears to be externally available on the Matchstiq Z1 device itself, which is limited to a micro-USB OTG 2.0 port, a microSD slot, and ports for the device’s separate GPS, RF receiver, and RF transmitter functions. Its iVeia I-Z7e COM is equipped with the maximum 512MB of DDR2 RAM. The device draws 2-3 Watts, offers an optional, two-hour 1000mAh battery, and can handle temperatures from between 0 and 50° C without external cooling.

The device’s RF transceiver can flexibly handle a frequency range of 300MHz to 3.8GHz and supports RF channel bandwidths up to 28MHz, says Epiq Solutions. Its GPS receiver supports 1PPS (pulse per second) signals, and boasts 51 acquisition channels, 14 tracking channels, and -161 dBm sensitivity.

A partial list of specifications for the Matchstiq Z1 include:

  • Processor — Zynq Z-7020 (via iVeia I-Z7e COM) with dual 800MHz Cortex-A9 cores and Artix-7 FPGA functionality; option for 1GHz, Cortex-A8 TI OMAP DM3730 with separate Xilinx Spartan-6 LX45 FPGA
  • Memory: 512MB LPDDR2
  • Memory expansion — microSD slot with 4GB card, expandable up to 32GB
  • USB — micro-USB 2.0 OTG (host or device)
  • RF transceiver:
    • RF I/O — SMB 50 Ω
    • Range — 300MHz to 3.8GHz
    • Arch. — Zero-IF (direct conversion)
    • Tuning step-size/time — 1KHz; <2mS
  • GPS:
    • 51 acq., 14 tracking channels
    • -161 dBm sensitivity
    • < 2.5 meters accuracy
    • 1/29 sec. hot/cold start
    • active antenna support (3V bias default)
    • 1PPS, NMEA over UART, GPS Lock LED interfaces
  • System reference clock — 20.72MHz TCVCXO
  • Temperature sensor — -55° to 125° C sensing range
  • Operating temperature — 0° to 50° C without external cooling
  • Power — 7.5V to 36V DC input; 2-3 W consumption; optional 2-hour 7.5V 1000mAH battery
  • Weight — 5 oz.
  • Dimensions — 4.6 x 2.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Operating system — Linux 2.6.35 kernel with real-time extensions


An SDK is provided for the real-time enhanced Linux 2.6.35 kernel, although it appears it may be an extra-cost option. Epiq Solutions sells a variety of signal processing applications, and the Matchstiq Z1 also supports signal processing frameworks such as GNU Radio and Redhawk.

The Matchstiq Z1 is expected to ship in June, and pre-orders are being accepted. Prices start at $4,500 for a Matchstiq Z1 with the a 4GB microSD card, power adapter, USB cable, and a PC-based spectrum analyzer application, although it’s unclear whether that includes the new iVeia I-Z7e COM or the older OMAP/Spartan processor combo. Prices are available on request for an SDK bundle that adds the Linux SDK and JTAG breakout board, as well as a PDK (Platform Development Kit) bundle that builds on that foundation with an FPGA development kit.

More information, including more detailed specs on the RF and GPS functions, may be found at the Epiq Solutions Matchstiq Z1 product page.

(advertise here)

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5 responses to “Handheld SDR Transceiver runs Linux on ARM+FPGA SoC”

  1. Me says:

    The hackrf board does 50Mhz-6GHz with a 20MHz bandwidth for about $300. It’s also all open source. The matchstiq price of $4500 is a joke

  2. eebrah says:

    @me Mind providing a link?

    the hackrf board sounds awesome

  3. hi says:

    You can search for the HackRF and find lots of links. Currently it’s on kickstarter if you want to fund the project. The HackRF doesn’t have full duplex or an FPGA… but the BladeRF does. The BladeRF has 300MHz (50MHz with daughter card) to 3.8GHz, 28MHz bandwidth, USB 3.0 to get all the data off, ARM9, and Cyclone 4 FPGA. But it’s a little more expensive at $420.

  4. LinuxGizmos says:

    For info on HackRF, go here.

  5. Jim says:

    Wowee!! 100 time the cost or one hundred times less computing power of 100 BeagleBone Blacks!! Take your pick. Just oooodles of incentive.


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