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Linux-driven SBC features RK1808 with 3-TOPS NPU

Apr 16, 2020 — by Eric Brown 2,098 views

Boardcon’s “EM1808” SBC runs Linux on a 1.6GHz Cortex-A35 Rockchip RK1808 with a 3-TOPS NPU. Features include GbE, WiFi/BT, M.2 with SIM, MIPI-DSI and CSI, GbE, 4x USB, 4x mics, and 3x audio DAC outputs.

Boardcon’s Mar. 3 announcement of its EM1808 SBC got lost in the Embedded World data flood but it remains sufficiently interesting to cover now. The audio-savvy SBC is one of the first built around Rockchip’s AI-enabled RK1808 SoC. Last year, Seeed and Beiqui launched an RK1808-based BeiQi RK1808 AIoT 96Boards Compute SoM that’s available with a BeiQi CarrierBoard Kit for $184.


In February, Pine64 announced an RK1808 based SoEdge compute module that is also available in USB and PCIe form factors. We also see now that T-Firefly announced an RK1808-based Core-1808-JD4 AI Core Board compute module on the same day Boardcon revealed its EM1808. We will cover this $59 module soon in a separate story.

The RK1808 features the same 3-TOPs NPU AI chip found on the Rockchip RK3399Pro. The power-efficient RK1808 is equipped with dual, 64-bit Cortex-A35 cores clocked to 1.6GHz, compared to only 1.2GHz on NXP’s Cortex-A35-based i.MX8X. The RK1808 lacks 3D graphics, but there is a 2D engine, as well as an ISP and support for HD encode and decode.


The EM1808 runs Linux 4.4.185 on the RK1808, which along with 2GB LPDDR3 and 8GB eMMC is built into an unnamed, 55 x 35mm, castellated edge module. In February, Boardcon announced a $100 and up Idea3288 SBC with a castellated edge CM3288 module equipped with a quad -A17 Rockchip RK3288.

EM1808 and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

Although there is no mention of it in the announcement, the EM1808 appears to be designed for smart audio and voice control devices. It has 3x audio DAC outputs, a standard audio I/O jack, 4x microphones, and a speaker. Other media features include MIPI-DSI and -CSI interfaces, which are available with optional LCD displays and cameras, respectively.

The EM1808 is further equipped with GbE, USB 3.0, and 3x USB 2.0 ports. There’s a microSD slot, WiFi/BT, and an M.2 slot that can be loaded with an optional SSD or 4G LTE module. A nano-SIM slot is also available. The 131 x 91mm, 5V-powered SBC has an RTC, optional GPS, and GPIO and serial headers, including CAN.

Specifications listed for the EM1808 include:

  • Processor (via module) — Rockchip RK1808 (4x -A35 @ 1.6GHz); 2D GPU, VPU, and ISP; 3-TOPS NPU
  • Memory/storage:
    • 2GB LPDDR3 (via module)
    • 8GB eMMC (via module)
    • MicroSD slot
    • SSD support available on M.2 slot (see below)
  • Networking:
    • Gigabit Ethernet port (Realtek RTL8211E)
    • 802.11b/g/n with Bluetooth 4.0
    • 4G available on M.2 slot (see below)
  • Media I/O:
    • MIPI-DSI for 1080P@60
    • MIPI-CSI
    • 3x audio jacks for DAC output
    • Audio jack for analog I/O
    • 4x mics
    • Speaker header
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 host port
    • 3x USB 2.0 host ports (1x with device support)
    • RS-485, CAN, and debug UART headers
    • 12-pin GPIO connector for 2x UART, 2x ADC, I2C, PWM
  • Expansion — M.2 B-key slot with optional 4G and SSD modules; nano-SIM slot
  • Other features — RTC with battery holder; buzzer; optional U-blox 7 GPS
  • Power — 5V/3A DC input jack; reset, recover, and power buttons
  • Dimensions — 131 x 91mm
  • Operating system — Linux 4.4.185 with U-boot

Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the EM1808. Boardcon eventually posts public pricing for its SBCs and modules on its Online Ordering page. More information may be found in Boardcon’s announcement and product page.

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