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Pico-ITX SBC runs Android on quad-core ARM SoC

Oct 24, 2013 — by Eric Brown 7,178 views

Via Technologies announced what it says is the industry’s first quad-core ARM-based Pico-ITX single board computer (SBC), featuring Android or Ubuntu Linux running on the 1GHz Freescale i.MX6Quad system-on-chip. The VAB-820 offers 1GB RAM, 4GB flash, a microSD slot, and coastline HDMI, gigabit Ethernet, composite video, and dual USB 2.0 ports, and supports extended temperature operation.

The Via VAB-820 is the first SBC to use Via’s Pico-ITX form-factor that also offers a quad-core ARM SoC, says Via Technologies. The tiny, 100 x 72mm SBC offers Freescale’s i.MX6Quad SoC which combines four Cortex-A9 cores clocked to 1GHz with a trio of GPUs for OpenGL ES 2.0 3D graphics, 2D graphics, and OpenVG 1.1.

(click images to enlarge)


The VAB-820 SBC provides 7-year longevity support, -20 to 70°C operating temperatures, and a low 7W TDP that enables optional PoE (Power over Ethernet), says Via. The board is designed for applications including advanced industrial, energy management, in-vehicle, surveillance, and building access systems.


The VAB-820 ships with 1GB of DDR3-1066 SDRAM, and 4GB of eMMC flash. A total of 64GB of eMMC flash is said to be available, but this would appear to require the coastline microSD slot. Due to the small size of the board, other real-world coastline I/O is limited to a gigabit Ethernet port, an RCA jack, an HDMI port, and dual USB 2.0 ports. Two more USB connections are available onboard, including an OTG connection.

VAB-820 coastline I/O
(click image to enlarge)


Other onboard I/O available from pin headers or other connectors include dual-channel LVDS for displays and MIPI CSI-2 for camera input. Both a COM connector and a COM/CAN connector are provided for serial communications, both with their own power supplies. The latter is said to support 2-wire RS232 Tx/Rx and dual FlexCAN Tx/Rx ports.

Additional I/O includes SPI, S-video, I2C, and audio I/O, among other options. A JTAG-compatible mini-PCI Express slot is also said to be available. Other touted features include an ADI ADV7180 10-bit, 4x oversampling SDTV video decoder.

Block diagrams: VAB-820 SBC; i.MX6Quad SoC
(click images to enlarge)


Board support packages (BSPs) are said to be available for Android and Ubuntu Linux. In addition, starter kits, customization support, and even “complete systems for different applications” are offered.
Specifications listed for the Via VAB-820 include:

  • Processor — Freescale i.MX6Quad SoC:
    • 4x Cortex-A9 ARM cores @ 1GHz
    • 3x GPUs, featuring:
      • OpenGL ES 2.0 3D graphics accelerator with 4x shaders up to 200 MT/s and OpenCL support
      • 2D graphics accelerator
      • OpenVG 1.1 video accelerator) for up to 1080p
  • Memory:
    • 1GB DDR3-1066 SDRAM using “128M x16” devices
    • 4GB eMMC flash
    • 4MB SPI serial flash
    • MicroSD slot for up to 64GB (coastline)
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet (Micrel KSZ9031RN) with RGMII and PoE support
  • 4x USB 2.0 ports — 2x USB coastline ports; 1x USB host and 1x USB OTG headers (SMSC USB2514 USB 2.0 high speed 4-port hub controllers)
  • Display:
    • HDMI 1.4 (coastline)
    • Composite RCA jack (coastline)
    • Dual-channel, 18/24-bit LVDS
    • S-video
  • Audio — line-in, headphone-out, mic-in (Freescale SGTL5000 stereo codec)
  • Other I/O:
    • COM connector with power supply (supports 8-wire DTE mode)
    • COM/CAN connector with power supply (supports 2-wire RS232 Tx/Rx and 2x FlexCAN Tx/Rx ports)
    • MIPI CSI-2 (supports 2x data lanes)
    • SPI master (supports 2x SPI slave devices)
    • I2C
    • 8x GPIO
  • Expansion — Mini PCI-e slot (supports JTAG)
  • Other features — system reset and LED headers; Boot flash select pin header (for SPI or microSD); watchdog timer
  • Operating temperature — -20 to 70°C
  • Power — 12V DC-in connector; 2x power pin headers (for optional PD power board); RTC battery connector; 7W TDP
  • Dimensions — 100 x 72mm; Pico-ITX
  • Operating system — Linux 3.0.35; supported with Android and Ubuntu Linux BSPs

“The VIA VAB-820 delivers our most powerful ARM–based platform for customers to leverage in developing innovative new connected devices,” stated Epan Wu, Head of the Via Embedded Platform Division.

Sample units of the Via VAB-820 Pico-ITX board are now available, says Via Technologies. More information may be found at the Via VAB-820 product page.

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