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SBC showcases AI-equipped octa-core MediaTek i500

Oct 13, 2020 — by Eric Brown 2,347 views

VIA’s EPIC form-factor “VAB-950” SBC runs Yocto 2.6 or Android 10 on an octa-core -A73 and -A53 based, AI-enabled MediaTek i500. The SBC offers up to 4GB LPDDR4, 16GB eMMC, WiFi/BT, 2x LAN, HDMI, MIPI-DSI and -CSI, and mini-PCIe.

VIA Technologies has announced one of the first SBCs based on the MediaTek i500, joining MediaTek’s own OLogic-built Pumpkin i500 EVK. The sandwich-style VIA VAB-950, which uses a 140 x 100mm EPIC form factor, supports home, commercial, industrial, and educational applications that require AI technology for display, object recognition, and voice use cases.

(click images to enlarge)

The board’s unnamed compute module is also available separately. It has a layout that is similar, but not identical, to the prototype of the only i500-based module we’ve seen: Innocomm’s SB50. The SB50 is still listed as being under development.

The MediaTek i500 is the mid-range model of three “AI IoT platform” SoCs along with a quad-core, Cortex-A35 MediaTek i300 and a newer MediaTek i700 with 2x 2.2GHz Cortex-A75 cores and 6x 2.0GHz -A55 cores. The MediaTek i500 features 4x Cortex-A73 and 4x Cortex A53 cores all clocked at 2.0GHz. There is also an 800MHz Arm Mali-G72 MP3 and a 500MHz AI processor (APU) for deep learning, neural network acceleration and computer vision applications. The i500 lacks the ISP of the i700.

VAB-950 coastline view
(click image to enlarge)

VIA supplies a BSP with runs Yocto Linux 2.6 or Android 10. It is unclear if this is a version of BayLibre’s MediaTek Rich IoT SDK v20.0, which we detailed in our Pumpkin SBC report. The “Rich” part of the name is for real. The full-featured SDK provides Linux Kernel 5.4 LTS with Yocto 3.0 Wayland, Android 10 AOSP, and much more, all with open source code. MediaTek drivers have been upstreamed into the mainline Linux kernel for long term support.


VIA’s compute module supports the i500 with 2GB or 4GB LPDDR4 and 16GB eMMC. The VAB-950 board adds dual Fast Ethernet ports, 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 5.1, and a mini-PCIe slot with SIM that is available with an optional 4G module.

The VAB-950 is further equipped with HDMI, MIPI-DSI, a touch controller, and an optional 10.1-inch touchscreen. Other features include MIPI-CSI, audio, USB 2.0, micro-USB, GPIO, and serial and JTAG debug. The 12V board operates at -0 to 60°C.

VAB-950 detail view
(click image to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the VIA VAB-950 include:

  • Processor (via SOM) — MediaTek i500 (4x Cortex-A73 and 4x Cortex-A53 @ 2.0GHz); Mali-G72 MP3 GPU with 2400M pixel/sec @ 800MHz 3D graphics; OpenGL ES 3.0, OpenCL ES 1.1, and Vulkan 1.0; H.265 and H.264 decode up to 1080p@30fps; “supports Cadence Tensilica Vision P6 x2 DSP”
  • Memory (via SOM) — 2GB or 4GB LPDDR4; 16GB 5.1 eMMC
  • Networking:
    • 2x 10/100 Ethernet ports (USB 2.0 based ASIX AX88772 controller)
    • Dual-band 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5.0 via MediaTek MT7668
    • 3x IPEX antenna connectors
    • 4G available via mini-PCIe (see below)
  • Media I/O:
    • HDMI 1.3a port (ITE IT66121FN Digital Parallel Interface)
    • MIPI-DSI connector
    • I2C touchscreen connector for capacitive touch
    • Optional 10.1-inch WUXGA 16:10 color TFT-LCD with LED backlight
    • MIPI-CSI-2 connector
    • Audio I/O jack
    • Mono speaker-out interface
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 port
    • Micro-USB 2.0 port for OS image upload only
    • 2x USB 2.0 OTG jumpers
    • RS-232 TX/RX COM port
    • Serial debug interface
    • Multi-function header for I2C, SPI, 12x GPIO
    • JTAG interface
  • Expansion — Mini-PCIe slot with USB 2.0 for optional 4G module; SIM card slot
  • Other features — 4x keypad buttons
  • Power — 12V DC jack; optional 36W adapter; battery charger connector (supports I2C and gas gauge)
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 60°C with 0% ~ 95% non-condensing relative humidity tolerance
  • Dimensions — 140 x 100mm (EPIC form factor)
  • Operating system – BSP with Yocto 2.6 and Android 10

Stated Henry Yeh, Assistant General Manager of the AIoT Business Unit at MediaTek: “With the new VIA VAB-950 board, powered by MediaTek’s i500 AIoT chipset, brands can speed up development time and bring to market innovative, differentiated devices for a wide range of applications.”

Further information

The VIA VAB-950 is available for order now at an undisclosed price. More information may be found in VIA Technologies’ announcement and product page.


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One response to “SBC showcases AI-equipped octa-core MediaTek i500”

  1. j tremblant says:

    Interesting. I’d purchase one right now for the 4Gb version if it were available and not costing any more than $120. Bummer it doesn’t mention any nm process for the CPU. I’d like to also try the more powerful mediatek i700 SoC.

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