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Tiny $50 ARM-based COM runs Linux, Android

Mar 20, 2013 — by Rick Lehrbaum 5,667 views

BDD Group is readying a tiny, sub-$50, SODIMM-style computer module powered by an SOC (system-on-chip) containing a single ARM Cortex A8 core along with a Mali-400 GPU, among other functions. The business card-sized “A10 COM” will be supported with Android and Linux BSPs.

BDD’s CEO, Rowdy VanCleave, says the A10 COM was created to enable rapid design and development of a wide range of “industrial embedded” products.

The module is quite small, measuring just 68 x 52mm (2.7 x 2 inches). Its core consists of an Allwinner A10 SOC. Beyond that, the module adds SDRAM, flash memory, an Ethernet “PHYceiver,” and power management functions.


BDD’s tiny COM snaps into a uniquely-wired SODIMM socket
(click image to enlarge)


Like all COMs, the A10 COM needs to plug into a standard or custom baseboard, which provides the additional functions and connectors required by the intended application. In the A10 COM’s case, a normal SODIMM connector, wired in an abnormal manner, serves as the baseboard socket.

To speed developments based on the A10 COM, BDD has developed a ready-made baseboard (shown below) to go with it.

BDD’s A10 COM and baseboard
(click image to enlarge)


The block diagram below illustrates the potential capabilities of the BDD A10 COM, assuming it’s combined with a suitable baseboard.

A10 COM application possibilities
(click image to enlarge)


BDD’s A10 COM essentially brings all of the SOC’s signals out to its SODIMM connector. Consequently, all these Allwinner A10 SOC features can potentially be supported by the A10 COM:

  • CPU — ARM Cortex-A8
  • GPU — ARM Mali-400
  • Video:
    • UHD 2160P video decoding
    • 3D video decoding
    • Video decoding formats — VP8, AVS, H. 264 MVC, VC-1, MPEG-1,2,4, etc
    • H.264 HP video encoding (1080p@30fps; or dual-channel 720p@30fps)
  • Display:
    • Dual-display 2D/3D HD
    • Integrated HDMI 1.4
    • YPbPr, CVBS, VGA
    • Multiple LCD interfaces, including CPU, RGB, LVDS up to full HD
  • Memory:
    • Up to 2GB DDR2/DDR3 RAM
    • Up to 64GB flash
  • RTC with rechargeable battery
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet
  • Misc. I/O — GPIO, SPI, I2C, TWI, SDIO, Can Bus, RS485, RS232, USB 2.0 Host, USB 2.0 OTG, SATA

The processor be operated fanless at up to 1GHz, although higher are possible given the addition of cooling mechanisms, according to VanCleave. At 1GHz, typical power consumption is “below 5W and in most cases below 2.5W,” he adds. The module’s operating temperature range was not specified, although it’s reasonable to expect 0 to 70 deg C from a board that targets embedded applications.

Operating system support for the A10 COM and its baseboard include BSPs for Android 4.x+, Linux, and Windows CE, according to the company. (Windows Embedded is also supported.)

Availability and pricing

BDD’s A10 COM and companion baseboard are expected to ship in April. Budgetary pricing for the A10 COM in small quantities is “less than $50,” says Rowdy. Pricing for the BDD’s A10 COM carrier board will depend on quantity and populated options; for example, single units with minimal options (USB, HDMI, Ethernet, microSD, and power functions) will run around $15. Dual-core (A20) and quad-core (A31) versions of the COM will follow later in the year.

For further details on the A10 COM and its baseboard, visit BDD’s website. Further information regarding Allwinner Technology’s A10 SOC can be obtained here.

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5 responses to “Tiny $50 ARM-based COM runs Linux, Android”

  1. Maxim says:

    Industrial embedded? You must be joking! Read the specification for the A10 chip – it does not support freezing, only 0 +70C working temperature

  2. Robert says:

    hmm, Where did you see this? Datasheet states “Operational Temperature[Commercial] -25 to +85 and Operational Temperature[Extended] -40 to +85”

  3. LinuxGizmos says:

    Robert is correct, the chip data sheet says -25 to +85 and -40 to +85 degrees C (respectively) for the commercial and extended temperature versions of the chip. BDD just emailed the following additional information regarding the SBC’s operating temperature range…

    “Strictly based on component and design specs the module was designed to operate in the indoor industrial range with the built-in lithium battery limiting the upper range to +60 C. Once we finish ESS testing we plan to make the necessary changes to extended the range. The extended-range modules will have their own part number.”

  4. Peter says:

    So, this SODIMM connection for COMs, is it a standard? can I shove this into any COM base? I’m guessing not, everyone has their own pinout to each COM

    • HackerBoards says:

      This one does not appear to be a standard SODIMM edge-fingers based COM standard. However, there are several multi-vendor standards for various MXM connectors (e.g. Qseven, SMARC, EDM, and possibly others), and also, some vendors have their own internal standards to which they build multiple COMs. With those standards (either multi-vendor or single-vendor), there is some interchangeability such that multiple COMs can be used on the same standard or application specific carrier board.

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