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Tiny COM runs Linux on Atmel Cortex-A5 SoC

May 22, 2014 — by Eric Brown 4,652 views

Acme Systems unveiled a Debian-ready, 53 x 53mm COM using Atmel’s SAMA5D3 SoC, with microSD, optional NAND flash, and extended temperature support.

Acme Systems, which earlier this year released an Arietta G25 computer-on-module built around Atmel’s 400MHz ARM9 SAM9G25 SoC, has now spun an “Acqua A5” COM using the SAMA5D3. Atmel’s 536MHz, Cortex-A5 based system-on-chip has also appeared in ShiraTech’s SODIMM-style AT-501 COM, which similarly ships with Debian Linux.

Acqua A5 (left) and optional Berta A5 breakout board
(click images to enlarge)

The Atmel SAMA5D3 SoC is claimed to offer 850DMIPS performance with 200mW power draw, and provides 1328MB/s transfer rates at 166MHz bus speed. The SoC’s performance is aided by the inclusion of an embedded FPU (floating point unit), and its LCD TFT controller includes a graphics accelerator for overlay, alpha-blending, rotation, scaling, and color space conversion.

Atmel SAMA5D3 SoC block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The Acqua A5 ships with 256MB or 512MB of DDR2 RAM, as well as an optional 256MB of NAND flash on the underside of the tiny 53 x 53mm COM. A microSD slot is standard, and housed in a push-to-open hinge-style holder. The module also embeds a 10/100Mbps Ethernet controller, and a 24-bit LCD controller with resistive touch support.

Acqua A5 front and back detail
(click images to enlarge)

I/O is presented via three 50-pin connectors. The line-up is fairly similar to that of the ShiraTech AT-501 COM, with three USB 2.0 host ports, a USB device port, and a wide variety of serial interfaces. You also get 120 GPIO lines, and both JTAG and serial debug. The main difference is the lack of the CAN interfaces found on the ShiraTech offering.

Acqua A5 with potential peripherals
(click image to enlarge)

Like the AT-501, the Acqua A5 supports extended -25 to 85°C temperatures, and its commercial version offers 0 to 70°C. There’s also an optional industrial shield enclosure for harsh environments, and an optional Bertha A5 basic breakout board with matching SMD connectors, but not much else.

Acqua A5 in optional industrial shield
(click image to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the Acqua A5 COM include:

  • Processor — Atmel SAMA5D31 (1x Cortex A5 @536MHz)
  • Memory:
    • 256MB or 512MB DDR2 SDRAM
    • Optional 256MB NAND flash
    • MicroSD slot
  • Display — 24-bit LCD controller (1280 x 720 RGB); resistive touch interface
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet controller (can be turned off to save power)
  • Other I/O (via 3x 50-pin connectors (1.27mm):
    • 3x USB 2.0 host
    • USB 2.0 device
    • Up to 6x serial
    • ITU-R BT 601/656 image sensor interface
    • Up to 2x memory card interface
    • Up to 2x SSC/I2S audio
    • Up to 3x I2C
    • Up to 2x SPI
    • Up to 12x analog inputs
    • Up to 120x GPIOs
    • Serial debug, JTAG interfaces
    • Up to 6x PWM
    • Up to 2x timer counters
    • Up to 3x programmable clock
  • Other features — AES/DES encryption engine; battery input for internal RTC; 4x LEDs; optional shield; optional Berta-A5 breakout board
  • Power — 3.3V DC supply
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 70°C (commercial); -25 to 85°C (industrial)
  • Weight — 14 g
  • Dimensions — 53 x 53mm (2.1 x 2.1 in.)
  • Operating system — Debian 7.5 image with Linux 3.10; supports Yocto and BuildRoot Linux

Further information


The Acqua A5 is available now, starting at 39.20 Euros ($53.50). More information and pricing breakdowns may be found at the Acqua A5 product page.

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