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World's smallest dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 module?

Jun 12, 2013 — by Eric Brown 21,071 views

Variscite announced what it calls “the world’s tiniest Cortex-A9 system-on-module,” measuring 52 x 17mm. The Linux- and Android-compatible DART-4460 module is based on a 1.5GHz dual-core TI OMAP4460 SoC, is available with up to 1GB of DDR2 RAM and 8GB eMMC flash, and can run at 400MHz on only 44mA, says the company.

The DART-4460 is designed for devices ranging from “the lightest tablet” to “the most compact multimedia system,” says Variscite. The record-breaking 52 x 17mm size helps the computer-on-module (COM) consume only 5mA in suspend and 44mA while running from a 3.7 V Li-Po battery at 400 MHz, claims the company. In case you were wondering, the iconic Gumstix COM form-factor is 12 percent larger, at 58 x 17mm.

DART-4460 COM beside a 2 Euro coin
(click image to enlarge)


The module is based on the Texas Instruments (TI) OMAP4460 system-on-chip, which combines its dual 1.5GHz Cortex-A9 cores with a 384MHz PowerVR SGX540 GPU and a programmable DSP that enables 1080p video encoding. The SoC has fueled best-selling products like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Kindle Fire HD, and is now working its way into embedded applications where multimedia is required. Already, the dual-core Cortex-A9 SoC has appeared in the Pandaboard ES, as well as Variscite’s earlier VAR-SOM-OM44 module, which measured 67.8 x 38.6mm.


Block diagrams: DART-4460 COM and TI OMAP4460 SoC
(click images to enlarge)


Aside from the power and dimension differences, the DART-4460 is nearly identical to the VAR-SOM-OM44. The big differences are that instead of providing a microSD slot, the DART-4460 substitutes 4GB or 8GB of onboard flash, omits the larger module’s 4-wire resistive touch and Gigabit Ethernet interfaces. The DART-4460’s DDR2 RAM starts at 512MB, but can be expanded to 1GB. Additionally, the new module optionally supports an industrial temperature range (-40 to +85° C) rather than the larger module’s optional extended temperature range (-20 to +70° C).

Like Variscite’s earlier, larger OMAP4 module, the DART-4460 supplies WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 radios, although these appear to be build options. All other interfaces are available via three low-profile connectors on the module’s underside: two 70-pin, and one 40-pin.

Interfaces that appear on the module’s bottom-mounted connectors include SD/MMC, I2C, SPI, audio, and One-Wire, as well as dual USB host and one USB OTG ports. On the multimedia side, HDMI, DSI, and RGB display connections are supported, and several camera interfaces are tossed in for good measure.

Specifications listed for the DART-4460 include:

  • Processor — TI OMAP4460:
    • Dual Cortex-A9 cores @ 1.5GHz
    • PowerVR SGX540 GPU
    • Programmable DSP
  • Memory
    • 512MB to 1GB LP-DDR2 RAM
    • Up to 8GB eMMC flash
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11b/g/n WiFi
    • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Display interfaces:
    • HDMI 1.3 (1920 x 1080)
    • RGB (1400 x 1050 24-bit)
    • DSI (1400 x 1050 24-bit)
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x SD/MMC
    • 2x USB 2.0 host
    • USB 2.0 OTG
    • 3x UART (up to 3.6Mbps)
    • 2x I2C
    • 2x SPI
    • 2x CSI (camera)
    • CPI (camera)
    • S/PDIF audio
    • Audio — mic; line-in; line-out with headphone driver
    • One-wire/HDQ
    • GPMC local bus interface
  • Power — 3.3-4.5V supply; 1.8V I/O; consumes 5mA in suspend, 44mA active with 3.7 V Li-Po battery @ 400MHz
  • Operating temperature — commercial (0 to 70° C) and industrial (-40 to 85° C) versions
  • Dimensions — 52 x 17 x 4.7mm (2.04 x 0.67 x 0.19 in.)
  • Operating system — Linux (currenty 3.4.0 kernel); Android (currently v4.1.2)


For evaluation and development purposes, Variscite offers an adapter card that enables the DART-4460 to plug into the larger VAR-SOM-OM44 module’s carrier board, as well as a new carrier board specific to the smaller DART-4460 module.

No availability or pricing information was supplied by Variscite for the DART-4460. More information may be found on Variscite’s website, at the DART-4460 product page.

(advertise here)

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5 responses to “World's smallest dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 module?”

  1. Tom Greenhaw says:

    Where can evaluation units be obtained. What is the cost per unit?

  2. Marcel says:

    Why did they remove the Sata connector? It makes the board less useable!

  3. Vic says:

    Please say if this shiny new awesomeness will have a shiny new 3.10 or better Linux kernel with Device Tree, and not old 3.2 or 3.4?

  4. eric brown says:

    Re: above questions: There’s a request for quotes button on the product page. I don’t believe the old module had a SATA connector. If you meant the microSD slot, I agree, but in that case, it couldn’t be so small. On Device Tree, I assume you meant Linux 3.7 or 3.8 instead of 3.1? I don’t expect a stampede toward device tree, following in the BeagleBone’s footsteps, but it would be nice to see.

    • Vic says:

      No… I meant 3.ten… just like I put.

      Is not device tree the way everything must go… adapt or die.

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