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Tiny, Linux-driven Cortex-A5 SBC supports FeatherWing add-ons

Jul 2, 2019 — by Eric Brown 3,956 views

Groboards has launched an open-spec, Adafruit Feather-like “Giant Board” starting at $50. The 51 x 23mm SBC runs Linux on Microchip’s Cortex-A5-based SAMA5D SoC and can load more than 60 FeatherWing add-ons.

In January, Groboards showed off a Giant Board SBC that adopts the Adafruit Feather form factor and supports FeatherWing add-on boards. Instead of the usual MCU, you get a beefier Cortex-A5-based Microchip SAMA5D27 SoC that runs Debian Linux. Now, the company has gone to Crowd Supply to sell the 51 x 23mm board starting at $50.

Giant Board, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

Groboards is halfway to its $12,250 goal with 37 days left. In addition to the $50 package, there’s a $70 version that adds WiFi. You pay $10 more for either package to get a beta version that arrives Oct. 9, over a month before the general Nov. 13 ship date.

The Giant Board uses a Microchip ATSAMA5D27C-D1 System-In-Package (SiP) version of its SAMA5D SoC that the chipmaker first used in its SAMA5D27 SOM1 compute module. The SiP used on the Giant Boards uses the mid-range SAMA5D27 variant and includes 128MB DDR2.

Giant Board pinout and Microchip’s SAMA5D SiP comparison chart
(click images to enlarge)

Adafruit’s stackable Feather form factor has been used in products such as the Feather nRF52 Bluefruit LE board. The Giant Board has the same pinout, enabling it load Adafruit’s 60+ FeatherWing add-on boards. The WiFi version of the Giant Board uses a 2.4GHz WiFi FeatherWing that Groboards built itself based on a Microchip ATWILC1000 chipset.


Specs include a microSD slot and micro-USB OTG port, as well as 6x ADC and 4x PWM, both with external triggers. There are also I2C, SPI, UART, and I2S interfaces. Like other Feather boards, there’s 3.7V LiPo battery support.

Giant Board developers can take advantage of Adafruit’s release of its Blinka libraries, which add CircuitPython support to Linux. Giant Board compatibility has been merged and committed to the Adafruit repo, offering access to over 100 hardware compatibility libraries. As a result, most sample code involving FeatherWings works with little or no modification, says Groboards.

The company has tested Ethernet, WiFi, and LCD FeatherWings. Developers can take advantage of graphics libraries and frameworks outside of Arduino C++ and CircuitPython to visualize data about network traffic on an LCD FeatherWing, says Groboards.

Final specifications for the Giant Board include:

  • Processor (via ATSAMA5D27C-D1 SiP) — Microchip SAMA5D2 (1x Cortex-A5 @ 500MHz)
  • Memory (via SiP) — 128MB DDR2 RAM
  • Storage — microSD slot
  • Other I/O:
    • Micro-USB port with power support
    • 6x 12-bit ADC with 3.3V reference and ext. trigger
    • 4x 16-bit PWM with ext. trigger
    • 2x I2C, 2x SPI, 2x UART, I2S
  • Power — 3.3V pin input; micro-USB; 3.7V LIPO support; 70 mA typical operating current
  • Dimensions — 50.8 x 22.8mm
  • Operating system — Debian with mainline Linux kernel 5.0

Further information

The Giant Board is available on Crowd Supply starting at $50 ($60 for beta) or $70 with WiFi ($80 for beta). Standard versions ship Nov. 13 while beta versions ship Oct. 9. More information may be found on the Giant Board Crowd Supply page and Groboard’s Giant Board product page.

(advertise here)

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2 responses to “Tiny, Linux-driven Cortex-A5 SBC supports FeatherWing add-ons”

  1. mike says:

    I think they just like making stuff. Look at their site, they never update or sell anything

  2. Mahdi says:

    I am not sure why should someone pay $50 for a single core Cortex A5 board while, multi-core 64-bit devices are commercially available at lower prices.

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