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Tiny module and SBC run Linux or Android on i.MX8M

Jan 12, 2018 — by Eric Brown 3,952 views

Variscite’s 55 x 30mm “DART-MX8M” showcases NXP’s 1.5GHz, quad-A53 i.MX8M SoC with up to 4GB LPDDR4, up to 64GB eMMC, WiFi-ac, BT 4.2, PCIe, and HDMI 2.0, plus an optional carrier that’s also sold as a “VAR-DT8MCustomBoard” SBC.

Variscite unveiled a “coming soon” DART-MX8M computer-on-module and VAR-DT8MCustomBoard carrier board/SBC that tap NXP’s new i.MX8M SoC. The DART-MX8M follows other NXP-based DART modules, such as the i.MX UL based DART-6UL, which in November received a clock rate upgrade to up to 900MHz.

DART-MX8M, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The DART-MX8M followed Technexion’s project in announcing products based on the i.MX8M.’s Wand-Pi-8M SBCs, which are part of our recent guide to 103 Linux/Android hacker boards, will ship in the Spring.

This week NXP announced availability of the i.MX8M, complete with Android Things and Alexa support. NXP also unveiled its own i.MX8M Evaluation Kit.

(click image to enlarge)

Finally, Variscite released some details about an upcoming, unnamed NXP iMX8 module that taps the higher-end, hexa-core iMX8 SoC with 2x 1.8GHz Cortex-A72, 4x -A53, and 2x -M4F MCUs. We’ll circle back to this when we get a product image and some more details.



Variscite’s 55 x 30 x 4.7mm DART-MX8M module is available in dual- or quad-core versions of the 1.5GHz, Cortex-A53 i.MX8M. The SoC incorporates a Vivante GC7000Lite GPU and VPU, enabling 4K HEVC/H265, H264, and VP9 video decoding with HDR (high-dynamic-range rendering) technology. It also provides a 266MHz Cortex-M4 core for real-time tasks, as well as a security subsystem.

DART-MX8M (left) and i.MX8M block diagrams
(click images to enlarge)

The DART-MX8M is available with Linux and Android BSPs, and provides up to 4GB LPDDR4 and 4GB to 64GB eMMC. The module also supplies 802.11ac/a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.2/BLE radios, as well as a GbE controller.

Media interfaces include HDMI 2.0 and eDP, both of which can drive 4Kp60 video, plus dual-channel LVDS for up to 1920 x 1080 @ 60fps. Dual 4-lane, MIPI-CSI2 camera interfaces are available, and audio features include headphone, mic, and line-in, plus up to 5x digital serial I2S/SAI and SPDIF interfaces.

The DART-MX8M further supports 2x USB 3.0 OTG, 4x up to 4Mbps UARTs, 3x I2C, 3x SPI, and 2x PCIe 2.0 x1. It also provides SD/SDIO/MMC and 2x QSPI, and enables an RTC on a carrier board. The module runs on 3.4 to 4.5V power, with 3.3V I/O voltage, and is available in 0 to 70°C and -40 to 85°C models.

DART-MX8M Kits and VAR-DT8MCustomBoard

The DART-MX8M is available with VAR-STK-MX8M and higher-end, touchscreen equipped VAR-DVK-MX8M evaluation kits. Both are built around a VAR-DT8MCustomBoard carrier that will also be sold as a sandwich-style, end-product ready SBC. The DVK version adds a 7-inch, WVGA capacitive touchscreen plus an Ethernet cable and 5V power supply. Both the DVK and SDK models provide a micro-USB debug cable, antenna, and boot/rescue microSD cards. A camera module is under consideration.

VAR-DVK-MX8M with VAR-DT8MCustomBoard (left) and VAR-DT8MCustomBoard block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the VAR-DT8MCustomBoard include:

  • Processor (via DART-MX8M) — NXP i.MX8M (2x or 4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.5GHz); Vivante GC7000Lite GPU; Cortex-M4 @ 266MHz
  • Memory (via DART-MX8M) — up to 4x LPDDR4 RAM; 4GB to 64GB eMMC
  • Storage — MicroSD slot
  • Wireless (via DART-MX8M) — 802.11ac/a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.2/BLE
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Multimedia I/O:
    • HDMI 2.0a port
    • DisplayPort 1.3 port
    • 18/24-bit dual-channel LVDS with PWM backlight control
    • Optional 4-wire, 4-pin resistive or capacitive 6-pin touchscreens (FFC/FPC)
    • Serial camera board-to-board connector
    • 3.5mm headphone and line-in jacks
    • Mic interface
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x USB 3.0 host ports
    • USB 3.0 OTG Type-C port
    • Micro-USB serial RS232 port
    • RS232 debug header
    • 2x RS232 headers
  • Expansion:
    • Connectors for QSPI, UART, SPI, I2C, JTAGE, SPDIF, SAI, GPIOs
    • 2x mini-PCIe slots
  • Other features — RTC with battery backup socket
  • Power — 5V DC input via 2.5mm jack
  • Dimensions — 150 x 90 x 29mm
  • Operating system — Linux and Android BSPs

Further information

The DART-MX8M module, VAR-DT8MCustomBoard, and VAR-STK-MX8M and VAR-DVK-MX8M evaluation kits are “coming soon” at undisclosed prices. More information may be found in the NXP DART-MX8M product page, as well as the DART-MX8M Kits page and VAR-DT8MCustomBoard page.

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