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TI’s first 64-bit SoC debuts on Linux-driven Phytec module

Dec 5, 2018 — by Eric Brown 3,748 views

Phytec’s “phyCore-AM65x SOM” and dev kit runs Linux on TI’s new AM65x SoC, which combines 4x Cortex-A53 cores, a PowerVR GPU, 2x Cortex-R5F MCUs, and 6x real-time PRU chips that support up to 6x TSN capable GbE ports.

Texas Instruments recently began sampling its first 64-bit ARMv8 SoC. The dual- or quad-core Cortex-A53 based Sitara AM65x will first appear on two TI evaluation module kits, as well as Phytec’s phyCore-AM65x SOM module and development kit, which will arrive in Q1 2019 (see farther below).

Sitara AM6548

Announced on Oct. 30, the AM65X is a significant step in returning TI and its Sitara line to a competitive presence in the high-end Arm embedded market. The AM65x goes head to head with NXP’s various ARMv8 i.MX8 SoCs, such as the i.MX8M, the higher-end i.MX8 QuadMax, and the more recent, power efficient i.MX8X.


Back in March, Phytec announced PhyCore COMs for all three of these NXP platforms. In 2015, the company launched a PhyCore-AM57x SOM that showcased TI’s previous high-end SoC — the 1.5GHz single- or dual Cortex-A15 Sitara AM57x. Considering that this same SoC is found on the BeagleBoard-X15, an AM65x upgrade may be in the works. We may even see an AM65x-based successor to the Cortex-A8-based (Sitara AM335x) BeagleBone, which is overdue for a follow-on.

TI Sitara AM65x

Unlike the Sitara AM57x, the AM65x lacks a TI C66x DSP. However, it provides dual high-end Cortex-R5F MCUs, much like the Cortex-RF chips found on Xilinx’s Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC. The 400MHz Cortex-R5F cores enable functional safety subsystems with the help of diagnostic libraries, ECC memory support, and an optional lockstep mode.

Sitara AM65x block diagram (left) and model comparison
(click images to enlarge)

The AM65x supplies 6x PRU-ICSS real-time programmable processors for customizing industrial interfaces linked to the Cortex-R5F chips, up from 4x Cortex-M4-linked PRU-ICSS processors on the AM57x. (Each PRU is dual-core, so you actually get 12x cores.)

The PRU cores are deployed in a new three-block industrial communications subsystem called PRU-ICSS-Gb. The subsystem offers time-sensitive networking (TSN) support in addition to continuing support for legacy fieldbus technologies like EtherCAT, Ethernet/IP, and PROFINET.

The AM65x is touted as the industry’s first multiprotocol gigabit enabled processor family, supporting up to 6x TSN-capable GbE ports. The SoCs are “built for the convergence of both Ethernet and real-time data traffic on a single network,” says TI.

TSN (IEEE 802.1) Ethernet offers guaranteed latency and Quality of Service (QoS) with time synchronization. Available on a few SoCs such as NXP’s dual-core, Cortex-A72 powered QorIQ Layerscape LS1028, TSN is growing in popularity in factory automation, thanks to its ability to replace more expensive, proprietary fieldbus technology such as EtherCAT.

Five AM65X models all clock to a modest 1.1GHz. These include the quad-core AM6548 and AM6546 and the dual-core AM6528, AM6526, and AM6527. The AM6546, AM6526, and AM6527 lack the other models’ Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX544, which is the same 3D GPU found on the AM57x. The chips support Linux, Android, and TI-RTOS.

The five AM65X models are otherwise identical except for L2 cache. Like the two quad-core models, which are deployed as dual 2x-core clusters, the dual-core AM6527 has two blocks of 512KB L2 blocks for 1MB total. The dual-core AM6526 and GPU-enabled AM6528 are instead configured as single 2x-core clusters and are limited to 512KB L2 each, once again with ECC support. All the models also offer a 2MB L3 RAM cache with ECC.

All five models provide secure boot, secure storage, and crypto engines. Reliability features include support for -40 to 105°C temperatures, including “100,000 power-on hours (PoH) at a 105˚C junction temperature.”

Other touted features include streamlined power sequencing, integrated low-dropout regulators, and pin-to-pin compatibility with the AM57x. I/O support includes 2x PCIe Gen 3, MIPI-DSI/CSI, DPI, CAN, USB, and many more industrial interfaces ranging from McASP to SPI.

AM65x Evaluation Modules

TI offers a choice of two AM65x development kits: an $898 AM65x Evaluation Module (TMDX654GPEVM) and an $819 AM65x Industrial Development Kit (IDK), also referred to as the TMDX654IDKEVM. Both are equipped with the top-of-the-line AM6548 SoC and ship with a choice of SDKs, including standard and real-time Linux stacks and TI-RTOS.

(click images to enlarge)

The EVM ships with 4GB DDR4 with ECC, 16GB eMMC, 512Mb OSPI flash, and a microSD slot. The 24V DC board provides 3x GbE ports, USB 3.1 and micro-USB based USB 2.0, serial debug, and JTAG ports. You also get PCie Gen 3.1 and MIPI-CSI2 interfaces, 8x ADC inputs, and 7x timers. The kit ships with a 1280 x 800 touchscreen.

The AM65x IDK is a multi-board set aimed at more industrial use cases. It features 6x GbE ports with industrial fieldbus support, 4x of which are on a separate IDK daughterboard that also features a Profibus transceiver, 2x CAN transceivers, and an “industrial I/O” interface. The other two are on the mainboard along with a standard GbE port.

(click images to enlarge)

The AM65x IDK has the same memory features as the EVM, and the I/O and other features are also very similar. However, it lacks the EVM’s USB 3.1 port and touchscreen.

PhyCore-AM65x SOM

Phytec’s PhyCore-AM65x SOM module is designed for applications including industrial communications, factory automation, edge computing, grid infrastructure, and other high reliability duties. You get a choice of dual- or quad-core AM65x SoCs accompanied by a Yocto Project based BSP, with support for Android and TI-RTOS “coming soon.”

PhyCore-AM65x SOM, front and back

The 65 x 55mm module ships with a default of 2GB DDR4 (maximum capacity TBD) or 1GB DDR4 ECC RAM. You also get 4GB to 32GB eMMC. A GbE PHY is onboard with support for up to 6x industrial Ethernet ports, and there’s an option for 2.4GHz or 5GHz certified WiFi.

I/O is expressed via dual 90-pin SamTec connectors. Media interfaces include MIPI-DSI, OLDI (LVDS), MIPI-CSI, and audio.

The PhyCore-AM65x SOM is further equipped with USB 3.0 and 2.0 OTG interfaces, as well as 2x PCIe 2.0, 2x CAN, 4x SPI/SSP, 6x I2C, 3x I2S, and 5x UART. You also get 6x PWM, 2x OSPI, and single eCAP, GPMC, GPIO, JTAG, and a watchdog. The 3.3V module supports -40 to 85°C temperatures.

PhyCORE-AM654x Rapid Development Kit

Phytec will provide be a PhyCORE-AM654x Rapid Development Kit (photo unavailable) equipped with the quad-core AM6548 part. It features one standard GbE port and 2x industrial PRU-connected GbE ports.

The PhyCORE-AM654x Rapid Development Kit provides USB 3.0, micro-USB 2.0, and micro-USB console ports. Other features include an SD slot, a DB-9 based CAN port, an LVDS interface with touch support, and a CSI interface with optional camera.

The kit is further equipped with a single-lane PCIe slot, a cloud security module, and an OctoSPI module. You also get a MikroBus expansion header for Click sensor and I/O modules.

Further information

Phytec will begin early access sampling of the PhyCore-AM65x SOM in Q1 2019, with pricing undisclosed. More information may be found in the PhyCore-AM65x SOM announcement and product page.

Texas Instruments began sampling the quad-core Sitara AM6548 in October, and all five AM65x models should reach production in the second half of 2019. Pricing ranges from $22.50 to $70 in 1,000-unit quantities. The AM65x EVM and AM65x IDK kits are available now for $898 and $819, respectively. More information may be found at the TI AM6x product page, as well as the AM65x EVM and AM65x IDK product pages.


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