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ARMBRIX Zero Cortex A15 Development Board Unboxing Pictures

February 13th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ve just received an early sample of ARMBRIX Zero (aka ARMBRIX-5250-A), a development board based on Samsung Exynos 5250 dual cortex A15 processor with 2GB RAM, a microSD slot, 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0 Host, 1x USB Device, 10/100 Ethernet, HDMI output, SATA 3.0, some Audio I/O ports, and 3 expansions headers. This is basically a low cost version of the Arndale board, with things such as eMMC 4.5 (Sorry I’ve missed the eMMC socket at the back of the board) sensors missing.

Today, I won’t turn the board on (I’ll explain why at the end of the post), but instead show some pictures of the development and debug boards.

ARMBRIX Zero Development Board

ARMBRIX Zero Development Board (Click to Enlarge)

If you had previously seen the board picture before, you’ll noticed it has a grown a heatsink. The heatsink is probably here to stay, but may be slightly different (e.g. lower) when you receive your board. The bottom acrylic plate won’t be part of the board you’ll receive in case you wonder. The board came with a microSD card loaded with Android Jelly Bean (4.1).

Top View of ARMBRIX Zero Development Board (Click to Enlarge)

Top View of ARMBRIX Zero Development Board (Click to Enlarge)

The board has three expansion headers, but only CON16 (MIPI Master/Slave, 1x I2C, GPIO) and CON19 (3x serial interfaces, 2x I2C, 2x ADC, JTAG, USB, MMC, and reset) are soldered. CON20 provides access to I2S, Interrupt and GPIO pins, and the System bus (EBI). Pin descriptions for all 3 headers are available in this PDF. (This is an early version, and there may be changes before final release, but this should give you an idea). this PDF

Left to Right: microSD slot, Line OUT, Line IN, and SPDIF (Click to Enlarge)

Left to Right: microSD slot, Line OUT, Line IN, and SPDIF (Click to Enlarge)

Left to Right: miniUSB device, HDMI, USB 3.0 Host, RJ45 + 2 USB 2.0 Host, and Power (Click to Enlarge)

Left to Right: miniUSB device, HDMI, USB 3.0 Host, RJ45 + 2 USB 2.0 Host, and Power (Click to Enlarge)

The package included a debug board with 2 DB9 connectors that gives access to UART2 (CON2) for serial console, UART3 (CON3), and a JTAG connector. Currently, ARMBRIX does not plan to sell this board, but if there is enough demand, they may change their mind. You just need to connect it to CON16 on the development board, and connect CON2 to your computer serial port via a null modem cable to access the serial console.

ARMBRIX Zero Debug Board

But since I don’t have a null modem cable at home, and my PC does not come with a serial port. I’ll just use the TTL to USB debug board I’m using with other boards and devices.

Standard USB  TTL Debug Board Connected to ARMBRIX Zero.

Standard USB TTL Debug Board Connected to ARMBRIX Zero.

You just need to connect 3 pins from CON19 to your debug board. Pin 13 to GND, Pin 14 (Rx) to Tx, and Pin 16 (Tx) to Rx. That means ARMBRIX debug board may not be needed for most people.

I would have liked to show the board boot, run some benchmark, and talk about its performance, but it won’t boot because I only have a 5V/2A power supply, and as mentioned in the board description, a 5V/3A power supply is recommend. If you plan to connect a SATA hard drive, and/or an external LCD you’d probably need even more power. ARMBRIX told me they use a 5V/5A for testing.

The next step is to go shopping, and hopefully I’ll be able to show you much more.

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  1. The Cageybee
    February 13th, 2013 at 17:05 | #1

    Looks like a damn nice board. If only they could get linux with accelerated X and hardware video decoders running, connect up a hard drive and it could be a replacement for everyday PC use with uber small power usage.
    But there in lies the rub :(

  2. MFserver
    February 13th, 2013 at 17:24 | #2

    This would be so nice if it had gigabit ethernet! I am currently waiting for a board with gigabit ethernet, eSATA or USB3, and a CPU capable of decrypting AES with 100 MB/s, so I can encrypt my NAS server. Currently I am using the CuBox, which does not have the power to host an encrypted drive at the speeds i require, so it is unencrypted. Using a low-power x86 CPU is still not comparable to an ARM board, so I am following the development with great interest.

  3. February 13th, 2013 at 17:57 | #3

    Seconding MFserver comment, I’d love to see a similar board with GbEth port(s) and some kind of expansion slot to add more SATA/SAS ports… nevertheless this one is really cute.

  4. haze
    February 13th, 2013 at 18:10 | #4

    possible to can a schematic diagrams?

  5. m][sko
    February 13th, 2013 at 18:23 | #5

    @MFserver

    it is funny as most of ARM processor have some build in encryption/decryption hw.
    Yes I understand it depend on drivers, but it is same problem as we have with GPU and VPU(video processor unit)

  6. February 13th, 2013 at 18:52 | #6

    They have already changed the name… The ARMBRIX Zero is now iAMBRIX OPENBRIX, due to some copyrights issue with ARM.

  7. herpderp
    February 13th, 2013 at 23:44 | #7

    This board looks really promising.
    I wish they’d left the eMMC on board tho…microSD cards are just not there in terms of read/write speed…If only it could take advantage of the new UHS-I speed class it would be perfect as a replacemente for light computing activities

  8. mac me
    February 14th, 2013 at 09:05 | #8

    5V3A .. thats a lot of power gushing around …

    SATA3/USB3 .. nice

    A15dual should be faster than the quads in real world applcations ?

    theres no nand on this right ? so youre a bit stuck with booting from microSD? or USB3 ? … love the ODROID’s emmc – much faster than microsd

    still a bit pricey for me but nice attempt … come on Hard Kernel finish testing your dual A15 and join the fight :-)

  9. February 14th, 2013 at 09:25 | #9

    @mac me
    I’ll post some Android benchmarks comparing ODROID-X to OPENBRIX / ARMBRIX. I don’t think a Linux image is ready yet, if it does I may run some phoronix suite tests.

    Correct, no NAND, and you’d boot from the microSD. I don’t know yet if you can boot from USB or SATA.

  10. February 14th, 2013 at 10:07 | #10

    @The Cageybee
    This is what they told me:
    “Later I will update Multimedia engine(FFMPEG on Android) works with InSignal.
    HW acceleration for Linux will be updated.”

    @haze
    Not yet for schematics.

  11. linuxium
    February 14th, 2013 at 12:51 | #11

    If you’re going down the shops then get one of these http://www.jaycar.com.au/productView.asp?ID=XC4834 or eqiv. I find it interesting that the board is now called iAMBRIX as I would’ve thought it cheaper to fight the ARM lawyers than taken on the whole of Apple! I also bought a board similar to this/Arndale board which also came with a heatsink – they called it a Samsung Chromebook Series 3. Seriously, the Arndale development board nearly introduces a great concept. If someone could just market a base development board, with all the basic connectors (power, HDMI, serial, ethernet, USB, SATA, eMMC, Micro SD, JTAG, GPIO, UART, yada, yada), to which manufacturers could then add their CPU board conforming to the base board standard, with truly optional add-on boards for display, sound, wifi/BT etc and software support from Linaro, Google etc in GIT repositories, I wouldn’t have a cupboard full of duplication and a bank balance under threat from technology advancement. I call for the consumarization of ARM development, with mobos and ARM sockets viz-a-vee AMD. I’d better get in from the sun.

  12. kcg
    February 14th, 2013 at 14:20 | #12

    @cnxsoft
    Could you be so kind and also use good old nbench2? Thanks!

  13. onebir
    February 14th, 2013 at 18:23 | #13

    @linuxium
    I think the Rhombus Tech people are working toward (some of) those goals :)

  14. Pudding
    February 14th, 2013 at 19:15 | #14

    Please try to measure actual power consumption under full load / idle conditions if you can!
    Also it would be interesting to know how hot that hughe massive (for a mobile SoC) heatsink gets…
    Thanks!

  15. February 14th, 2013 at 22:25 | #15

    @Pudding
    The only thing I have for power measurement is the PowerUSB power strip, and it’s not really ideal. I guess I need to add a “kill-a-watt” to my shopping list…

  16. Pudding
    February 15th, 2013 at 01:01 | #16

    For such low power stuff a Multimeter is way better – cut the +5V cable or use a power measurement adapter for such cables.
    This avoids measuring the power supply inefficiency / losses (and measuring at high voltages).

  17. sky770
    February 15th, 2013 at 13:19 | #17

    cnxsoft :
    ..and you’d boot from the microSD. I don’t know yet if you can boot from USB or SATA.

    Mess around with a bootloader on mSD and try booting from SATA? :D

  18. February 15th, 2013 at 14:17 | #18

    @Pudding
    Good idea. I don’t plan to cut the cable, so I’ll make a DIY adapter once I buy the power socket and plug (This may take a while).

    @sky770
    I’d have to mess around with a lot of thing to have that working, as I’m not even sure SATA work. I don’t have any network access for the board yet as Ethernet and WiFi do not work with the image I received.

  19. February 15th, 2013 at 16:11 | #19

    @kcg
    I can only test Android for now, and there’s no network. Do you have an APK for nbench2?

    Edit: Could not find it in English website, but a Chinese search did help: http://apk.angeeks.com/soft/137908.html

  20. February 15th, 2013 at 17:51 | #20

    I think I’ll wait a bit for the benchmarks to get a better image. I get 13,500 with Antutu 3.0.3 (About the same as Nexus 10_, but the screen rotates to portrait during the benchmark taking only a third of the screen. Most other benchmarks refuse to install or run. nbench can run though.

    This thing gets really hot, I can keep my fingers on the heatsink, but it tests my tolerance to heat (which is not very high I reckon).

  21. abufrejoval
    February 17th, 2013 at 11:26 | #21

    @MFserver
    You have USB 3, which you can hook to a switch and expand to whatever.
    For that matter Gig-Ethernet on USB 2 works, but at USB 2 speeds.
    Still missing drivers for the USB 3 Gigabit Ethernet, there is an ASIX based device out there.
    The SATA port does support port multipliers, I’ve tried a SiS known for suboptimal performance on Arndale and it works. Might try JMB next.

  22. abufrejoval
    February 17th, 2013 at 11:31 | #22

    @herpderp
    There is supposed to be an eMMC socket on the reverse side, which isn’t populated (yet?). Don’t know whether it’s such a cool snap-in solution as on the Odroid (love the ability to get variable sized eMMC with an USB adapter for filling).

    But you don’t need to stay with the SD: I use a SATA based SSD on Arndale and switch to that after the kernel has booted. Nothing used on SD (or eMMC in the case of Arndale) after that. I’m trying to make that work with Ubuntu and there is basically no reason why it shouldn’t.

  23. February 17th, 2013 at 16:57 | #23

    @abufrejoval
    Correct. I did not notice it the first time. There is indeed an eMMC socket on the reverse side.

  24. abufrejoval
    February 20th, 2013 at 06:14 | #24

    @mac me
    I only have the Arndale so far, but OpenBrix seems to be Arndale minus a few parts + a lot more cute.

    Done Android and Ubuntu fully on 16GB Class 10 SD, because 4GB soldered and fixed eMMC is “Class 20″ but tiny, then wanted SATA and USB 3 for speed and capacity.

    It’s fairly easy because in each phase of the boot process it’s a new game.
    The primary bootloader must come off eMMC or SD: That’s a design limitation of Exynos, I’d presume.
    Once u-boot is there, it’s whatever u-boot supports (even PXE if you can get the hardware initialized).
    Once the Linux kernel is there, it’s whatever the Linux kernel supports and that is quite a lot: You don’t need to leave your root on the boot medium!

    Booting isn’t really important (well don’t try anything below Class 10!), it’s *running* the system of a SATA SSD which determines the overall speed and feel of the system.

    I’ve switched root to SATA SSD on Android after booting the kernel and initial ram disk from eMMC or SD and it’s very snappy and roomy with a 256GB Crucial C300. I also activated a Nexus style file system layout which means I have more than 200GB of usable Android storage formatted as ext3 but visible to PCs via MPT. No issues transferring 10GB 1080p movies for XMBC tests.

    Haven’t really tried making that work with Ubuntu yet, but there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to switch to an SATA SSD based root after booting the kernel. Been running X11 over the 100MBit port, because Ubuntu graphics support wasn’t quite there yet. Note that Ubuntu for Tablets shows Nexus 10 pictures so it can’t be far away.

    SATA support is good on Android Arndale images and on Ubuntu, including port multiplier support. I did 5 2TB drives on Android and even had MD built into the kernel. Albeit without user land tools there wasn’t anything I could do with it.

    SATA via USB3 on Android wasn’t stable but I could basically swap the SATA SSD between USB3 and SATA without even reconfiguring things and have it run fully off the SSD. Only on USB3 it crashed after a while. This will get fixed and with USB3 hubs the expansion facilities are practically unlimited.

    Haven’t been able to get more than aroud 130MB/sec out of the SATA (and USB3) ports nor did I get a 6GBit connect yet, but it certainly beats SD.

  1. February 14th, 2013 at 20:00 | #1
  2. February 25th, 2013 at 16:25 | #2
  3. March 18th, 2013 at 11:50 | #3