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Nuvoton NUC970 ARM9 Microprocessor Gets Mainline Linux Support

As I checked out the latest email on the ARM Linux kernel mailing list, one thread somehow caught my attention: “[PATCH v2 00/10] ARM: NUC900: Add NUC970 SoC support” with the following introduction:

This patch series added Nuvoton new SoC NUC970 development board support, this nuc970 belongs to nuc900 series, but many features are not compatible with old nuc900 SoCs like nuc910, nuc920.

I could not quite remember ever having heard about Nuvoton, and it turns out it’s a fairly recent Taiwan company, founded in 2008 as a spinoff and fully own subsidiary of the better known Winbond Electronics. Their website shows ARM Cortex M0/M4 & 8051 micro-controllers, as well as ARM7 and ARM9 micro-processors, and some other application specific audio and video SoCs. But when I checked for MUC970 I could not find anything on their website, even in NUC900 series page.

Nuvotron_NUC970_BLock_DiagramBut Google came to the rescue and I found NUC970 datasheet and hardware development guide providing more insights into the processor.

Nuvoton NUC970 key features and specifications:

  • Core – ARM ARM926EJ-STM processor core @ up to 300 MHz with 16 KB I-cache, 16 KB D-cache, MMU and JTAG interface
  • Embedded SRAM and ROM – Supports 56KB SRAM, 16KB Internal Boot ROM (IBR)
  • Memory & storage I/F
    • External Bus Interface (EBI) for 8/19-bit SRAM and external I/O devices
    • DDR SDRAM Controller supporting 16-bit DDR2 up to 150 MHz
    • Flash Memory Interface – 8-bit NAND flash, eMMC flash
  • Booting modes – USB, eMMC, NAND Flash, SPI Flash
  • Ethernet MAC Controller – Up to 2x 10/100M Ethernet MAC controllers with Wake-on-LAN, DMA support
  • USB 2.0 Controller – 1x USB 2.0 High-Speed (HS) device/host,  1x USB 2.0 HS host
  • I2S Controller – I2S and PCM interfaces
  • LCD display controller – 8/9/16/18/24-bit data to connect with 80/68 series MPU type LCD module up to 1024×768 resolution
  • Capture (CMOS Sensor Interface) – CCIR601 & CCIR656 interfaces up to 3 megapixels
  • 2D Graphic Engine
  • JPEG Codec
  • Security
    • Crypto Engine with PRNG, 64-bit, 128-bit, 192-bit and 256-bit key generation, DES, 3DES, AES, SHA/HMAC
    • MTP supporting 256-bit programmable memory for key of Crypto functionality
  • GDMA (General DMA) – 2x channels GDMA for memory-to-memory data transfer without CPU intervention
  • Peripherals
    • GPIOs
    • Up to 11x UART
    • CAN protocol version 2.0 part A and B up to 1Mbit/s
    • Up to 2x SPI controllers, up to 2x I2C controllers
    • Up to 8-ch 12-bit SAR ADC with 1M/200K SPS
    • KPI – Matrix keyboard interface
    • Smart Card Host (SC) compliant with ISO-7816-3 (up to 2x ports)
    • Up to 2x 16-bit PWM generators providing 4x PWM outputs
    • 5x sets of 32-bit timers with 24-bit up-timer and one 8-bit pre-scale counter
    • 4x sets of 32-bit “Enhanced” timers with 24-bit up-timer and one 8-bit pre-scale counter with external pin capture
    • Advanced Interrupt Controller – Support 58 interrupt sources, including 8 external interrupt sources
    • Watchdog Timer
    • Windowed-Watchdog Timer
    • Real Time Clock (RTC)
  • Power Management
    • Power Down, Deep Standby, CPU Standby and Normal Operating modes
    • Operating Voltage – 1.2V for core logic, 1.8V for DDR2 SDRAM I/O,  3.3V for normal I/O
  • Operating Temperature – -40°C~85°C
  • Packages – LQFP 216-pin, LQFP 128-pin

Nuvoton NUC970 is a family of general purpose micro-controllers, with exact part numbers starting with NUC972, NUC973, NUC976, and NUC977. Beside mainline support, which may or may not be complete at this stage, Nuvoton also released a Linux 3.10 + u-boot BSP on Github. Sadly I was not able to find any documentation or pictures about the development board itself.

Anyway, it was still interesting to find out about this company, their micro-controllers and micro-processors, and they might be an option if you have commercial projects in mind requiring this type of platform.

  1. RK
    July 11th, 2016 at 20:30 | #1

    Looks made specifically for the new crypro industrial touch-screen pin entry-panels.

  2. July 12th, 2016 at 03:20 | #2

    My first reaction is “2005 called, they want their CPU back”. Seriously, more recent cores offer lower power consumption, better performance, and richer peripherals. Even DDR2 RAM must be getting a bit hard to get hold of. What is the market for this sort of chip?

  3. sinister
    July 12th, 2016 at 04:58 | #3

    IMO the most interesting part about these chips is that they come with integrated RAM. This arguably makes this SoC the most cost-effective option in its market segment.

    evodbg.com has recently made SOM based on NUC972 in SODIMM form-factor:
    http://goo.gl/gmpbuo (sorry, the link is in Russian only)

    Bonus point: it looks like NUC97x is the most recent SoC you can solder by hand. The former holder of the title was Freescale i.mx233 which will only be produced till 2019

  4. The Cageybee
    July 12th, 2016 at 05:16 | #4

    Looking at the specs it reminds me of the the xscale processor in my Dell Axim X5. Circa 2002. Aside from the crypto engine that is.

  5. Domas
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