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Review & Quick Start Guide for Khadas Vim Pro Development Board with Ubuntu 16.04

February 11th, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

Khadas Vim is the only Amlogic S905X development board I’m aware of. There are 4 or 5 versions of the board, but currently only two models are sold: Khadas Vim with 8GB flash and single band WiFi + BLE 4.0, and Khadas VIM Pro with 16GB flash, and dual band WiFi + BLE 4.2. SZWesion, the company behind the board, has sent Khadas Vim Pro for evaluation. Today, I’ll take a few pictures of the board and its accessories, and report my experience playing with Ubuntu 16.04.2 on the board. They’ve also released Android, LibreELEC, and dual boot Android/Ubuntu (for Vim Pro only) images, which you can find in the firmware resources page.

Khadas Vim Pro Unboxing and Photos

My parcel included Khadas package that looks like a book, an HDMI cable, and the same IR remote control sent with GeekBox, the first board made by the company, and powered by a Rockchip RK3368 processor.

You can indeed open the package like a book, and you’ll find the board and a USB to USB type C cable inside, as well as some basic specifications.

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You can verify you’ve got the right model on that back of the package which shows the memory and storage, in my case 2 GB + 16 GB.

The board comes with a neat acrylic case with opening for headers and ports. The top of the board features a 40-pin header, the Amlogic S905X processor (no heatsink), two RAM chips, the eMMC flash, the wireless module (AP6255), and most ports with two USB 2.0 ports, a USB type C port, HDMI 2.0a, and Fast Ethernet. There’s also a separate header close to the USB-C port giving access to Vin in case you don’t want to power your board through USB.

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There’s also 2-pin battery connector on the left of the board for the real-time clock (RTC). The bottom side of the board includes two more RAM chips, and the micro SD slot.

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Power, “function” and reset buttons can also be found on the side of the board, and there’s an IR receiver on the right of the 40-pin header.

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Ubuntu 16.04 on Khadas Vim (Pro)

While you can download the firmware on the “Firmware Resources” page, I recommend you check the Announcements & News section on the forums, as they normally include a changelog and some tips to configure your board. An Ubuntu 16.04 + XFCE image was released last month, but the company uploaded a Ubuntu 16.04.2 server image yesterday, so that’s the one I’m going to use today. A new Ubuntu 16.04 + XFCE image with better graphics support will be released sometimes next week.

My plan is to do the update in my Linux computer. The firmware is distributed through Mediafire, so you’ll have to download it through your web browser. I also downloaded  Vim_Uboot_170121.7z on the Firmware Resources pge since it’s needed for the SD card update method. Once we’ve got the firmware and U-boot binaries we can extract them with 7z.

Now insert the micro SD card inside your computer, find the device with lsblk, and check if it has more than one partition. Replace /dev/sdX with your own device.

If it has no partition or more than one, you’ll need to change the partition table using tools like fdisk, or gparted. The instructions provided on Khadas website are basically the same as I wrote in the post “How to Create a Bootable Recovery SD Card for Amlogic TV Boxes“.

Mount the partition, for example by removing and re-inserting the micro SD card into your computer, and copy two files needed for update:

Eject the micro SD card:

Now connect your board with the cables would want to use (e.g. Ethernet, HDMI. etc…), and possibly connect a USB to TTL debug board to access the serial console in case of errors. I also connect a USB hub with my RF dongles for air mouse, and a USB keyboard.

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The board comes pre-loaded with Android 6.0.1 with Linux 3.14, so you can connect the power first to make sure the board is working properly. Note that you’ll need to provide your own USB power supply. I used a 5V power supply, and not a fast charger found in some phone and starting at 12V. Now we can insert the micro SD card we’ve just prepared into the board, and boot into Upgrade Mode by keeping pressing on the power button (closest to the 40-pin header), pressing a short time on the reset button (closest to the USB port), and releasing the power button two or three seconds later. At this point, you should get a firmware upgrade interface on the HDMI display with a green progress bar, and once completed you’ll get a “Successful Android” logo.

This is what it looks like in the serial console during the update:

So I pressed Control-C in the serial console (if you have not set it up just reboot the board), and it failed to boot with the multiple error messages:

I contacted SZWesion about the issue, and they told me the SD card method did not work despite being documented on their website, and I had to use Amlogic USB Burning Tool in Windows instead. So I fired up a Windows 7 virtual machine, and I had no problem (for once) flashing the “update.img” file extract from Vim_Ubuntu-server-16.04_V170211.7z to the board.

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This time it works and the board booted properly. Here’s the complete boot log for reference: