Allwinner and Qualcomm announced a partnership last year to help Chinese manufacturers design entry-level LTE tablets based on Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, and Allwinner collaborated with Emdoor one several designs including EM-QL8170 LTE tablet with a Snapdragon 210 processor and a 6.98″ display.
Emdoor EM-QL8170 specifications:
SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 (MSM8909) quad core Cortex A7 processor up to 1.3 GHz with Adreno 304 GPU @ 400 MHz
System Memory – 1 or 2 GB DDR3L
Storage – 8 or 16 GB flash + micro SD slot
Display – 6.98″ IPS touchscreen display with 1280×720 resolution
Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, and GPS
The phone runs Android 5.1 and will cost a little over $70 (FOB), which could translate to $120 to $140 on sites like Aliexpress. Emdoor also has various other Qualcomm/Allwinner design all with Snapdragon processor, including a rugged smartphone as you’ll find out in Charbax’ video below.
Emdoor sells about 9 millions tablets (full designs and PCB) per year, mostly through partners, as they work with over 100 companies around the world, and around 50 local partners in mainland China to sell their devices, so you may end up buying an Emdoor tablet under another brand name. You’ll find a few more details on Emdoor EM-QL8170 product page.
Most SoCs have a very limited amount of internal SDRAM just enough to load the bootROM code, but a few integrated a few MB of RAM on-chip such as Renesas RZ/A1H with 10MB on-chip DRAM, in order to reduce costs for some applications that may not require external RAM. Allwinner V3s, designed for dual camera solutions, appeared to be such an SoC with 64MB (512Mbit) on-chip DDR2 RAM, but the block diagram seems to imply it is a System-in-Package (SiP) instead. Nevertheless you still get a single chip with an ARM Cortex A7 processor, two ISPs, a video engine, 64MB RAM, and more.
The makers of Lichee Pi One board have also designed an Allwinner V3s board named Lichee Pi Zero to sell for $6 in China, but I don’t have the full details, and only know some members of linux-sunxi have started to work on it. That still means there may be decent Linux support for the processor in a few months time.
The Khronos Group is the non-profit consortium group behind open standards and APIs for graphics, media and parallel computation such as OpenGL for 3D graphics, OpenCL for GPGPU, OpenVG for 2D vector graphics, etc… OpenVX is one of their most recent open, royalty-free standard, and targets power optimized acceleration of computer vision applications such as face, body and gesture tracking, smart video surveillance, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), object and scene reconstruction, augmented reality, visual inspection, robotics and more. The first revision of the standard was released in 2014, and the latest OpenVX 1.1 revision was just released in May 2016.
We’ve already seen OpenVX 1.1 support in Nvidia Jetson TX1 module & board, but Khronos has a conformance program to test implementations, and if successful, allow companies to use the logo and name of the API. The version first GPU to pass OpenVX 1.1 conformance is Imagination Technologies PowerVR G6230 using an Allwinner A80 hardware platform and Imagination’s OpenVX DDK. OpenVX 1.1 is said to “expands node functionality and enhances graph framework” compared to OpenVX 1.0.
OpenVX Framework Efficiency
Imagination Technologies also has a blog post with further details including a comparison between OpenCV open source software and OpenVX.
Orange Pi Zero is an interesting little ARM Linux board thanks to its low price, but also because it features a new Allwinner H2 / H2+ quad core Cortex A7 processor very similar to Allwinner H3 minus the 4K video decoding part, as well as Allwinner XR819 WiFi module, which I have not seen on any other boards so far.
But hardware without software is pretty much useless, so developers will be happy to find out that Allwinner H2 SDK with Linux (lichee) and Android has been released or leaked, and it also includes the Allwinner XR819 WiFi driver.
You’ll find the SDK on Zoobab server with three main directory / files:
Android folder – Android 4.4.2 SDK
lichee folder – Linux 3.4.39 source code. However you’d probably better use Linux 3.4.113 currently released by sunxi-linux, or Linux mainline. The latter does have some limitations, and may or may not be suitable for your project.
H2-V1.2.tar.bz2 – The tar file with both Android and lichee folder in case you want to download the full SDK on your computer
Orange Pi Zero development board powered by Allwinner H2+ quad core Cortex A7 processor with 256 to 512MB RAM, Ethernet, and USB ports is now available for sale on Aliexpress for just $6.99, which shipping adding $3.39 in my case bringing the total to $10.38.
USB – 1x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
Expansion headers – Unpopulated 26-pin “Raspberry Pi B+” header + 13-pin header with headphone, 2x USB 2.0, TV out, microphone and IR receiver signals
Debugging – Unpopulated 3-pin header for serial console
Misc – 2x LEDs
Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port or optional PoE
Dimensions – 52 x 46 mm
Weight – 26 grams
Based on the hardware features and likely good availability it’s a serious contender to Raspberry Pi Zero (and Nano Pi NEO) for headless applications, and provided Allwinner H2+ is close enough to Allwinner H3 software support should be fairly good, as I expect armbian support very soon. Allwinner XR819 is a completely new WiFi module, at least to me, so there may be driver issues, but if it is working in the firmware image provided by Orange Pi (none so far), it should be possible to add this to other Linux images too. [Update: Orange Pi Zero schematics are now available]
The Aliexpress page explains the default version has 256MB RAM, but it’s not really clear whether / how we can buy the 512MB version. [Update: The 512MB version now available on Aliexpress for $8.99 + shipping]
Allwinner has mixed relationships with open source communities such as Kodi, especially due to issues with its closed-source CedarX VPU drivers, and some GPL violations. However to address the former, linux-sunxi community has been working on open source Cedrus library for the video processor unit on Allwinner processors, that’s been successfully tested on boards such as Orange Pi One. Free Electrons has gone further, as they’ve made sure Cedrus now works with Linux mainline kernel, currently Linux 4.8, and tested it on Allwinner R8 based Pocket CHIP.
The work has been done by Florent Revest, a 19 years old intern at the company, who delivered a new sunxi-cedrus driver, a Video4Linux (V4L2) memory-to-memory decoder kernel driver, and corresponding VA-API backend, with the implementations currently available on Github here and there respectively. Currently only MPEG2 and MPEG4 are working, but adding other codecs such as H.264, and video encoding is possible using the current framework.
The short demo below shown VideoLAN playing an MPEG2 video using Cedrus on Linux 4.8 on PocketCHIP.
A patchset has already been sent to the Linux Kernel mailing list, so support should become available in one of the upcoming Linux releases, and they’ve also updated linux-sunxi Cedrus Wiki to explain how to reproduce this setup on other Allwinner A13 boards.
One of the most common complaints I get from readers when I publish news about new ARM processor is “Why didn’t they include SATA?”. So far Allwinner A20 is the only really low cost ARM processor that includes a SATA port, but it’s been released a few years, and its dual core Cortex A7 processor is getting old. We’ve been hearing rumors about an upgraded version for one or two years with Allwinner A40 or more recently Allwinner A20E, and finally the company has now published details about Allwinner R40 processor on their revamped website, which they claim to be the successor of Allwinner A20.
Allwinner R40 Block Diagram
Allwinner R40 key specifications:
CPU – Quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 Processor
GPU – Mali-400 MP2 GPU
Memory I/F – 32-bit DDR3/DDR3L/LPDDR2/LPDDR3
Storage I/F – 8-bit NAND flash, SD3.0, eMMC 5.0, and 1x SATA
Compared to Allwinner A20, the company explains that R40 is an “Allwinner A20 upgrade edition” with four cores instead of two, 40nm process instead of 55nm, lower power consumption, and a smaller package. They also mention the processor will be supported by their lightweight open source Tina operating system based on Linux.
One of the first devices to use the new processor, beside the unnamed CPU module shown above (Update: that’s a photoshopped C.H.I.P board), will be Banana Pi M2 Ultra development board, which will come with 2GB RAM, 8GB flash, and expose the SATA interface.
Last year, we found that Allwinner was preparing to launch Allwinner H64 and H5 quad and octa processors in their roadmap, but there have been some changes, and the compny seems to have dropped H64 name, and has now introduced Allwinner H5 quad core Cortex A53 processor designed for 4K TV boxes.
Allwinner H5 Block Diagram – Click to Enlarge
Allwinner H5 main specifications:
CPU – quad core Cortex A53 with NEON, FPU, 64KB I/D cache per core, and 512KB L2 cache
3G GPU – ARM Mali-450MP GPU with 4 pixel processor cores, and 2 geometry cores with support for OpenGL ES 2.0/1.1/1.1, OpenVG 1.1 and EGL
2D GPU (Graphics and Display Processor) – Dual display; Main display: 4 video layers, 12 graphics layers, 4 alpha blending channels; Auxiliary display: 4 video layers, 4 graphics layers, and 2 alpha blending channels
Memory I/F – DDR3/3L SDRAM interface up to 32-bit data width
Storage I/F – SPI NOR flash, SPI NAND flash, NAND flash (SLC/MLC with 64-bit ECC), and eMMC 5.0 flash interfaces
Video Decoding – Up to 4K decoding of H.265/HEVC Main10, H.264/AVC, VP6/VP8/VP9, MPEG1/2/4, AVS-P16, VC1
Image Decoding – YUV400/YUV420/YUV422/YUV444; Picture scale and rotate
Video & Image Encoding – 1080p60 or 2x 1080p30, or 4x 72030 video encoding with AVC or JPEG
Boot program download over serial port or USB port
Low power CPU – For standby power as low as 30 mW power consumption
Allwinner is actually pushing the limit of “generally accepted marketing principles” by calling Allwinner H5 a “Deca-core 4K OTT Box Total Solution” by adding 4 CPU cores to 6 GPU cores… They also done a “good job” at hiding whether HDMI 2.0 is supported, as the HDMI version is not mentioned, nor the maximum framerate for video codec @ 4K2K. [Update:Allwinner H-Series comparison table shows H.265 @ 4K30Hz, so it’s most likely limited to HDMI 1.4]
The processor will apparently run Android 5.1, and while features look similar to Allwinner A64, the GPU is quite faster, I’ve been told video processing is better by Allwinner marketing team, and I can also see some interfaces (TS input and smartcard) that would make it suitable for Android Digital TV receivers with DVB, ISDB-C and ATSC tuners.