Posts Tagged ‘big little’

96Boards Compliant Mediatek X20 Development Board is Now up for Sale for $199

August 31st, 2016 7 comments

Mediatek Labs and Linaro introduced X20 development board based on 96Boards CE specs, and featuring Mediatek Helio X20 deca-core Cortex A72/A53 processor a couple of months ago. At the time, if you wanted to purchase the board, you’d have to fill a form explaining the details about your project, and the company, Alpha Star, would then decided whether would sell it to you. The good news here is that you don’t need to do any of that anymore, and you can buy the board directly on Seeed Studio for $199, or on Taobao for 1399 RMB.

Mediatek_X20_Development_BoardMediatek X20 development board specifications have not changed much since the first announcement, but the CPU and GPU frequencies have been lowered somewhat, and we have some more details:

  • SoC – Mediatek Helio X20 (MT6797) deca-core processor with two ARM Cortex A72 cores @ 2.1~2.3 GHz, four Cortex A53 @ 1.85 GHz, four Cortex A53 @ 1.4 GHz, and  ARM Mali-T880 GPU @ 700 MHz
  • System Memory – 2GB LPDDR3 @ 933 MHz
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC 5.1 flash + micro SD 3.0 (UHS-I) slot
  • Video Output – HDMI up to 1080p @ 30 fps
  • Video Support – 32MP @ 24fps / 25MP @ 30 fps; WQXGA 2560×1600 60fps; FHD 1920×1080 120fps; 4Kx2K 30fps H.265 w/HDR
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 (MT6631), GPS with antenna connector
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB port (device only).
  • Expansion:
    • 1x 40 pin low speed expansion connector – UART, SPI, 2x I2C, 12x GPIO, DC power
    • 1x 60 pin high speed expansion connector – 4L-MIPI DSI, USB, 2x I2C, 2L+4LMIPI CSI
    • Optional 16-pin analog expansion connector – Stereo headset/line out, speaker, analog line-in, and more
  • Misc – Power, reset and volume buttons. 6 LEDS (4x user, 1x Wifi, 1x Bluetooth)
  • Power Supply – 8 to 18V DC input
  • Dimensions – 85 x 54 mm
  • Weight – 77 grams


The board only runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow at this stage. You can find more hardware and software technical details on the Wiki, and download page. It might also be worth monitoring 96Boards X20 page for documentation.

Giveaway Week – A80 Optimusboard Development Board

November 5th, 2015 243 comments

Together with Rockchip RK3288, Allwinner A80 is one of the most powerful Chinese ARM processors for mini PCs or development board, and today I’m starting a giveaway for A80 OptimusBoard development board based on Allwinner octa core big.LITTLE processor.

Top of A80 OptimusBoard (Click to Enlarge)

Top of A80 OptimusBoard (Click to Enlarge)

When I got the board last year, it was indeed powerful as shown in benchmarks. But unfortunately after Allwinner provided me with a new firmware supposed to fix some NTFS write performance issues, I quickly discovered it also had some stability issues whose reasons were not clear, and Merrii Technology support is not very good to say the least, at least for hobbyists, and even now there’s no operating system for download on the board page. Luckily PcDuino Arches (previously known as PCDuino8) is basically the same, and you can download some Lubuntu & Android images on Linksprite website instead. The firmware has not been updated since 2014 however.

A80 OptimusBoard with Power Supply and Debug Cable (Click to Enlarge)

A80 OptimusBoard with Power Supply and Debug Cable (Click to Enlarge)

To enter the draw simply leave a comment below.

Other rules are as follows:

  • Only one entry per contest. I will filter out entries with the same IP and/or email address.
  • Contests are open for 48 hours starting at 10am (Bangkok time) every day. Comments will be closed after 48 hours.
  • Winners will be selected with, and announced in the comments section of each giveaway.
  • I’ll contact the winner by email, and I’ll expect an answer within 24 hours, or I’ll pick another winner.
  • Shipping
    • Free EMS for winners with a shipping address in Thailand
    • $15 for registered airmail small packet for the rest of the world payable via Paypal within 48 hours once the contest (for a given product) is complete.
    • If Paypal is not available in your country, you can still play, and I’ll cover the cost of sending the parcel by Sea and Land (SAL) if you win.
  • I’ll post all 7 prizes at the same time, around the 11th of November
  • I’ll make sure we have 7 different winners, so if you have already won a device during this giveaway week, I’ll draw another person.

Good luck!

A80 OptimusBoard development board is still available for purchase for $140 on up on eBay, Aliexpress, and GeekBuying.

Mediatek Helio X20 Processor to Features 10 Cores in Three Clusters

April 21st, 2015 2 comments

ARM first announced big.LITTLE processing on 2011, and since then we’ve seem several mobile processors providing two CPU clusters with “big” cores such as Cortex A15 or A57 and “LITTLE” core such as Cortex A7 and A53 to optimize performance and power consumption. With its latest Helio X20 (MT6797), Mediatek brings TINY.medium.huge processing with the first mobile processor using three CPU clusters, although a 3-level architecture has also been used before in Dhanush wearables SoC.


Image source: Weibo

The three clusters are divided as follows:

  • TINY – Four ARM Cortex A53 core @ up to 1.4 GHz for best power efficiency
  • medium – Four ARM Cortex A53 cores @ up to 2.0 GHz for a good performance / power balance
  • huge – Two ARM Cortex A72 cores @ up to 2.5 GHz for maximum performance

All three clusters are linked together and the memory bus via Mediatek Coherence System Interconnect (MCSI). Mediatek claims their tri-cluster processor consumes less than big.LITTLE processing across all performance demand conditions, and compared their solutions to 2-gear and 3-gear cars with the latter leading to better fuel efficiency.

Helio_X20_Antutu_5.6.1We’ve seen previously that ARM Cortex A72 cores should be up to twice as fast Cortex A15 cores at the same frequency, so it’s not a surprise to find out the Antutu 5.6 score for Helio X20 is a massive 70,000 points, and provides a 40% jump in performance compared to Helio X10 (MT6795). The SoC will also include a Cat 6 LTE modem, but other details about X20 such as the GPU are still unknown at this stage. Mass production of the chip is said to be scheduled for July 2015, so I guess we’ll find out more soon.


Mediatek MT8173 is a big.LITTLE Cortex A72 / A53 Quad Core Processor for Tablets

March 2nd, 2015 1 comment

Mediatek MT8173 first showed up in the Linux kernel as a quad core Cortex A57 / A53 processor, but now that Mediatek has officially announced the processor, it turns out the Cortex A57 cores are actually the new Cortex A72 cores, with a similar architecture, but more powerful, about 1.8 times faster.

Mediatek_MT8173Key features listed by the company:

  • Processor – Heterogeneous 64-bit Multi-Core big.LITTLE architecture up to 2.4GHz featuring ARM Cortex-A72 and ARM Cortex-A53 64-bit CPU. Big cores and LITTLE cores can run at full speed at the same time for peak performance requirement
  • GPU – Imagination PowerVR GX6250 GPU with support for OpenGL ES 3.1, OpenCL. Performance:  350Mtri/s and 2.8 Gpix/s.
  • Display Support
    • WQXGA display (2560×1600) up to 60 Hz with TV-grade picture quality enhancement. Up to 120 Hz mobile display for other resolutions.
    • HDMI and Miracast support for multi-screen applications
  • Video – Ultra HD 30fps H.264/HEVC(10-bit)/VP9 hardware video playback
  • Camera – 20MP camera ISP with video face beautify and LOMO effects
  • Security hardware accelerator – Supports Widevine Level 1, Miracast with HDCP;  HDCP 2.2 for premium video to 4k TV display

Tablets based on MT8173 processor should hit the shelves in H2 2015. MT8173 is being showcased at Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona, Spain at MediaTek’s booth – Hall 6, Stand 6E21.

ARM Unveils Cortex A72 Processor and Mali-T880 GPU

February 4th, 2015 5 comments

ARM has just announced their new Cortex A72 ARMv8 core with 3.5 times the performance of Cortex A15 ARMv7 cores, together with Mali-T880 GPU delivering 1.8 times the performance of  Mali-T760, and CoreLink CCI-500 Cache Coherent Interconnect to link the new CPU, GPU and I/Os together.

ARM Cortex A72

Cortex-A72Some of the key features of the new core include:

  • Architecture – ARMv8-A
  • Multicore – 1-4x SMP within a single processor cluster, and multiple coherent SMP processor clusters through AMBA 5 CHI or AMBA 4 ACE technology
  • ISA Support
    • AArch32 for full backward compatibility with ARMv7
    • AArch64 for 64-bit support and new architectural features
    • TrustZone security technology
    • NEON Advanced SIMD
    • DSP & SIMD extensions
    • VFPv4 Floating point
    • Hardware virtualization support
  • Cache – 48KB I-cache, 32KB D-cache, and 512 KB to 2MB L2 cache with ECC
  • Debug & Trace – CoreSight DK-A57
  • Process – 16nm FinFET

A cluster can support up to 4 Cortex A72 cores clocked up to 2.5 GHz in mobile devices and higher frequencies for larger form factor devices such as servers. Cortex A72 cores may also be combined with low power Cortex A53 cores in big.LITTLE configuration for power efficient SoCs.


Relative Performance – Cortex A15 vs Cortex A57 vs Cortex A72

ARM also claims 75% power usage reduction in typical mobile workloads thanks to the new 16nm FinFET manufacturing processor. Expected applications include premium smartphones, larger screen mobile devices, enterprise networking, servers, wireless infrastructure, digital TV, and automotive ADAS/IVAI.

ARM Mali-T880 GPU

Mali-T880_GPUTechnical specifications for Mali-T880 GPU:

  • Anti-Aliasing – 4x MSAA, 8x MSAA, 16x MSAA
  • API Support
    • OpenGL ES 1.1, 1.2, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1
    • OpenCL 1.1, 1.2
    • DirectX 11 FL11_2
    • RenderScript
  • Bus Interface – AMBA4, ACE-LITE
  • L2 Cache – 256 to 2048KB (256 to 512KB for every 4 shader cores
  • Memory System – Virtual Memory with built-in Memory Management Unit (MMU)
  • Multi-Core Scaling – 1 to 16 cores
  • Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression (ATSC) – Low dynamic range (LDR) and high dynamic range (HDR) for 2D and 3D images
  • ARM Frame Buffer Compression (AFBC) – 4×4 pixel block size (lossless image compression format)
  • Transaction Elimination – 16×16 pixel block size (Only performs a partial update to the frame buffer with the changed pixel blocks)
  • Smart Composition – 16×16 pixel block size (Identical pixel blocks of input surfaces are not read, not processed for composition and not written to final frame buffer)

The GPU is also manufactured with 16nm FinFET process. Mali-T880MP16 can be clocked up to 850 MHz, and outputs up to 1700 million triangles per second, and 13.6 gigapixels per second. That’s 1.8 times better performance than Mali-T760, and ARM also claims 40% more energy efficiency.

ARM Cortex A75 processor, Mali-T880 GPU, CoreLink-C500 cache coherent interconnect, Mali-DP550 display processor unit, and  Mali-V550 video processor can be combined to create SoCs support 4K video output, and decoding up to 120 fps.

Ten partners have already become licensees including Rockchip, Mediatek, and HiSilicon, and products are expected in (early) 2016. Further details may be found on ARM’s Cortex A72 and Mali-T880 product pages.

H88 HummingBird Development Board Powered by Allwinner A80 Comes with 4GB RAM, Built-in GPS, 4G LTE Support

February 2nd, 2015 12 comments

Merrii Technology is having some fun churning out Allwinner A80 development boards, and after A80 OptimusBoard, H8 Hummingbird, here comes H88 HummingBird. The new board is somewhat similar to H8, but is quite larger, and features 4GB RAM, built-in GPS, and a few other goodies.

H88_HummingBirdH88 HummingBird specifications:

  • SoC – AllWinner A80 octa-core processor with 4x Cortex 15, 4x Cortex A7 cores in big.LITTLE configuration with Imagination Technologies PowerVR GC6230 GPU compliant with OpenGL ES 3.0/2.0/11, OpenCL 1.1, and DirectX 9.3
  • System Memory – 4GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB internal storage (Hynix H27UCG8T2BTRBC), micro SD slot up to 32 GB
  • Video Output/ Display Interfaces
    • HDMI 1.4 up to 4K UHD resolution
    • RGB/LVDS interface
    • EDP LCD + TP interface
    • MIPI LCD interface
    • VGA output
  • Audio – HDMI, headphone jack,LINE-IN,
  • Camera I/F – Parallel and MIPI CSI interface. Integrated 16MP camera
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek RTL8211D/E), dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n & Bluetooth 4.0, GPS with external antenna
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 OTG, 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Debugging – UART, JTAG
  • Expansion
    • mini PCIe slot for 4G module
    • Header with access to GPIOs, ADC, HSIC, UART, SPI, I2C and Power Signals
  • Misc – IR receiver, reset and power LEDs, power switch, Reset, power and u-boot buttons, 6x ADC keys, RTC with battery
  • Power Supply – 12V via power barrel, battery, or 4V via USB OTG port; PMIC: AXP806 + AXP809 PMIC
  • Dimensions – 188 x 155 x 35 mm

H88_HummingBoard_3D_ViewThe company provides support for Android 4.4.2 and Linux 3.4 for the board, including source code. However, based on past experience, support is not that good, especially for non-Chinese speakers. You can find some more details including headers’ pinout on Merrii H88 Hummingbird page. There’s no price information, but it looks like the board might be used in A80 Pro development kit that sells for $1,300 on Aliexpress….

Thanks to mininodes for the tip.

Fujitsu MB86S70 and MB86S73 ARM Cortex A15 & A7 Processors Run Linux for the Embedded Market

November 28th, 2014 1 comment

I like to check the ARM Linux kernel mailing list from time to time, as you may discover a few upcoming ARM processors. This week I found out Exynos 5433 and Exynos 7 are actually two different processors (thanks David!), and that AMD had submitted code for their 64-bit ARM Opteron A1100 SoC for servers. I also noticed a patchset for Fujitsu MB86S7X SoCs, and since I don’t often mention Japanese silicon vendors, probably because they now mainly deal mostly with the embedded market that gets very little press, and most information is in Japanese, I decide to have a look.

Fujitsu MB86S70 Block Diagram

Fujitsu MB86S70 Block Diagram

There seems to be four SoC parts in MB86S7x family with MB86S70 quad core processor with two ARM Cortex A15 and two ARM Cortex A7 cores in big.LITTLE configuration, and MB86S73 with two ARM Cortex A7 cores only, as well as MB86S71/72 with 2x A15 and 2x A7, with all featuring a single or quad core Mali-T624 GPU.

Fujitsu provided a comparison tables for both MB86S70 and MB86S73 processors in English, but there’s very little info about MB86S71/72 SoCs.

Block Function MB86S70 MB86S73
CPU Cortex-A15
2 cores Up to 2.4GHz 1MB-L2C
CPU Cortex-A7
2 cores up to 800MHz 256k-L2C
2 cores up to 1.2GHz 512k-L2C
3D/GPGPU Mali-T624
4 cores @ 400MHz 128k-L2C
1 core @400MHz 32k-L2C
MEMC 2-ch DDR3-1.333Gbps 32bit 1-ch DDR3-1.333Gbps 64bit
SCB CPU ARM Cortex M3 @ 125MHz ARM Cortex M3 @ 125MHz
LAN GbE, WoL, TCP Acceleration GbE, WoL, TCP Acceleration
SecureBoot (SROM/NOR)
SecureBoot (SROM/NOR)
SERIAL-IF 3x UART, 16x GPIO, 10x I2C 3x UART, 16 GPIO, 3x I2C
MPB CODEC 1080p Multi Encode, 4 stream H.264 Decode
32k × 32k JPEG CODEC
32k × 32k JPEG CODEC
Display HDMI-1.4a HDCP
MIPI-DSI 1Gbps-4Lane
LVDS (CLK 1ch / data 4ch)
CAPTURE 1-ch RBG/YUV 720p capture only
TSIF 2 serial TS Demux
AUDIO 2-ch I2S (I/O Independent) + 4ch
2-ch I2S (I/O Independent)
HSIOB PCIe 2-ch PCIe-Gen2-4Lane + Data Scrambler 2-ch PCIe-Gen2-4Lane + Data Scrambler
USB USB3 Host 2ch USB3 Host
USB USB2 HDC 1ch USB2 Host, 1ch USB2 Device

MB86S70 is the more powerful of the two, not only when it comes with CPU power, but also with regards to multimedia capabilities with 1080p encode, and 4-k encode, TS demux, and RGB/YUV 720p video capture, whereas MB86S73 does not seem to support hardware video decoding / encoding at all, providing only JPEG acceleration, and an LVDS interface, so it’s mostly probably desinted to be used in control panels for example. Both processors however feature high-speed interfaces like USB 3.0 host, Ggiabit Ethernet, and PCI-E interface, the latter being not so common in ARM SoCs, and only found in a few products like Freescale i.MX6 and Tegra K1 SoCs.

Fujitsu MB86S73 Block Diagram

Fujitsu MB86S73 Block Diagram

The company also provides evaluation boards for their two processors, together with a software development platform based on Linux with support for OpenGL, OpenCL, and OpenMAX for graphics and video decoding, and they’ve also started getting some code to mainline kernel.

MB86S70 (Left) and MB86S73 (Right) Evaluation Kits (Click to Enlarge)

MB86S70 (Left) and MB86S73 (Right) Evaluation Kits (Click to Enlarge)

More information is available in Japanese only on Fujitsu’s Platform SoC page, and a presentation (PDF) made at Java Day Tokyo 2014.

AllWinner A80 Octa Core big.LITTLE Processor CPU Usage Under Various Loads in Android 4.4 (Video)

November 23rd, 2014 4 comments

Allwinner A80 is one of the few octa core processors featuring ARM’s big.LITTLE technology currently available on the market. The processor comes with four ARM Cortex A15 (big) cores, and four ARM Cortex A7 (LITTLE) core, and tasks will be scheduled to different processor depending on the load to optimize power consumption on mobile devices. However, earlier big.LITTLE processors like Samsung Exynos 5410 has some serious limitations, as they only supported “cluster migration” meaning you could only use the Cortex A7 cluster or Cortex A15 cluster at any given time, so Exynos 5410 could only make use of four cores at most due to hardware limitations. They also used to be two software implementations: In-kernel Switching (IKS) and Global Task Scheduling (GTS). The former could only handle one type of core at the same, and the latter, which I believe is now used in all new devices, can handle any combination of cores, so an octa core big.LITTLE SoC can indeed make use of all its eight cores.

To make sure it was the case with Allwinner A80 SoC, I did a little test using PVRMonitor app on Tronsmart Draco AW80 mini PC. I did this test to check all eight cores can be used, and to see which cores and how many cores are used for various loads such as multi-tab web browsing and gaming. The scheduler was set to Performance with No-frills CPU Control app.

I’ve run Antutu, the Android stock Browser with multiple tabs open, and Beach Buggy Blitz 3D racing games in the video above. The takeaway for this short test is that Allwinner A80 can run its eight cores simultaneously, but in typical use, it’s rare to see more than four cores used simultaneously. I forgot to include video playback in the video, so I tried to play 4K videos and H.265 videos with Kodi 14, and normally (hardware video decoding) only two Cortex A15 are used (around 30% per core),  and when software video decoding is needed (H.265), at most four cores are used, so it looks like Kodi has not been optimized yet to make full use of octa systems, at least on Allwinner A80.

So in Android mini PCs, there’s usually very little gain from an octa core processor instead of a quad core processor, unless you run apps that can make use of all cores such as video transcoding apps, or you want it convert it into a Linux mini PC to compile software or run a server.