Build Your Own Freescale i.MX6 Quad Laptop

Andrew Huang (“Bunnie”) and others have been working on an open source laptop based on Freescale i.MX6 Quad processor since June, and they’ve recently got the motherboard. Beside featuring a powerful quad core ARM processor, the design files are also provided, so if you have the right skills and resources you can build it yourself.

Meet Novena, the Open Source Laptop Mainboard. (Click to Enlarge)

The open source laptop mainboard (Codename: Novena) has the following specifications:

  • SoC – Freescale iMX6 Quad @ 1.2GHz with Vivante GC2000 GPU
  • System Memory – 64-bit DDR3-1066 SO-DIMM, upgradable to 4GB
  • Storage – microSD boot flash, SATA-II connector for hard drive / SSD, SD card reader and serial EEPROM (for storing crash logs and other bits of handy data).
  • FPGA – Spartan-6 CSG324. It has several interfaces to the CPU, including a 2Gbit/s RAM-like bus.
  • Internal ports & sensors:
    • mini PCI-express slot
    • UIM slot for mPCIx mobile data cards
    • Dual-channel LVDS LCD connector (up to QXGA (2048×1536) @ 60Hz resolution) with USB2.0 side-channel for a display-side camera
    • Resistive touchscreen controller (note: captouch displays typically come with a controller)
    • 1.1W, 8-ohm internal speaker connectors
    • 2x USB2.0 internal connectors for keyboard and mouse/trackpad
    • Digital microphone
    • 3-axis accelerometer
    • header for optional AW-NU137 wifi module
    • 8x FPGA-driven 12-bit, 200ksps analog inputs
    • 8x FPGA-driven digital I/O
    • 8x FPGA-driven PWM headers, compatible with hobby ESC and PWM pinouts — enables direct interfacing with various RC motor/servo configurations & quad-copter controllers
    • Raspberry-Pi compatible expansion header
    • 13x CPU-driven supplemental digital I/Os
    • 3x internal UART ports
  • External ports:
    • HDMI
    • SD card reader
    • Headphone + mic port
    • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports, supporting high-current (1.5A) device charging + USB OTG
    • Ethernet – 1 Gbit Ethernet + 100 Mbit ethernet

There’s also a daughterboard for battery interfacing function that will work with LiPo packs ranging from 2S1P to 4S1P.

Novena Daughterboard (Click to Enlarge)

A 3-cell, 45Wh (4Ah) pack should charge in about one hour, and as a “reasonable” system configuration could consume around 5-6W, so the laptop could run 7-8 hours with a 1-hour charge with that that type of battery pack. You can also connect an analog needle meter to show the power consumption the old fashion way.

Linux can now boot on the board, but this is just the start of the project, and there are still a few more months of work to get it done. The board features need to be validated, drivers and a Linux distribution need to be ported to the platform, and the enclosure needs to be designed.

Hardware and software will be fully open source, excluding the binary blob for the Vivante GPU and the firmware for the optional AW-NU137 wifi module, and the components have been selected so that the datasheets can be downloaded without NDA. The mainboard and daughterboard hardware files (schematics, PCB layout and gerber files) are available on Novena Wiki. The software for i.MX6 has already been made available by Freescale, but this needs to be tailored to Novena board.

You may not even have to build it yourself however, as if there are a lot of requests (>100), they may start a Kickstarter campaign for this laptop. Bear in mind that is unlikely to be cheap, since selecting low priced components is not part of the goal of the project.

You can follow the project progress on BunnieStudios blog.

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Peter Steenbergen
11 years ago

Very cool. I am looking for a proper ARM board with good dual NIC for a couple of months now. (Kick ass router) This might be it.

1GBit for the LAN side, 100 MBit for the WAN side (just enough for my fibre connection)

11 years ago

your adds cover the comments section for me, also whats the point of this project

11 years ago

Looking forward to get this ready. Count me as buyer.

10 years ago

Slightly OT, I noticed there are i.MX6 tablets, eg Ampe A10:
I’ve personally vowed NEVER to buy another Ampe/Sanei product due to the utterly sh** wifi performance and unreliablity of the one I bought. But I thought some developers might want to have a go at Linux on a tablet (eg Pengpod without the hype).

There’s also couple of Hyundai Exynos 4412 tablets – but the 10″ one which would make sense for a desktop Linux distro – is a bit expensive:

Khadas VIM4 SBC