Wandboard Quad Unboxing, Getting Started with Android and Linux (via The Yocto Project)

After my review of the Wandboard Dual in February, I’ve now received Wanboard Quad development board  powered by Freescale i.MX6 Quad Cortex A9 processor, with 2 GB RAM, HDMI output, Gigabit Ethernet, and SATA. The board is available from several distributors including Mouser ($139), DigiKey ($144.38) and FutureElectronics ($125). I’ll start by showing some unboxing pictures of the board, as well as pictures of Wandboard Dual and Quad side-by-side. Then I’ll explain how to install Android and Linux on the board, build the images from source, run some benchmarks, and test different features.

Wandboard Quad Unboxing

Ive received the board via UPS in a large box that contained the package below. This is exactly the same as Wandboard Dual, except for the sticker.

Wandboard_Quad_package
There’s just the board inside the package, and it would just look like Wandboard Dual with all connectors on the top, and the EDM module at the back, were it not for the massive heatsink to keep i.MX 6Quad cool. One other key difference is that the SATA connector is populated, and you can connect an hard drive. Since there’s no paper documentation, you may want to download and read Wandboard Quad user’s manual and schematics PDF for details.

Wandboard Quad (Click to Enlarge)
Wandboard Quad (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve taken a few picture with Wandboard Quad and Wandboard Dual side and side, and as expect both baseboards are virtually the same.

Wandboard Dual vs Wandboard Quad (Click to Enlarge)
Wandboard Quad (Left) vs Wandboard Dual (Right)  (Click to Enlarge)

The older board (Revision A0) has been replaced with Revision B1 that fixes SPDIF wiring, updates MIPI voltage updated, slightly change USB circuitry, and adds an additional resistor pad option for playing with different I2C channels for audio/HDMI. Another difference is that the fuse is now easily replaceable without soldering involved. I assume all new Wandboard Solo/Dual/Quad now ship with Rev B1. Note that if you’ve got an older revision, there’s an hardware fix for SPDIF.

EDM Boards - Wandboard Dual vs Wandboard Quad (Click to Enlarge)
EDM Boards – Wandboard Dual vs Wandboard Quad (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve removed the heatsink, and taken the EDM module out of the baseboard, and there’s very little difference between the dual and quad modules.

EDM Module - Wandboard Dual (Left) vs Wandboard Quad (Right)
EDM Module – Wandboard Dual (Left) vs Wandboard Quad (Right)

On the back of the module, the key differences are the memory chips: Hynix H5TQ4G63MFR (4Gbit) on the quad version, and Hynix H5TQ2G63BFR (2Gbit) on the dual version. On another note, I can often see people ask if they can buy the EDM module separately, and the answer is yes. The distributors I’ve mentioned at the top of the post sell the modules in pack of 10.

I also tried the casing and Wi-Fi antenna I got with my Wandboard Dual board, and assembly is not a problem despite the extra heatsink. The antenna cable will touch the heatsink, but I’ve been told it’s not an issue, as it’s isolated.
Wandboard_Quad_Enclosure

Installing Android 4.2.2 on Wandboard Quad

Let’s prepare a micro SD card with the latest Android 4.2.2 image. For optimal performance, make sure you use a Class 10 SD card (I’m using ADATA 16GB Class 10 micro SD for testing).

The installation is just the same as with Wandboard Dual, just a different image. Download and extract the file:

wget http://www.wandboard.org/images/downloads/android-4.2.2-wand-quad-20130621.zip
unzip android-4.2.2-wand-quad-20130621.zip

There are 4 files in the archive: The image itself, a short changelog, win32diskimager, and “Source_and_Build_Simple_Howtos.txt”, an how-to explaining how to build Android from source, install Google Play, and flash the image to an SD card.

Insert a micro SD card in your Linux PC (8GB or greater), umount the partition, and flash the image:


The second line is optional, but I had to do this, or Ubuntu would just remount the partitions, and the final dd would fail. I just run “sudo dd if=/dev/zero…” for a few seconds and press control+C.

If you need Google Play, there are a few more steps. Remove and re-insert the micro SD card, download and extract gapps-jb-20130301-signed.zip, and copy Google Play to the micro SD:


If you’re using Windows, you can use Win32DiskImager to flash the image, and adb.exe to transfer Google Play framework to the board, but since you’re using a Linux based system, I really recommend you install Linux, either in dual boot configuration with Windows, or as a virtual machine (e.g. Virtual Box).

Create an Android 4.2.2 Image from source for Wandboard Quad

I haven’t tried this myself, but those are the steps mentioned in the How-to:


Now copy google gapps-jb-20130301-signed.zip to ~/wandboard/Build, and start the build:


Lunch will take a while :), and once this is done you are ready to create an SD card with the right partitions:


and copy the binaries:


You’ve now built and installed Android 4.2.2 image for Wandboard Quad from source all by yourself.

Android 4.2.2 in Wandboard Quad and Antutu & Quadrant Benchmarks

Let’s insert the micro SD in the EDM module slot (under the heatsink), connect an HDMI, Ethernet and serial NULL modem cable, some input device (Mele F10 receiver in the picture below), and the power supply. The most natural way may be to put the heatsink on the table, and have easy access to the connectors as shown below.

Wandboard Quad Will Overheat in This Position
Wandboard Quad Will Overheat in This Position

But don’t do that, it will prevent proper heat dissipation, and your board will overheat and hang. Instead make sure the heatsink points to the ceiling as shown below. In this configuration, I’ve measured 52 degrees Celcius at idle time, and 56 degrees Celcius during benchmarks by pointing an IR Thermometer to the heatsink.

Wandboard_Quad_Connection

If you don’t have a DB9 serial port on your PC, you’ll need an RS232 to USB converter to access the serial console. via programs such as Putty or Minicom.  This is what the boot log looks like for Wandboard Quad.

As with Wandboard Dual, Android is really smooth as long as you use a fast SD card, the system appears to be stable, but there’s still more work to make it a fully functional image, as I encountered a few issues:

  • No HDMI audio on my system
  • Bluetooth can be enabled, but it failed to find my smartphone, and the system is not currently compatible with Sixaxis (to connect PS3 controllers)
  • Video hardware decoding does not work (at least for H.264 and MPEG2).

However, Antutu and Quadrant benchmarks show some impressive progress compared to other i.MX6 Quad / Android 4.0 solutions I tested a few months ago.

Wandboard_Quad_Antutu

In this benchmark, Wandboard Quad is equivalent to Google Nexus 7 based on Tegra 3, and interestingly 3D performance is impressive, whereas it was dismal in Hi802/GK802 mini PC when I tested it, so there seems to have been some dramatic software improvements both with Android (4.0 vs 4.2), and Vivante drivers. The table below shows the performance difference between Wandboard Dual/Android 4.1.2, Hi802/Android 4.0.4 and Wandboard Quad/Android 4.2.2.

Antutu 3.x TestsWandboard Dual
Android 4.1.2
Hi802
Android 4.0.4
Wandboard Quad
Android 4.2.2
Total6190851612615
RAM103216191477
CPU Integer129924902514
CPU float-point112018382200
2D Graphics[720×1232] 477[1280×672] 733[720×1232] 929
3D Graphics[720×1232] 1771[1280×672] 1272[720×1232] 4901
Database IO280245315
SD card write9711587
SD card read114204192
CPU frequency(x2)(x4)996 MHz (x4)
Date2013-06-102013-01-182013-07-24

Quadrant benchmark shows Wandboard Quad (3402) to be a bit slower than Transformer Prime mainly due to the processor benchmark. Wandboard Dual got 2305 points.

Wandboard_Quad_Quadrant

Following the good GPU results, I tried a 3D game that may be challenging to render smoothly: Real Racing 3. The game  is actually very smooth, and at first it looks much better than the RK3188 platforms I’ve tried, but closer inspection shows the game has decided to use a lower quality level… Nevertheless, 3D performance appears to be now much better than when i.MX6 Quad was first release with Android 4.0.4.

Building Linux with the Yocto Project on Wandboard Quad

There are now more and more Linux distributions for Wandboard (Quad): Ubuntu 11.10, Ubuntu 12.04, images built with the Yocto Project or buildroot, Timesys Linux (Wandboard Quad support is work in progress), and recently an XBMC Linux image has popped up. Wandboard boards are also part of mainline U-boot, and will be supported, at least partially, in Linux 3.12.

Since I have already shown how to install Ubuntu 11.10, and build the kernel from the SDK for Wandboard Dual, and using Ubuntu 11.10 or 12.04 on Wandboard Quad is basically the same with a different image, I’ll try something different today with the Yocto Project which allows you to build images fully customized for your project. I’ll mainly follow the instructions on elinux.org.

First let’s get the repo tool:


Add it to the path, and retrieve the source code from Freescale Yocto BSP on github.


Note that we use the development branch (master), because Wandboard Quad was not available for Yocto 1.4 (dylan) release.

Now set the machine to Wandboard Quad, setup the environment, and start the build for a minimal image:


Since all of the sources are downloaded from the Internet and built from scratch (including things like the toolchain), it may take a while depending on your Internet connection, and the performance of your build machine. The full process took three hours on my machine (AMD FX8350 with 16GB RAM). Subsequent builds are much faster.

Once the build is complete you can find the image in ./tmp/deploy/images/core-image-minimal-wandboard-quad.sdcard (28 MB). Just flash it to a micro SD card (32 MB or greater) to try it out:


Replace /dev/sdX by your actual micro SD card device name, e.g. /dev/sdc. I have a USB hard drive attached to my build machine, so I always run lsblk, before running dd in order to double check the device, and avoid losing my precious data, and hating myself for the rest of my life… Once this is done, you probably want to resize the rootfs partition to make full use of your SD card storage capacity with tools such as gparted.

Finally insert the micro SD card into your Wandboard Quad, boot it up, and access the terminal via an HDMI monitor, or a serial console:

Wandboard_Quad_Yocto_Minimal

Here’s the boot log for the minimal image built with Yocto:

If you want an image with a desktop environment, you can run bitbake core-image-sato instead (See SATO UI screenshot). In theory, It’s also possible to build a custom image with XFCE by adding sources/meta-openembedded/meta-xfce to the list of layers, as well as packagegroup-xfce-base, packagegroup-xfce-extended and packagegroup-xfce-multimedia to the list of package groups, either via the command line, or hob, Yocto’s graphical user interface, but for some reasons the build failed when I tried to build an XFCE image via hob for the Wandboard Dual a few weeks ago. I believe the pre-built Yocto image for Wandboard Quad does indeed include XFCE (TBC).

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