XMOS xCORE-XA Octa-core ARM Cortex-M3 SoC and $14.99 StartKIT Board

XMOS is a fabless semiconductor company that specialized in multicore MCUs that delivers scalable, parallel multitasking compute, which are used in embedded applications for consumer, industrial and automotive markets. They’ve recently announced xCORE-XA (eXtended Architecture), their first MCU based on ARM technology with one ARM Cortex M3 core, and seven xCORE core, as well as a low cost development board called XMOS StartKIT featuring xCORE-A (Analog) with eight cores.


XMOS_xCore-XAxCore-XA is actually an octa-core MCU with the following key features:

  • Eight 32bit processors – seven xCORE logical cores supporting DSP instructions, and an ARM Cortex-M3 processor (up to 500 MIPS in total)
  • On-chip Memory – 192KB SRAM, and 512 or 1024KB SPI Flash depending on model.
  • 38 I/O including I2C, SPI, ADC, DAC, op-amps, capacitive sensing comparators, and optional USB 2.0 interface.
  • Hardware response ports – Eliminate the need for interrupts and provide up to 100x faster I/O response.
  • Power Consumption – Less than 1uA of current to run the integrated real-time clock and 32kHz peripherals, and in power-down mode, devices draw less than 100nA and can wake-up from a GPIO or reset input.
xCORE-XA Block Diagram
xCORE-XA Block Diagram

There are four models: XA8-512, XAU8-512, XA8-1024 and XAU8-1024, that differs in terms of SRAM capacity (512 or 1024 KB), and support for USB 2.0.

The company provides the same tools as their previous xCORE devices (up to 16 cores) with support for xSOFTip software peripherals, and xTIMEcomposer suite of tools that includes comprehensive design entry, compilation and debug support for both the ARM and multiple xCORE processor cores. They’ve decided to integrate an ARM processor in their latest SoC in order to help their customer leverage their legacy code.


Like many other silicon manufacturers, XMOS has launched a low cost evaluation board simply called StartKIT to let potential customers and hobbyists evaluate their solution.


XMOS startKIT features:

  • SoC – xCORE-Analog 8-core device with integrated debugger
  • Storage – 256KB SPI Flash
  • micro-USB connection to host debugger
  • I/O – 4 ADC inputs, two 4-zone cap sense sliders
  • Misc – 3×3 LED matrix, 2 additional LEDs, Push-button switch
  • Expansions – 0.1″ header compatible with Raspberry Pi, 0.1″ header for connecting additional startKITs, PCIe connector for sliceCARD add-on boards or 1 x24 GPIO header.
  • Dimensions – 94 x 50mm

XMOS explains the board can be used “for functions ranging from robotics and motion control to networking and digital audio”. A getting started guide, hardware and multicore programming documentation, as well as download link for xTIMEcomposer are available on XMOS StartKIT page. Some sample apps for the kit are available on github.

The company gave away 3,500 XMOS StartKIT before the holidays, but the kit is available for purchase for $14.99 from DigiKey, or if you live in Asia, and feel your luck is about to strike, you may get one for free during their Chinese New Year promotion.

Thanks to John for the tip.

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