$99 MinnowBoard MAX Development Board Powered by Intel Bay Trail-I SoC

When Intel released the original MinnowBoard which was a step in the right direction, but there were some complains, as the company had chosen to use an older Intel processor, and the price was much higher than most high performance low cost ARM development boards. MinnowBoard MAX (aka Minnow2 Board) fixes all that, as it features the latest Intel Bay Trail-I (E3800 series) processor, and costs as low as $99 for the single core version, and $129 for the dual core version.

MinnowBoard MAX (Click to Enlarge)
MinnowBoard MAX (Click to Enlarge)

Let’s jump directly to the specifications:

  • SoC – 64-bit Intel Atom E3815 (single-core, 1.46 GHz) or Atom E3825 (dual-core, 1.33 GHz) both with integrated Intel HD Graphics coming with Open Source hardware-accelerated drivers for Linux OS
  • System Memory – 1GB ($99 model) or 2GB ($129 model) DDR3 RAM
  • Storage – 1x Micro SD card slot, 1x SATA2 3Gb/sec, 8 MB SPI Flash for firmware (UEFI)
  • Video Output – micro HDMI connector
  • Audio Output
    • HDMI (digital)
    • Analog audio to become available via a separate Lure, the name for MinnowBoard expansion boards, which will be sold separately –
  • Connectivity – 10/100/1000M Ethernet RJ-45 connector
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 host, 1x USB 2.0 host
  • Debugging & Programming – Serial debug via FTDI cable (sold separately), programming header compatible with Dedi-Prog programmer, and JTAG via high-speed expansion port.
  • Expansion headers
    • Low-speed expansion port – 2×13 (26-pin) male 0.1″ pin header with access to SPI, I2C, I2S Audio, 2x UARTs (TTL-level), 8x GPIO (including 2x supporting PWM), +5V, and GND
    • High-speed expansion port –  60-pin, high-density connector with access to 1x PCIe Gen 2.0 Lane, 1x SATA2 3Gb/sec, 1x USB 2.0 host, I2C, GPIO, JTAG, +5V, and GND
  • Dimensions – 99 x 74mm
  • Temperature Range –  0 – 70 deg C. Industrial temperature range may also be also available, but price will be higher, and has not been disclosed.
  • Power – 5V DC (Sold separately)

The board will run Debian GNU/Linux, Android 4.4 Kitkat, and be supported by the Yocto Project. It will boot with UEFI firmware stored in the 8MB SPI flash. The specifications also mention Intel HD graphics will be supported in Linux with open source graphics drivers, something that’s almost impossible to find for ARM development boards, although there has been some progress recently with the Raspberry Pi and Nvidia Tegra K1.  It will be an open source hardware board, and design files will be made available under Creative Commons licensing within weeks of production boards being available at distributors.

MinnowBoard MAX competes directly with quad core ARM Cortex A9 development board such as HardKernel ODROID, Wandboard, and so on, that sells for about the same price. We’ll need to check benchmarks to get a better idea of the performance.

The boards are scheduled to be manufactured by CircuitCo by the end of June 2014. You can’t pre-order them just yet, and they will be available through various distributors.  if you happen to be in EE Live! in San Jose, you can see a working demo with MinnowBoard MAX on booth #916.

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16 Replies to “$99 MinnowBoard MAX Development Board Powered by Intel Bay Trail-I SoC”

  1. Little short on RAM (also, that 1 GB upgrade for 30 USD, really?) and shame it ain’t quad core Bay Trail but definitely going into the right direction. I wonder if it could do 24p on KitKat with XBMC (Android makes a semi useable 10 foot interface, quite unlike Windows/KDE/Gnome)?

  2. @Someone from the other side
    Well I’m not at all interested in any of it so I couldn’t say. For $130 I can probably get a miniPC with a case and all that, maybe even the Intel NUC as a barebone.
    Maybe this one has a different target though and it might be a good x86 alternative for those that don’t want ARM. I’m not sure the upgrade is that expensive, I think the starting price is high for the 1 core, 1GB one. if that were like 70 and this one was 100 it would be better.

  3. @Marius
    The processing power of a dual core Intel Bay Trail is probably greater than a quad core ARM Cortex A9 processor. Of course, this depends on models, so we’ll have to wait until the product hits the market for some testing. Bay Trail-I is for industrial use so most products are out of reach of individuals.

  4. @cnxsoft
    You’re probably right but still I was saying that if anything’s too expensive it’s the basic version, I find the dual core upgrade to be priced reasonably. Let’s not forget Intel’s good Linux support with mainline kernel, open source GPU drivers and all that. It’s much more than ARM can currently offer, it’s not only about performance.
    Still the thing is that you can get a raspberry Pi or a Cubie cheaper if you don’t need the performance and the mainline kernel support.
    Ultimately I think this one is a good option and probably the first x86 one, these kinds of boards are usually ARM only.
    On the other hand I’d still get a NUC barebone for this price and just extend that with a serial port and stuff. But I suppose some people might actually need the expansion provided by this board.

  5. In my opinion this is great news for the ones who want to run linux. The arm stuff is is not great to run linux on it. There is almost no support and in most cases there is only one supported kernel version and there it stops (ex. imx53, amlogic M3). In the best case You can rely on a great community, for example sunxi.
    With Intel you know linux will run fine on it and all drivers will be available, no re-engineering of drivers, etc. + a long term support.
    Hopefully, intel can push the arm producers to be more open.
    I hope that the sunxi community already gets a boost, thanks to Allwinner joining the Linaro project.

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