Allwinner R40 Quad Core ARM Processor, Successor of Allwinner A20, Supports SATA & Gigabit Ethernet

One of the most common complaints I get from readers when I publish news about new ARM processor is “Why didn’t they include SATA?”. So far Allwinner A20 is the only really low cost ARM processor that includes a SATA port, but it’s been released a few years, and its dual core Cortex A7 processor is getting old. We’ve been hearing rumors about an upgraded version for one or two years with Allwinner A40 or more recently Allwinner A20E, and finally the company has now published details about Allwinner R40 processor on their revamped website, which they claim to be the successor of Allwinner A20.

Allwinner_R40
Allwinner R40 Block Diagram

Allwinner R40 key specifications:

  • CPU – Quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 Processor
  • GPU – Mali-400 MP2 GPU
  • Memory I/F – 32-bit DDR3/DDR3L/LPDDR2/LPDDR3
  • Storage I/F – 8-bit NAND flash, SD3.0,  eMMC 5.0, and 1x SATA

    Allwinner R40 System-on-Module
    Photoshopped Allwinner R40 System-on-Module

  • Networking – 2x MAC: 1x EMAC (10/100M Ethernet), 1x GMAC  (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • Display – RGB/LVDS/HDMI/MIPI DSI/TV Out
  • Video – [email protected] decoding and H.264 HP [email protected] encoding
  • Audio – Up to 2x I2S/PCM interfaces, eight channels of Time Division Multiplexing(TDM) with sampling precision up to 32bit/192KHz
  • Camera-  2x Parallel MIPI CSI interfaces
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host
  • I/Os – 8x UART, 4x SPI,  5x TWI/I2C
  • STB interfaces – 1x smart card, 2x TS
  • Misc – 2x PS2 1x 8×8 keypad, 2x IR receiver, 2x KEYADC, RTP
  • Package – 16×16 mm FBGA468

Compared to Allwinner A20, the company explains that R40 is an “Allwinner A20 upgrade edition” with four cores instead of two, 40nm process instead of 55nm, lower power consumption, and a smaller package. They also mention the processor will be supported by their lightweight open source Tina operating system based on Linux.

One of the first devices to use the new processor, beside the unnamed CPU module shown above (Update: that’s a photoshopped C.H.I.P board), will be Banana Pi M2 Ultra development board, which will come with 2GB RAM, 8GB flash, and expose the SATA interface.

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mripard
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mripard

The unnamed CPU module is the back of a CHIP, with some photo editing. If you look closely, you’ll see that even the package is not consistent (QFP on the module, BGA in the specs)

Member

Now if someone puts together a board with this SoC, 1-2GB of ram, exposed sata and some emmc and sell it for less than 30$. And you got yourself a winner for home NAS use.

Anton Fosselius
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Anton Fosselius

8x UART? Sweet. 4x TVOUT? Can it drive 4 displays? Hmm. Interesting. I wonder how they have implemented that? I doubt that it got 4 different framebuffers. Maybe they split the frame buffer in smaller sections as TV out is not directly 4K 😉

Bert
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Bert

@Benjamin you could try the A20-OLinuXino-LIME2-eMMC today, already out there. I have not tested the eMMC version yet, but the LIME2 has been around for a long time and has excellent headless mainline linux kernel support. LIME2 costs EUR 45, LIME2-eMMC costs EUR 55.

milkboy
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milkboy

still on Cortex-a7 and 40nm fab -_,-”
hope it cost a little more than C.H.I.P.S., or at least bellow RPi.
i wish they had went with a better fab, newer architecture and IP design, at least cortex-a32 and mali-470, (lower power consumption for the same performance)

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@Bert

A20 has crap sata performance, so no thank you.

tkaiser
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tkaiser

@Benjamin
And why should crap sata performance change with an A20 successor? Given Allwinner reuses the IP blocks for SATA in this chip, sequential write performance will be low again (~45 MB/s under best conditions on A20). But SATA is not only about sequential performance but also high random IOPS. Use any recent SSD with a database workload with an A20 board connected to SATA port and then as worst case in an USB enclosure connected to any Raspberry Pi: A20 will be magnitudes faster due to SATA (Native Command Queuing and stuff like that 🙂 )

Anyway: Even if it’s the same SATA implementation in R40 than before in A20 it will be faster since we found out that maximum sequential performance on A20 scales linearly with both CPU clockspeeds and memory bandwidth. According to available information R40 will be on par with H3 so performance in both areas will improve and so we might end up with +50 MB/s sequential writes — sequential reads exceed 200 MB/s already with A20 so there’s no need for improvement at all 😉

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@tkaiser
I could use something that caps Gigabit ethernet, so 45MB/s write just won’t cut it.

tkaiser
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tkaiser

@Benjamin
The problem with A20 for NAS usage is that both GbE and SATA are limited… but in different directions. SATA is the bottleneck in client –> server direction and Ethernet in the other direction (so the high sequential read speeds can’t be used in NAS context also). In case R40 uses the newer IP blocks (as in H3, A64, A83T) then GbE performance is higher and more balanced. And if you then choose a device with 2GB RAM then for most real world use cases a slow SATA write performance is irrelevant since with the right settings files with a size up to a few hundred MB will be buffered in RAM before written to disk.

Read through these examples with H3 (USB 2.0 only) and in post #10 random I/O comparison between A20 (SATA) and H3 (USB in both Mass Storage and UAS mode): http://forum.armbian.com/index.php/topic/1440-h3-devices-as-nas/

We have to wait for the hardware to get into our hands to check the limits of R40’s SATA implementation 🙂

TLS
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TLS

That so called module looks like a slight photochop of this http://docs.getchip.com/images/chip_bottom_annotated.jpg

tkaiser
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tkaiser

@TLS
Nope, since the CHIP’s picture uses PCB rev 1.0 while Allwinner chose an older rev 0.9 PCB as starting point for Photoshop. Anyway: R8 as used on CHIP is 20x20mm QFP while R40 is 16x16mm BGA according to product brief as Maxime already pointed out 🙂

miniNodes
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So, although is an upgrade on the A20, it is not actually pin-to-pin compatible with the A20 as earlier rumors suggested it may be?

JotaMG
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JotaMG

@tkaiser
So, which is faster for the main filesystem, sata or emmc ??

Peter Bauer
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Will this R40 SOC be slower per core than the Allwinner A20 SOC ?
http://www.bitkistl.com/2015/03/cortex-ax-vs-performnace.html

tkaiser
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tkaiser

@JotaMG
Impossible to answer without knowing R40’s SATA implementation, the board’s eMMC implementation, the devices used and the use case for ‘main filesystem’:

– R40’s SATA implementation will most probably be not worse than A20 since maybe we get better sequential transfer speeds
– eMMC can be switched to faster transfer modes if board and drivers support switching from 3.3V to 1.8V (board specific)
– vendors can use slow or fast eMMC (board specific)
– users can choose slow or fast SATA devices (user specific — compare a notebook HDD with an enterprise SSD)

And then there’s always sequential IO vs random IO. Android or a Desktop Linux feel painfully slow when used on a filesystem that resides on a medium with slow random writes (read as: most SD cards out there, only a few vendors provide cards with high random IO while this applies to most eMMC chips). If on the other hand you’re constantly streaming movies from your ‘main filesystem’ then random IO is irrelevant and the sequential transfer speeds matter.

Without knowing the device in question (eg. BPi M2 Ultra) it’s hard to answer this especially since there are a few bottlenecks present.

The other way around it’s easy: take BPi M3 for example. This board is considered ‘SATA capable’ and equipped with slow eMMC and the slowest USB-to-SATA bridge in the world (GL830, 15/30 MB/s sequential write/read, not UASP capable) that also has to share bandwidth with the available USB ports. Since it’s no real SATA but the slowest USB-SATA implementation possible on BPi M3 the advice is easy: Choose the slow onboard eMMC since it’s magnitudes faster than any device connected to the GL830. With BPi M2 Ultra we’ll have to see how eMMC interface is designed, which eMMC is soldered and how R40’s SATA implementation performs. And then it still depends on the device you attach to it (fast eMMC as used on ODROID C2 for example outperforms every SATA notebook HDD)

tkaiser
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tkaiser

@Peter Bauer
Nobody knows for sure yet. But I would assume based on the available information we currently have that A7 cores in R40 and memory interface can be considered the same as on H3. Then a core running at the same clockspeed as A20 will be slightly slower but the cores can be clocked considerably higher (1296 MHz easily if it’s like H3) and the memory interface is a lot faster which does not affect the usual moronic benchmarks like sysbench but improves performance of most if not all real world applications (and should improve stuff like SATA throughput, at least that’s the case with A20: increase both CPU and DRAM clockspeeds and you get faster sequential SATA transfers)

j4c0b
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j4c0b

a7 really in 2k16 year? successor? hmm it’s zombie a20 on steroids:) Mali-400 MP2 GPU – mummy from the museum.
i’m very dissapointed. so they get old a20 and lowered the production proces for few nanometers so they can bump some MHz. h264 when the world is transiting to h265. who is the target of this cpu

tkaiser
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tkaiser

j4c0b :
who is the target of this cpu

The same target audience as for A20 these days? People who love lots of network and IO bandwidth and lots of interfaces to build small el cheapo servers? Not everything is about CPU horsepower or video formats (aren’t there already enough TV boxes out there?)

R40 as A20 now could also make for a nice IoT server node since with SATA you can both control HDD behaviour exactly (spinning down/up on demand unlike USB where it always depends on USB-to-SATA bridge used) and if R40 will be accompanied by a PMIC (not known yet) getting UPS mode is just adding a LiPo battery and also peripherals like a connected SATA disk can be powered off completely. So you get low-power mode and full features on demand.

Really looking forward to R40 and hoping it has PMIC support like A20 now. Given pricing is competitive which will at least not be the case for the first announced R40 device 😉

mdel
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mdel

“Why didn’t they include USB3 ?!”

Sorry had to do it, and just to remind cnxsoft that sata is not the only (apparently forever) missing hardware on our fav cheap arm socs.

@Benjamin
I’m with you on the gbe/sata limitations of the A20, i’ve been using a pcduino3 nano for quite a long time and it’s been clear from the start that the cpu was a massive bottleneck on that board.
Don’t even think doing vpn (which i’m actually doing) or only at a fraction at the nominal speed that gbe link can do.

There are quite obvious IO problems with the A20, i could never really tell if the cpu clock speed was really the only factor at play, i don’t think it is.

Let’s see what the R40 will bring, no mention of the clock speed is indeed a bit worrisome but i doubt it’ll much lower than other quad cores already available.

It’s quite clear i’d rather have seen an H3 with sata than a quadcore A20+.
IO performance on the H3 seems to be much better, and throwing 30-40MB/s in/out of 2 usb ports, don’t really affect the cpu that much even at lower clocks (1GHz).

tkaiser
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tkaiser

@cnxsoft
In the video clip you showed Allwinner said ‘The R40 will be a chip which focuses on Open-Source Community’ and ‘the SDK of R40 will be open-sourced’ whatever that means 🙂

For T3 (R40’s sibling for automotive use and specified for industrial temperature range) a product brief talking about ‘Linux 3.10 and Android 4.4/6.0’ is available at the bottom of the page: http://www.allwinnertech.com/index.php?c=product&a=index&id=41

So it seems we start with BSP kernel 3.10.65 on R40/T3 just like with A64 back then…

Theguyuk
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Theguyuk

Looking on Allwinner website website they say it is for

Smart Hardware, Speakers and Robots !?

Bit over kill for a Mp3 player?

I guess display signs, HD TV on it’s side for those advertising pillars. The Soc also has key pad features. So it’s target market is connected hardware with local storage needs? Store till, a thinking toaster, fridge to order more milk and a desire to be the next Mars Rover!

( Yes I am being silly at the end there )

It just feels confused about the aimed market in Allwinner’s stated market. ( Probably just me )

Lionel
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Lionel

Lack of SATA is one of the most common complaints? How about lack of USB3 and limitations on DRAM addressing that are holding ARM processors dismally below the curve set by Moore’s law?

Theguyuk
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Theguyuk

The limited memory and low power use fence windows out of the market, perhaps because it is resource hungery and it’s preferred cpus, power hogs !

tkaiser
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tkaiser

I had a quick look into one of the already available OS images for the first R40 device: http://forum.armbian.com/index.php/topic/2169-allwinner-r40-a-few-collected-information/