CubieBoard6 Development Board Powered by Actions Semi S500 Processor Comes with SATA, LiPo Battery Support

CubieTech launched Cubieboard with Allwinner A10 processor in 2012, and while they may not be as popular as some other boards like Raspberry Pi, ODROID, or Orange Pi boards in 2017, the company is still around after around 5 years, and their latest board is Cubieboard6 powered by Action Semi S500 quad core Cortex A9 processor with 2GB RAM, 8GB flash, HDMI, wired & wireless connectivity, SATA, battery support and more.

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Cubieboard6 specifications:

  • SoC – Actions Semi S500 quad core ARM Cortex-A9 processor with Imagination PowerVR SGX544 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB LPDDR3
  • Storage
    • 8GB eMMC flash
    • SATA 3.0 port for 2.5″ HDD/SSD up to 4TB
    • micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output  – HDMI 1.4b up to 1080p60
  • Audio I/O – Via HDMI output, 3.5mm audio output (HP) jack, 3.5mm audio input (MIC) jack
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE (AP6212) with u.FL antenna connector
  • USB – 2x USB host ports, 1x mini USB device
  • Expansion – 2x 48-pin headers with I2C, CSI for camera, FM-IN, ADC, CVBS output, Audio output, RGB, LVDS, MIPI DSI, SPI, HSIC, INT GPIO…
  • Misc – IR receiver, RTC with battery, power and ADFU key (to flash firmware), Power LED, 2x User LEDs
  • Power Supply
    • 5V @ 2.5A via power barrel
    • 5V via mini USB input
    • 3.7V Li-Po battery support via 2-pin header
  • Dimensions – 100mm x 60mm x 18mm
  • Temperature Range –  -20℃ ~ 70℃
  • Certifications – FCC, CE & RoHS
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The company provides Android 5.1.1 and Debian Jessie Desktop with 3D graphics acceleration (OpenGL ES 2.0) and hardware video decoding support. Software and hardware files, as well as documentation is available on MEGA outside of China, and on Baidu for people located in China.

Actions Semi S500 does not support SATA, so it’s important to look at the schematics to see how it was implemented, and while many boards are simply limited by their USB 2.0 interface, CubieTech used the USB 3.0 interface for the SATA implementation, which should lead to much better performance than most non-native solutions on the market. It’s disappointing that networking is limited to Fast Ethernet.

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We’ve see both a USB 3.0 switch and USB 3.0 to SATA bridge (JMicron JMS578) in the schematics in order to provide good performance between the processor and the SATA drive, while also allowing to use the board as an external USB 3.0 hard drive from your computer. Actions Semi S500 is not quite a new processor, and if you want to check out what it’s capable you may want to check out my hands-on posts about Roseapple Pi and Allo Sparky.

You’ll find more pictures and a few extra details on the product page. The official price of the board is $69 without shipping, but Cubieboard6 is only sold on a couple of website, including Amazon US for $98, and an Australian website for $115 AUD. Note that the board is sold as part of kit with several accessories namely USB to power jack cable, USB to mini USB cable, a WiFi antenna, a SATA cable, and a heatsink. There’s also an optional case, but I could not find it for sale yet.

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Willy
Willy
3 years ago

I share your disappointment regarding the fast ethernet limitation, this small board could have made a cheap and small NAS and an upgrade for its grand father the Cubietruck, which had both SATA and gigabit. Despite this that’s quite a complete general purpose board. The GPIO connectors seem to be 2mm pitch, which is not very convenient for developers so I suspect that most of the time they won’t be used.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@Willy S500 unfortunately does not contain a GbE MAC so the only way to increase network performance here would be to add an USB3 GbE adapter too. And while the used USB-to-SATA bridge is a pretty good choice (ASM1153 would be the other) I doubt performance will be great. I played around with two other S500 based SBC so far (LeMaker’s ‘Guitar’ and Roseapple Pi) and never managed to even test USB3 storage performance due to LeMaker using a non standards USB jack pin-out and Roseapple Pi kernel (or board) responsible for crashes. BTW: Regarding Linux kernel no signs of… Read more »

nobe
nobe
3 years ago

is it possible to share the usb3 (5 Gb/s) bandwith for both :
– gigabit ethernet (1 Gb/s)
– SATA2 (3Gb/s) instead of SATA3 (6 Gb/s)
without performance drop when both are used at the same time ?

i mean, SATA3 looks cool and all but i tend to think SATA2 is plenty enough for allmost all use cases when it comes to a cheap arm board

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@nobe The ‘5 Gbps’ of USB3 are nothing you would call ‘bandwidth’ but just the PHY data rate (using inefficient 8b10b coding so your ‘bandwidth’ is already limited to 8/10 –> 4Gsomething anyway). Then there’s the controller with its own limitations (why on earth should a tablet SoC like this be able to push data around with 4Gbit/sec?!) and then there’s a software layer involved (and usually those Android focused hardware manufacturers don’t care about storage, IO or network performance at all, that’s the reason USB3 storage performance with ODROID-XU4 for example pretty much sucks when using old/smelly vendor’s kernel… Read more »

Luc Verhaegen
3 years ago

Tom Cubie left years ago, as did the other guy who was really friendly with the linux-sunxi community. Cubietech is now just another shitty cheap chinese boardmaker, but for some reason they now even left the secure harbour that is sunxi, and went for actsemi, leaving them in charge of support, all on their own. It’s a shame really. Tom Cubie pretty much kickstarted the Sunxi community, while at allwinner, by exporting Mele 1000s through aliexpress. With the help of the main linux-sunxi founder, alejandro mery, he did the original cubieboard crowdfunding campaign. This has no grown into a massive… Read more »

Philipp Blum
Philipp Blum
3 years ago

USB 3.0 and SATA over one USB Port… A really terrible idea.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

Philipp Blum : SATA over one USB Port… A really terrible idea …and exactly what happens in almost all USB disk enclosures around (IIRC only WD claims they’ve ‘native USB disks’ now). Hint: this can work magnitudes faster compared to ‘native SATA’ and even at the same reliability level but it depends highly on implementation details. Cubieboard 3 (Cubietruck) based on A20 with ‘native SATA’ shows sequential write performance below what’s possible if you attach a good USB-to-SATA enclosure to the same board (USB’s the winner! 😉 ), With Cubieboard 5 based on A83T using GL830 USB-to-SATA bridge to justify… Read more »

Nobody of Import
Nobody of Import
3 years ago

Philipp Blum : USB 3.0 and SATA over one USB Port… A really terrible idea. Depends. I get quite close to native SATA speeds and performance with my SATA to USB3 adapters. It’s suboptimal for SSD performance levels, but I think you’re going to find spinning rust will be decent, performance-wise on this interface as long as the bridge does peak IOPS over the link. Having said this, the board’s a mixed bag on this score. This isn’t QUITE worth the price point IMNSHO. The reality is that you’re going to find tradeoffs on everything. Right now, I’ve got a… Read more »

Nobody of Import
Nobody of Import
3 years ago

The base reality with all of this is this- can your CPU provide _*APPLICATION*_ performance levels that actually let you see the “speed” you tell yourself it has for things like “native SATA” and the like? For most values of the boards at this level, the answer is a resounding **NO**. It doesn’t matter one single damn bit that you have GbE if the device can’t saturate it with anything more than a stacked deck application designed to test only link performance (i.e. iperf3 does NOT measure what the device is really capable of… SAMBA, Apache, etc. do.) It doesn’t… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@Nobody of Import
Huh? If it’s just about (combined) storage/network performance that low as an RPi 3 provides this or any other Cubieboard are way to expensive since even a $7 OPi Zero will outperform any RPi by magnitudes 😛

passing by
passing by
3 years ago

I have some experience with USB to SATA adapters. In real PC, USB2.0 to SATA adapters are limited to maximum bus speed – 480Mbit, but in reality around 20Mb/s. USB3.0 to SATA adapters are other case. They are enough for 2.5′, 5400rpm, mobile disks – around 30/35Mb/s. I tested with SSD disk on one USB3.0 to MSATA adapter and reach around >100Mb/s, so almost suitable for normal 7200rpm, 3.5′ disks, but limits SSD speed of course. But i think, SoC will be the bottleneck here in this ARM boards. If it can reach even 1/5 of USB3.0 speed, it have… Read more »

Andreas
Andreas
3 years ago

@tkaiser

tkaiser :
BTW: Regarding Linux kernel no signs of mainline efforts, the SoC is stuck at 3.10.

Please check your facts. I share your grief about the 3.10 vendor code, but instead of just complaining I did post a combined S500+S900 patchset, which is at v3 currently on LAKML. At Linaro Connect BUD17 I managed to talk to Actions about it, so let’s see what comes out of this going forward. Test and review feedback appreciated, as always.

xxiao
xxiao
3 years ago


After the initial success the key software guys including Tom are either pushed out or left, otherwise Cubieboard could be a dominant name these days, a sad story.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@Andreas That’s good news! I’ll monitor en.opensuse.org/HCL:Bubblegum-96 from now on in the hope further patch sets are announced there too. As soon as USB works I’ll throw your patchset into Armbian’s build system and give it a try with Roseapple Pi 🙂 @passing by Well, some corrections/additions to your numbers (still in the hope @Jean-Luc Aufranc (CNXSoft) picks up this topic soon and blogs about ’embedded devices and USB storage’ or something like that). 1) USB2.0 to SATA bridge chips should be avoided these days since as you found out you can get very bad ones (my ‘famous’ is GL830… Read more »

Debeko
Debeko
3 years ago

Actsemi not having mainline is a deal breaker. 🙁

This rant filled thread quickly became
meaningless dribble trying to cover up meaningful points….:(

Debeko
Debeko
3 years ago

Andreas :
@tkaiser

tkaiser :
BTW: Regarding Linux kernel no signs of mainline efforts, the SoC is stuck at 3.10.

Please check your facts. I share your grief about the 3.10 vendor code, but instead of just complaining I did post a combined S500+S900 patchset, which is at v3 currently on LAKML. A.

Yes, technically its in mainline, but by the time all peripheral becomes well tested, newer and better hardware would have emerged. Ex, all winner CPUs.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

I gave USB3 storage performance with S500 one last try: https://forum.armbian.com/index.php?/topic/1925-some-storage-benchmarks-on-sbcs/&do=findComment&comment=29850

The good news: UAS seems to be usable now even with Actions Semi legacy kernel (patched up to 3.10.105) but performance isn’t stellar, with an USB3 hub errors occured and unfortunately S500 lacks Gigabit Ethernet so many use cases that could benefit from fast storage won’t.

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