Microchip SAMA5 based Giant Board Launched on Crowd Supply for $50 and Up

Orange Pi Development Boards

Earlier this year we gave you details about some new development board, most especially about the Giant board. A tiny single board computer that runs Linux on Arm Cortex-A5 processor. 

This super tiny single-board computer (SBC) is based on the Adafruit Feather form factor. Unlike its name, the giant board is actually a small microchip. And it packs an awful lot of power for its size. The news is that it has launched on Crowd Supply for $50 and up.

In addition, the giant board implements the power of size, which makes it unique. It squeezes SBC into a package the size of a microcontroller board. This will in turn relax memory, storage, and processing constraints. Consequently allowing you to effectively work on your projects.

Giant Board
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Another thing to know about the Giant Board is that it runs full Debian Linux.  Giving developers and users access to an endless number of applications and libraries for their projects.

Also, it supports the Adafruit FeatherWing pinout. This allows it to work with over 60 pre-existing add-on boards.

Remember that Adafruit released a set of libraries that adds CircuitPython support to Linux. The board is compatible with Adafruit and has access to over 100 hardware libraries.

You can also use an Ethernet FeatherWing to give your Giant Board access to the Internet. It has also been tested with Wi-Fi and LCD FeatherWings.

The board is currently open source, and its parts can be gotten at retail stores.

Giant board

Uses of the Giant Board

It can be used for projects related to the following;

  • Media streaming
  • IoT gateway routing
  • Data collection & analysis
  • Robotics

Board Specs

  • Processor: Microchip SAMA5D2 ARM Cortex-A5 Processor 500 MHz
  • Memory: 128 MB DDR2 RAM
  • Storage: microSD card
  • Sensing: 6 x 12-bit ADC with 3.3 V reference and external trigger
  • Actuation: 4 x 16-bit PWM with external trigger
  • Connectivity: 1 x I²C, 1 x SPI, 1 x UART, more with Flexcom
  • Power: via USB, with support for LiPo batteries
  • Operating System: mainline Linux kernel
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dgp
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dgp

Running normal debian seems like a bad idea if this is going to be used for prototyping where the power will get pulled at random all the time. $50 seems a lot when the pocket beagle is $25 imho.

Diego
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Diego

I’m not really sure what advantage running Linux could be on a platform so limited on io. Maybe I’m missing something at the moment, but I don’t really see any real advantage over a uC, other than compensating a lack of embedded knowledge of the programmer by relying on Linux’ driver infrastructure.

dgp
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dgp

>I’m not really sure what advantage running Linux could be on a platform so limited on io.

The io is slightly limited but there are good reasons you want linux. Just having memory protection means your little app(s) can crash all day long and not hurt anything. As your code gets more complex the chance of having to chase a memory corruption bug because of a programming error or running out stack increases.

If you really have to code in C you get the advantage of being able to use GDB without pissing around with JTAG and getting the target to stop properly and at the right place.. you could also use valgrind.

I think a lot of people will be using this with the wifi add-on… networking + microcontrollers is a recipe for disaster and anyone doing it should be shot out of a cannon.

But $50 is too much. $10 is where this needs to be

>compensating a lack of embedded knowledge of the programmer by relying on Linux’ driver

How is that different from working with arduino? I have the “embedded knowledge” but I don’t want to mess around getting interrupt controllers and other bs working just to mess around with some sensor module I got off of banggood.

halherta
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halherta

This would be great with a minimalist linux distribution created via Yocto or buildroot + busybox. I think Debian might be a bit overkill for it. I think an Onion Omega 2+ with 128MB of RAM a similarly clocked CPU and openWRT (minimalist Linux Distro intended for routers) is a better option than this. Oh it also has WiFi and costs only $13. The only advantage of this board over the onion omega 2+ is possibly that this has a built-in ADC and LiPo support. Still it is a cute little board with a SAMA5 part which is rare.

dgp
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dgp

Did the onion omega stuff ever get a mainline kernel? This thing is cortex a so it’s one of the best supported cpus in the kernel. MIPS on the other hand seems to be on life support.

halherta
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halherta

The Omega Onion and this board are both intended for the hobbyist market. Not really the industrial one. So who cares. Even if a SOC has a mainline kernel, absent a decent source of OS images, not many are going to want to create their own OS by generating a file system, compiling the kernel, compiling GPU drivers if necessary, adding other drivers and so forth. So in that sense who cares.

Having said that the SAMA5 is a pretty neat SOC. I just don’t think that this form factor is ideal. It would be better to develop an SBC with a SAMA5 utilizing the RPi Zero form factor with WiFi, for about half the price.

I understand that this was developed for use with circuitpython. Realistically though if one wants to use sircuitpython, just switch to running micropython on an ESP32 or a powerful STM32 Nucleo board.

dgp
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dgp

>Not really the industrial one. So who cares.

You should care. Putting aside not wanting to have stuff with known security issues on your network; Imagine a driver for some i2c widget is only present in versions after whatever vendor kernel you have. You now either don’t get to use the driver or have to back port it. That’s a massive pain and hinders your progress every time you want to use something that should be supported but isn’t because you’re stuck on some LTS kernel if you’re lucky.

halherta
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halherta

>You should care.
Perhaps. If I can find a SAMA5 board with WiFi that costs around $20 USD I’d switch in an instant. I guess I could also run openWRT on a RPi Zero W

Occam
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Occam

How much RAM and CPU is left for user apps after Linux is loaded and running?