Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2014 - 06:21 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: solidrun, SFF, Raspberry Pi, iot, i.mx6, Freescale, Cortex A9
SolidRun recently launched a new small form factor PC called the HummingBoard. The new kit is an open source hardware platform that can run a number of open source operating systems. It mimics the physical form factor of the popular Raspberry Pi and as a result is compatible with much of its accessories including cases and add-on boards.
The HummingBoard is comprised of two main pieces; the carrier board which hosts all of the I/O ports and pin-outs and the removable microSOM (Silicon on Module) which is a smaller circuit board housing the processor and system memory.
SolidRun currently offers two reference versions of the carrier board, a base design and a higher-end model with beefier I/O. The HummingBoard Carrier is an open source design and the company allows hardware hackers and product developers to use their own custom carrier boards based on the reference design. Each carrier board has a special connector that the Micro SOM plugs into.
A microSOM (System on a Module) includes the CPU, GPU, RAM, power management, networking, and I/O connectivity hardware.
SolidRun currently offers up three microSOMs for use with the HummingBoard. The microSOMs use Freescale i.MX6 series SoCs (PDF), offer up to 1GB of RAM, and host the power management and networking hardware. Depending on the microSOM chosen, users can get a single or dual core CPU paired with a GPU that is at least OpenGL ES 2.0 compatible (the highest end model supports OpenGL ES 2.0 Quad Shader) and video encode/decode hardware units. The HummingBoard is upgrade-able and may support a microSOM with a quad core CPU in the future (a quad core microSOM already exists but is not currently supported by the HummingBoard).
Users can purchase the HummingBoard as a combo (carrier board+processor module) or in individual pieces. Specifically, SolidRun sells the HummingBoard i1, i2, and i2eX. Both the i1 and i2 use the base carrier board while the i2ex uses the pro version. The i1 comes with a single core i.MX6 CPU, GC880 GPU, and 512MB of system memory. The i2 ups the amount of RAM to 1GB and CPU core count by using the Freescale i.MX6 Dual Lite. Finally, the HummingBoad i2eX features a faster clocked dual core CPU (i.MX6 Dual), GC2000 GPU, 1GB of RAM, and significantly more I/O thanks to the higher-end carrier board and processing capabilities.
At a minimum, users can expect HDMI video out, 10/100 Ethernet, two powered USB 2.0 ports, a microSD card slot, a coaxial S/PDIF audio output, PWM mono audio, a 2-lane MIPI CSI 2.0 camera interface, and GPIO header. On the high end (HummingBoard Carrier Pro/HummingBoard i2eX/custom configs), the HummingBoard supports Gigabit Ethernet (limited to 470Mbps by the SoC), PCI-E 2.0, mSATA II, two additional USB 2.0 ports (via internal header), stereo audio output, microphone input, an IR receiver, and a Real-Time Clock (RTC) with battery backup.
SolidRun is aiming the HummingBoard platform at Internet-of-Things, home automation, and other embedded device developers. I believe that it will also appeal to hobbyists and Linux software developers.
The HummingBoard is rather expandable and is nearly a drop-in alternative to the Raspberry Pi. The open source nature (though, like the Raspberry Pi's BCM2835, the SoC is not fully open source) is nice, and the modular/upgradeable design is sure to appeal to hardware enthusiasts. The HummingBoard starts at $45 and tops out at $99 for the highest end i2eX. It is more expensive than the Raspberry Pi, which is the platform it is most likely to be pitted against, but it features faster hardware (especially the CPU and its ISA: ARMv7 versus ARMv6) and is priced competively with devices like the BeagleBone Black and SolidRun's own CuBox lineup.
The small form factor (and "single board PC") market has really ramped up the last few years and it is exciting to watch it all unfold. Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more SFF PC coverage!
Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2013 - 08:15 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: solidrun, SFF, Freescale, cubox-i, arm
SolidRun Ltd. Has come up with its own ARM-powered mini computer called the CuBox-i. The new PC measures 2” x 2” x 2” and has some respectable IO for its size. The CuBox-i comes in multiple flavors from $45 to $120. The cheapest version competes in many ways with the Raspberry Pi while the top-end device is more in line with Android development boards that tend to run in the hundreds of dollars.
There are actually four SKUs in the CuBox-i series:
The CuBox-i PCs are powered by single, dual, or quad core variant of a Freescale i.MX6 SoC at up to 1.2 GHz. The SoC uses ARMv7 instructions and dedicated NEON media encode/decode hardware. The GPU included in the SoC supports OpenGL ES 2.0 on all models, and the GPU in the two higher-end models further supports OpenCL 1.1 embedded. Memory is 512MB on the $45 CuBox-i1, 1GB on both CuBox-2 systems, and 2GB of DDR3 on the CuBox i4Pro. The mini PCs support 1080p video playback, and are compatible with Android 4.2.2, XBMC, and various Linux distributions.
IO on the CuBox-i PCs includes two powered USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, Ethernet (Gigabit on the higher end models, limited to less than 470 Mbps internally), one eSATA 3Gbps port, an optical S/PDIF output, microSD slot, microUSB (RS-232 adapter on higher end models), and an infrared reciever. The two higher-priced models also include an infrared transmitter. The high end systems also support Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth, and a hardware RTC (Real Time Clock) with backup battery.
The table above shows the breakdown of IO and internal hardware in the various SKUs. While the systems start at $45, it is the higher priced models that add some interesting features. It is always nice to see competition in the mini PC space. The CuBox-i series will be available in limited quantities later this year. Pre-order pricing breaks down as follows:
- CuBox-i1 for $45
- CuBox-i2 for $70
- CuBox-2Ultra for $95
- CuBox-4Pro for $120
Compared to the previously-announced CuBox Pro, the CuBox-i series is slightly cheaper, uses a faster SoC, and is available in multiple SKUs. For example, the top-end CuBox-i4Pro is a bit cheaper at $120 versus $160 for the CuBox Pro's original price. Naturally, the lower end CuBox-i's are even cheaper but also have less memory and IO.
Subject: Systems | January 9, 2013 - 03:36 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ubuntu, solidrun, linux, desktop, cubox pro, cubox, computer
Israeli-startup SolidRun is launching an updated model of its CuBox mini PC called the CuBox Pro. The small desktop computer measures 2 x 2 x 2-inches and weighs a mere 91 grams. The CuBox Pro is not only small in size, it also sips a mere 3 watts at full load. It comes pre-loaded with Ubuntu Linux, but the CuBox Pro can be loaded with alternative operating systems by way of a microSD card. The hardware is nothing spectacular on the performance front, but it is capable of 1080p HD video playback. Interestingly, Youtube user rabeeh3000 reported that the CuBox Pro draws less than 2.5 Watts while playing a HD movie in XBMC.
Speaking of hardware, the CuBox Pro is powered by a Marvell ARMADA 510 SoC clocked at 800 MHz. It is supported by 2GB of DDR3 memory, and internal storage is handled by a microSD card slot.
Rear IO on the CuBox Pro includes two USB 2.0 ports, one HDMI video output, one eSATA connector, one Gigabit Ethernet port, DC power jack, and a single S/PDIF audio output on the side of the case. Further, the CuBox Pro has an infrared receiver, which will enable remotes to be used with media center software.
The CuBox Pro is slated to be available sometime in January for $159. Alternatively, the original CuBox with 1GB of DDR3 is available for $139. Admittedly, it is a bit pricey considering there are cheaper options like the Raspberry Pi but you are getting a complete OEM system (whereas you would have to add an SD card, USB infrared receiver, and case to the price of the Pi).
You can find more information abou the CuBox computer on the SolidRun website.