Cortex A8 in TQFP? sure Allwinner A13


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Allwinner is Chinese SoC manufacturer, they released Allwinner A10 processor end of last year and wiped out the competition.

A10 is Cortex A8 processor running on 1.2Ghz but could be overclock up to 1.5Ghz.
The features are impessive: support for up to 1GB RAM, USB2.0 OTG, USB2.0 HOST x2, HDMI1.3/1.4., LCD, CVBS-OUT, VGA-OUT, SATA,Line-In, Headphone, 10/100M Ethernet, Camera Sensor Interface x2, support for SDIO WIFI, GPS, Gyroscope, Light Sensor, Bluetooth, Compass.
Can boot from NAND FLASH, SD/MMC Card, USB

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as you can see A10 is highly integrated chip and only needs one power supply managment IC AXP209 and Ethernet PHY to make computer.Soon after the launch it wiped all competition and if you now search ebay you will see that it dominates the 7″ tablet PCs as price/performance ratio.

A10 is around $7 for 5 numbers purchase and around $12-14 for smaller quantities.

In April 2012 Allwinner released the A13 strip down version of A10 which is same but without SATA interface and HDMI, targeting purely the Tablet market. The new chip is $5 if you by any chance decide to buy one million chips from Allwinner and can be purchased for $10 in smaller quantities.

You can learn a lot for A10 from http://rhombus-tech.net/ web site (where I first learned for A10 from).

The best of all is that A13 comes in … eLQFP176 package as you can see on the picture above. This is the first Cortex A8 device running at 1Ghz in this package. Which makes it perfect for next …you guess right OLinuXino :)

So I’m waiting first samples of A13 to be on my desk next week and Allwinner promised to send me more info for A13 in May so we can start the new A13-OLinuXino board development.

The best of all is as A13 is very highly integrated we will be able to release the new 1GHz board in the same price around EUR 30, but this time with 256 or 512MB of RAM and 1GHz processor.

What is the trade off with A13? There are few actually:

1. A13 is not in industrial temperature range, which limits it use to 0-60C applications  EDIT: A13 is in industrial temperature range
2. A13 have no ANY official documentation, you can read more for the Chinese SoC business model at: http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/pipermail/arm-netbook/2012-March/002881.html
in short they sell 10 millions of chips per month and do not care than they can sell 1000 more or less if they release proper documentation

So after all iMX233-OLinuXino will be still live and kicking even after the launch of the big brother with A13 in applications where -25+85C temperature range and noise immunity is necessary. Also the absence of documentation with A13 means there will be no linux support for the handy GPIOs, ADCs, SPI, I2C, etc.  like you have with iMX233-OLinuXino.

A13-OLinuXino will be more or less higher performance RPi-like toy suitable for home use, 3D graphics and Flash Games. You can play or write code with A13-OLinuXino as you do on your desktop PC and you will have Android 4.0 and Debian Linux images and sources. A13 actually will be like desktop computer in just smaller package.

As you can see on http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/pipermail/arm-netbook/ forum there is active group of developers who work on A10 up to date linux kernel and drivers. SO things may change in the future and proper documentation and complete linux support for A10 / A13 to be available.

The board preliminary specifications and A13 brief info is on our web: www.olimex.com/dev/a13-olinuxino.html and of course we are looking forward for your comments and suggestions as always. We got very valuable advises when developed iMX233 board and we took most of them into consideration, we’ll do the same with A13.

41 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Greg
    Apr 24, 2012 @ 20:36:25

    Nice find :)
    This looks like a great part for olinuxino

    Reply

  2. jonsmirl
    Apr 24, 2012 @ 21:08:05

    Another one to look at is the TI AM3352. They finally put pricing up for it: AM3352ZCE27 $7.50 Q1000. This is a stripped version of the Beaglebone CPU.

    Allwinner has more bang for the buck, but the state of Linux support for the AM3352 is much higher and the chip is fully documented. (3D is not in the AM3353).

    Reply

    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Apr 24, 2012 @ 21:18:21

      indeed AM3352 is good but you can check BB schematic and BOM and compare with A10 schematic, AM3352 have about x3 times more components around it
      just the power managment chip whith AM3352 require is another $4 vs $1 for AXP209 from Allwinner

      A10/A13 are designed to be cost effective in the consumer market, I’ve heard the total BOM for tablet with A10 is around $15 for A13 should be around $13

      the AM3352 $7.50 price I guess is for the 500Mhz part, but the documentation and support is big advantage, we may release AM335X OLinuXino at later stage as well, but the BGA package will spoil the home re-producing and hacking OLinuXino idea I guess :-)

      Reply

      • jonsmirl
        Apr 24, 2012 @ 21:36:09

        If you guys buy a batch of A10/13 + AXP209 please put the chips up for sale too. It is impossible to buy them in small quantity for prototyping. Selling them in lots of ten pairs would be fine and make things easier.

        Does A10 include Ethernet and USB PHY?

      • OLIMEX Ltd
        Apr 24, 2012 @ 22:10:28

        A10 have Ethernet but needs external PHY

      • jonsmirl
        Apr 24, 2012 @ 21:50:53

        AM3352ZCE27 is 270Mhz for $7.50
        AM3352ZCE50 is 500Mhz for $8.35

        You can probably use the AXP209 as a PMIC for the TI chip.

  3. Trackback: Olimex A13-OLinuXino Could Become a Proper Raspberry Pi Alternative | CNXSoft – Embedded Software Development
  4. robarino
    Apr 25, 2012 @ 09:48:11

    Looks interesting. Would be nice with a TI chip. Documentation is important for a noob. I would definitely pay 10 to 15 dollars more for a TI board. Maybe you could have two at two price points. Still loving the duinomite!

    Reply

  5. Krasimir
    Apr 25, 2012 @ 16:32:05

    A13 in eLQFP176 is nice, but what about the DDR2/3 chips? DDR3 is BGA only, am I right? Probably DDR2 can be sourced in TSSOP, but it is not very common too.
    Additionat information is the A13 drops the CAN controller too (beside HDMI and SATA).
    A10 as small CPU module (with DDR, AXP201 and so on) will be attractive solution and probably even usable in high volume production. How about designing small CPU board with all high-speed signaling, that can be soldered or connected to low cost 2-layer prototybe base board? Yes, it means at least 4 layers and so on, but don’t you think that is will be more useful?
    If one gets A13 in LQFP, than all other components (chips) must be hand-soldering-friendly too.

    Reply

    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Apr 25, 2012 @ 17:03:54

      DDR3 1333Mhz (667×3) chips are used with A13 and the only package is BGA.
      Good point with the CAN controller, correct me if I’m wrong but as far I see the distributed Linux for A10 do not take any advantage of CAN yet and with the absence of datasheet and info such can’t be implemented.
      the advantage of A13 eLQFP is that you can go with 4 layers, with A10 I think 6 layers is the minimum to escape and this is what Allwinner distribute as reference design.
      A13 is *very* highly integrated SoC, all you have around it is just bunch of connectors the memory chips and AXP209, I do not see logic to make small module which then to solder on board which will have few connectors on it? or I’m wrong.
      for what else beside linux computer you will use this module when you have reference design you can’t change and linux image and sources which you can’t alter as you do not know what register what does without documentation?

      Reply

      • Krasimir
        Apr 25, 2012 @ 17:25:52

        You said that BGA of A10 is not compatible with hobby stile projects, my point is that no one will reproduce the board, if he will have to solder BGA memories. But yes, BGA with 4 layers will be cheaper that BGA with 6 layers. The biggest saving will be if there are no BGAs at all, but currenty there is no solution for this range of performance.
        About the CPU module and connectors – in general, routing Ethernet PHY is possible on 2-layer board, so this feature can be left outside of the board, same is true for many of other peripheries like RGB, LCD, ATA and so on.
        With solution like Arduino, you almost always have to add second board – it might be breadboard, or shield, or something else. So, what is the point to make huge board with all connectors and peripherals – the price and size will grow, and you will never satisfy everybody. Or, you will have to manage several variants – mini, mega, micro and so on. Isn’t this equal to having CPU module – I can buy it and solder it to my specific, low cost 2 layer board, that adds CAN, socond microcontroller, bluetooth, zigbee, logic, I/O expanders. Yes, it is above the level of connecting wires on breadboards, but it can “go down” to this level with simple bread board.
        You know that when a small company or individual start production, it is not possible to order 1000 boards. But if we say that I want to build batch of 10-20-100 devices, than it makes no sense to buy Olimexino and add additional hardware (like RS485 tranciever for example).
        Having this CPU module means that you can sell some pieces to small companies (that later will probably design their own boards), but also you can sell base board with soldered module to individuals.

      • OLIMEX Ltd
        Apr 25, 2012 @ 17:36:53

        I see your point, but this board can’t avoid BGAs for sure, I’ve seen lot of SoC modules but for me they are useless for the normal user as nobody wants to get half baked product and start soldering to make it working computer, this will mostly serve small companies designing derivate products which have no volumes to make their own production run, we will think about this it’s easy and doable, although Im sceptical 480MHz USB HS signals are good to go through connectors and same is for the LCD signals which will decrease the quality of the signals significant

      • JohnSmith
        Jun 14, 2013 @ 16:16:39

        Interesting thing: datasheet also tells A13 also supports DDR2 and I can remember I’ve seen DDR2 ICs in TSOP packages or somesuch. So if someone is going to lost part of RAM speed, I guesss, they can try, no? Though it’s a really serious challenge to trace thing like this on just 2 PCB layers.

    • Diego
      Nov 12, 2012 @ 07:52:17

      I was thinking about this problem by months, the other day I thought “what about soldering a SODIMM socket?” :D

      Reply

      • Krasimir
        Nov 12, 2012 @ 11:46:32

        Nice idea :-) Is it possible, how about the banking and bus width size?

      • Diego
        Nov 12, 2012 @ 23:36:40

        I don’t know about the connections of the memory, will have to do a research, but by now I’m too busy with another SoC :P
        The idea of two layers, hand soldering and 1GHz is great! Hope Olimex hears us!

      • Jon Smirl
        Nov 15, 2012 @ 00:26:04

        CPU chip does not support SODIMM

      • well-man2000
        Dec 29, 2012 @ 12:39:23

        Why CPU chip doesn’t support SODIMM ? Becouse A13 has 16 bit DRAM bus ?

        What about A10 with 32 bit bus ? Dumb baseboard with power supply, some extra PHY/interface chips or modules and all needed connectors (wi-fi, usb, rs232, rs485, can bus, hdmi, vga etc) + SODIMM module with core chips (CPU, RAM and NAND flush).

        http://www.emtrion.de/single_board_computers_en.php
        This guys made baseboard with SODIMM socket and modules that support SEVERAL core modules with Frescale, AM335x, Renesas Cortex-A8/9 CPU. These USA processors are well documented but more expensive or less powerful than chines A10/A13. A10/A13 are yesterday chips already if look to newest chines chips (Allwinner A20/A31, Rockchip RK3066 / 2926 / 2928 / 3188, Huawey K3W2, Mediatek MT6589).

        Sorry bad english I’m bear from Siberia :)

      • well-man2000
        Dec 29, 2012 @ 13:38:03

        And what about two SODIMM sockets on the baseboard ? First for CPU + NAND Flush chip and second for standart DDR3 RAM module.

        P.S. I think it’s not good idea to build OlinuXino on 720Mhz TI AM3352 + 512M RAM. It’s very poor for Android 4.x platform. I will not buy board like that and Raspberry Pi too. Why? Many people (hobbyist) need Android 4.x board with LCD, touch screan, wi-fi (i.e. tablet PC) but with GPIOs and industrial interfaces like CAN BUS or RS485 and then build their digital home, robots etc very quickly and easy.

      • jonsmirl
        Dec 29, 2012 @ 17:16:15

        well-man2000, those emtrion CPU modules are not using SODIMM memory. They are just using the SODIMM connector to get a bunch of signals off from the module. The pin outs are not the same.

      • well-man2000
        Dec 29, 2012 @ 19:37:29

        They invented and used own interface standard (pinout) for existing commonly used connector. Their core module carry CPU, Flash and RAM chips.

        OK, but Is it possible to use SODIMM RAM module with A10 CPU and have RAM on separate SODIMM module?

      • jonsmirl
        Dec 29, 2012 @ 19:45:48

        To use a DIMM module the CPU has to have a 64b memory interface. Very few ARM CPUs have 64b memory interfaces. AFAIK only a few expensive ARM CPUs from Freescale support this.

        It is possible to use a DIMM module when the CPU has a 16b/32b bus. In that case you just don’t use the top 48b/32b of the memory bus. Of course that isn’t very cost effective.

        There are companies around that desolder the RAM chips from old modules and resell them cheaply. Those desoldered chips can be used with common ARM CPUs.

      • well-man2000
        Dec 29, 2012 @ 20:51:58

        Jon Smirl, thanks for the clarification! SODIMM has 64 bit data bus but A10 is only 32 bit.

      • Garry Woo
        Jun 27, 2013 @ 16:33:59

        If you bought a 1GB or 2GB SODIMM stick wouldnt using 16b or 32b of the 64b memory width mean you get to utilize the full memory on the SODIMM, which means its still pretty cost effective? Also is there anything special about matching the pins on the SODIMM to the pin of the A13 chip? Has anyone tried it and been successful?

  6. jonsmirl
    Apr 25, 2012 @ 17:16:55

    Wifi support on these boards. I would suggest that while you’re off buying things in China to buy a batch of FCC/CE approved Wifi modules from a place like this:
    http://ogemray.en.alibaba.com/productgrouplist-200609573/Wifi_module.html#products

    Get USB ones. Then put a USB socket onto the baseboard that aims back in over the baseboard (ie keep the form factor of the PCB the same) and ship with one of the modules plugged in. You can get decent modules between $3.00 and $5.00.

    You can solder the modules on too, but at your volumes I wouldn’t bother.

    You want to ship with these pre-mounted for several reasons.
    1) The modules come in all different shapes. You have to arrange the board so that it doesn’t interfere. It is important to orient the module over the PCB instead of sticking out. That way it will fit into the same case.
    2) Everyone will have the same module and you can built the support into the Linux packages.
    3) You’ll have looked up the Chinese vendor’s FCC/CE license and made sure they aren’t faking it.

    BTW, connectors are far cheaper when sourced in China too. Often one third the price of US/EU sourced ones.

    Reply

  7. Tim Michals
    Apr 28, 2012 @ 20:39:18

    Would be nice to be able to use the following camera modules http://designsomething.org/leopardboard/p/accessories.aspx

    Reply

  8. 0xFF
    May 08, 2012 @ 09:40:30

    I’ve discovered that A13 a few weeks ago, and was shocked it was in LQFP package. It’s simply awesome, I hope hobbyists will make the linux source available soon, like they do for the A10.

    I think TCC892x Cortex-A5 might be cheaper, but who knows for sure…

    Reply

    • Krasimir
      May 08, 2012 @ 11:03:47

      I think TCC892x is BGA only? And it is not as fast as A10. How about Rockchip newer “cut-down” versions of RK29xx (RK2908, 2906)? I haven’t seen photos, but could it be that some of them is QFP too?

      Reply

  9. 0xFF
    May 08, 2012 @ 18:59:59

    Maybe they are QFP, but probably not i’d say. I will follow this thread with great interest, hopefully we’ll get a pinout of the A13 very soon, and especially how to get the chip itself and its companion PMIC ?

    Reply

    • KG
      May 08, 2012 @ 21:49:07

      Have you tried to contact Allwinner directly? I asked them and got back some information (but only data briefs, not detailed data sheets). But I also got a quotation for sample orders of 1 set of A10 and AXP209. If you want I can send you contact details where you can describe your project and ask for quotation.
      You know that wits-tech offer development kit for A10 – but it is not cheap, I think something like 1000USD. But this will get you documentation, SDK and so on. Depending on your project it could make sense to get it.

      Reply

  10. Trackback: Olimex A13-OLinuXino Could Become a Proper Raspberry Pi Alternative | People 4 Embedded
  11. Abhi
    Jun 23, 2012 @ 09:52:49

    I agree with Johnsmirl above, Please please put the chips for sale somewhere. You’ve mentioned A10/A13 can be purchased in smaller quantities BUT FROM WHERE ?????? Please ….. I need 1 to experiment but open to buying 5. (A small doc in any condition will also be welcome)

    Reply

  12. Gerard
    Sep 05, 2012 @ 19:05:08

    Where can i check if i wanna buy this processor?

    Reply

  13. David
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 23:11:33

    Can someone find me 10,000 units of the IC

    Reply

  14. Garry Woo
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 16:37:41

    Has anyone been successful in building their own A13 board from scratch? It would be an amazing feat for someone to make a barebones functioning android board at a hobbyist level.

    Reply

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