The work on our most complex Open Source Hardware Linux board started – meet the Tukhla iMX8QuadMax SOC based board to be designed with KiCAD


We started working on our most complex OSHW board with KiCAD.

iMX8 is broad range of very different ARM architectures under same name which some people may find quite confusing.
Here is the table chart:

You can see by yourself:

  • iMX8X is quite humble with up to x4 Cortex-A35+Cortex-M4F cores, something less capable than Allwinner A13 or STM32MP1XX
  • iMX8M, Nano/Mini/Plus is x4 Cortex-A53 + Cortex-A7/M4F something in the range of power of Allwinner A64
  • finally iMX8QuadMax comes with different configurations, but the high end is Octa-core with x2 Cortex-A72 + x4 Cortex-A53 + x2 Cortex-M4F and is more powerful than the popular Rockchip RK3399

Why we did started working on such monster?

Company from EU which values the OSHW recognized the absence of high end open source Linux board and asked us to design one. They offered to cover all associated design costs. They specially requested this to be not yet another RK3399 board, but based on SOC with proper documentation and software support. NXP’s high end iMX8QuadMax matched their requirements perfectly.

Currently all powerful Cortex-A72 comes from Chinese or Korean origin and are always closed projects, the only published info in best case is PDF schematic which can’t be verified i.e. the final product may or may not match what they publish. The popular Raspberry Pi go even further and their “schemaitcs” are just connector diagrams.

This is how the Tukhla project was born, it will have:

  • MIMX8QM5AVUFFAB Octa-core SOC with: ( x2 Cortex-A72, x4 Cortex-A53, x2 Cortex-M4F, x4 GPUs with 16 Vec4-Shader GPU, 32 compute units OpenGL® ES 3.2 and Vulkan® support Tessellation and Geometry Shading, Split-GPU architecture enables 2x 8 Shader Cores, 4k h.265 Decode, 1080p h.264 encode)
  • x2 LPDDR4 x32 databus RAM memory with up to 16GB of RAM configuration
  • PMU taking all power lines from single 12V/4A source
  • micro SD card
  • eMMC Flash with differnt sizes
  • QSPI Flash
  • x1 SATA for external HDD/SSD drives
  • x2 single lane PCIe with M2 connectors for NVMe
  • HDMI input 1.4 RX with HDCP 2.2
  • HDMI output 2.0 TX with HDCP 2.2 4K
  • USB 2.0 OTG
  • USB 3.0 HOST
  • x2 Gigabit Ethernet
  • x2 MIPI CSI camera connectors

The price of MIMX8QM5AVUFFAB alone is around EUR 100 in small quantities and currently LPDDR4 4GB cost EUR 35, LPDDR4 8GB cost EUR 50, LPDDR4 16GB cost EUR 180.

So with BOM over EUR 200 this board will not be affordable for the most of Raspberry Pi $35 price range users.

This board targets professionals, who need high performance board and being not dependent by Chinese SOC vendors. With all hardware open, which gives them security for their business as the design is public.

iMX8QuadMax SOC is available in automotive AEC-Q100 Grade 3 (-40° to 125° C Tj), Industrial (-40° to 105° C Tj), Consumer (-20° to 105° C Tj)

Some of the features like HDMI input are not present in the Chinese SOCs at all.

iMX8QuadMax may have DSP and incorporate Vision and Speech Recognition interactivity via a powerful vision pipeline and audio processing subsystem.

The Software support include: Android™, Linux®, FreeRTOS, QNX™, Green Hills®, Dornerworks XEN™.

iMX8QuadMax is fully supported on NXP’s 10 and 15-year Longevity Program

Tukhla means Brick in Bulgarian (and other Slavish languages) and it will be the OSHW building block for whole range of different solutions.

How long it will take to finish this design?

We honestly don’t know. It took more than month just to capture the schematic in the state it is now:

There is long path now to create and verify all component packages (just the SOC is in 1313 BGA ball package), verify the schematic signals, place the components on the PCB, route high speed signals manually.

It may be 6 months or more. We got unofficial info that NXP engineers spent more than year to make the NXP iMX8QMax demo board.

23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jonassmedegaard
    Jul 07, 2020 @ 14:01:35

    Wauw!

    Looking forward to both the initial board and the later TERES-1 board 😉

    Reply

  2. Paul Jones
    Jul 07, 2020 @ 15:08:09

    Whose RK3399 boards have been around for about 2 years now and pcie and big memory transfers are still buggy.

    Reply

  3. emenon
    Jul 09, 2020 @ 09:40:15

    while I like the idea of the open hardware board you can purchase a whole x86 laptop for 200…

    Reply

    • jonassmedegaard
      Jul 09, 2020 @ 10:30:54

      Depending on your requirements you indeed have different options available.
      If the values of OSHW is irrelevant to you then indeed there is “more” value in different seemingly similar products.

      Reply

    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Jul 09, 2020 @ 10:42:46

      I got many of these too, at one time I counted 11 pcs broken laptops during the years, and you can bet I didn’t bought the lowest cost junk for EUR200 but high end models from Toshiba, Dell, Fujistu etc (there is picture of them st the blog post for TERES) this is what motivated me to start TERES – open design where you know every bit of it, so when it breaks you can fix, modular design and spare parts available, so when power jack or keyboard button breaks or battery die you do not throw the whole laptop but change just the broken part.

      Reply

  4. Nacho
    Jul 10, 2020 @ 14:49:32

    Very interesting project, I will not mind the price if it’s a well engineered quality product, I think a company like Olimex should insist in high quality reliable products.

    Reply

  5. GNUtoo
    Jul 13, 2020 @ 02:14:12

    As far as I understand the RK3399 has the following freedom issues:
    * A nonfree firmware is required for using the USB Type-C display port output
    * It may have nonfree firmware for hardware video decoding (I’ve not checked)
    So even if there is this display output problem, it can at least boot with free software.
    But for the I.MX8, it requires nonfree software (a nonfree ddr4 controller firmware) to even boot. In addition it also requires a nonfree firmware for the HDMI.
    Reference: https://gitlab.denx.de/u-boot/u-boot/-/blob/master/board/freescale/imx8qxp_mek/README
    Once the boot issue is solved, it could actually be great, however nobody seems to work on that issue and every companies or project simply chose to ignore it rubber stamping it as running fully free software while you cannot even boot with free software.

    Reply

  6. Trackback: Olimex Tukhla High-End Open Source Hardware NXP i.MX 8QuadMax SBC in the Works
  7. Trackback: Ignitial Tukhla will be a high-end, open hardware single board computer (developed by Olimex)
  8. Zero0d
    Jul 14, 2020 @ 09:08:16

    Hi, the board looks great 🙂

    Is it possible to make suggestion for the camera connectors, where is the best way to do it before to late?

    1) I think it is better to have 5V and not 3V3 if possible ( because a lot of image senors use 3.3V for analog core and then you have to use this rail from SMPS for analog core and derive other Digital core and I/O voltage from this rail [to maintain low component count on sensor PCB when doing integration] and this is not an ideal scenario because then there is a lot of noise to take care on the 3V3 analog core part), and additional you can get a little more power 🙂

    2) Why shift I2C from 1V8 to 3V3 level, and leave the reset and power-down at 1.8V? The most image sensors that i saw and worked with use 1.8V for I/O and I2C, it is better also to leave the I2C at 1.8V

    3) the SOC has a MCLK out for cameras, please connect this to camera connector, this is a good option for low cost

    4) It would be great to have additional 2 pins on the camera connector for TriggerIN ( sync pin) and StrobeOUT ( flash pin)

    Br.

    Reply

    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Jul 14, 2020 @ 09:13:32

      if you check the camera connector is exactly same as Raspberry pi camera. why? bacause there are plenty of existing 5-8Mpix cameras for Rpi which are easy to purchase. Making the connector incompatible leads to no reliable source as every camera manufacturer makes his own non compatible with the others pinout

      Reply

      • Zero0d
        Jul 14, 2020 @ 09:32:08

        Good Morning,

        yes i agree about that there are plenty of existing camera modules and this is a good thing 🙂 ( but i also think that RPi connector is not the best one 😀 )

        Also i checked the RPi documentation and the 22pin connector is only on Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi Zero W and on Raspberry Pi 4 Model B and Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ there is a 15pin connector with only 2L MIPI-CSI ( so you will need an adapter to convert from 15pin camera module to 22pin camera module.

        And the camera connector was introduced from Rpi i think in 2014.

        https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/hardware/raspberrypi/schematics/README.md

      • OLIMEX Ltd
        Jul 14, 2020 @ 12:56:54

        we put both 15 and 22 pin connectors on the board no need for adapters, any Rpi camera can be connected

  9. Mark
    Jul 14, 2020 @ 20:41:13

    Do you know of any FOSS driver work on the Amphion Malone h264 encoder in the imx8qm? That would potentially be very interesting for the FOSDEM video setup then…

    Reply

  10. curious
    Jul 16, 2020 @ 03:43:43

    Always cool to hear someone is designing a new board!

    If you target professionals, does this board support:
    – dual hdmi output (using two monitors)
    – aes encryption instructions (encrypting your whole machine without impacting performance too much
    ?

    Other important questions:
    – do both CPU and GPU performance drastically outclass the average RK3399 board? This would be expected at such a price tag.

    But maybe you won’t target personal users at all so my questions might not be too relevant (except aes).

    Reply

    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Jul 16, 2020 @ 08:11:34

      at this point I can’t say what is implemented as software, as we do not have hardware to try
      but as per the datasheets this SOC can output up to 4 displays at 1080p resolution or 1 display at 4K resolution
      obviously it has AES and Trust Zone, but we can’t comment how / if it’s implemented for the same above reason.
      I have no idea if the GPUs “drastically” outclass RK3399, but I see there is OpenGL ES 3.1 and Vulcan implementation
      also most of the price difference here comes from the more features this SOC has vs RK3399 like 2x PCIe, 2xGigabit, CAN-FD, Automotive/Insudtrial grade operating temperature where RK3399 do not compete.

      Reply

      • curious
        Jul 16, 2020 @ 22:43:00

        Thanks for taking the time to reply!
        I don’t quite see how you’d connect more than one monitor, if there’s only one hdmi out, though.
        So the industrial grade makes for a higher price tag, I see.
        If you’re interested in what personal users wish for, I can recommend visiting forums of other-than-raspberry sbcs. Lots of complaints about bad software support, for example.
        Maybe having support for an os like armbian could be of interest to you.

        Just a few thoughts of someone who would like to switch from x86 to arm. Quite possible I’m not directly your target audience, though.

        Anyway, good luck!

  11. OLIMEX Ltd
    Jul 17, 2020 @ 09:26:35

    Displays can be connected to other interfaces than HDMI, this SOC has plenty of options, and it has capabilities to drive 4 separate display outputs, these may be MIPI, LVDS, HDMI, eDP etc.
    It’s not just the industrial grade, there are much more interfaces and capabilities, one SOC is not just the core, it’s wrong to compare two processors just by the amount of cores and yes as I wrote this SOC may be not interesting for the average RPi users.
    Many people has Real time processes to control and the couple of Cortex-M4F co-processors would be very useful.
    Many applications need reliable operation above all and Freescale/NXP SOC always have good Linux community support as they are much more open than Broadcom and come with proper documentation, something which Chinese SOC vendors are still to catch up.

    Reply

  12. Trackback: Высококачественная плата Ignitial Tukhla на базе SoC NXP i.MX 8QuadMax с открытым аппаратным обеспечением находится в стадии разработки — CNXSoft- новости A
  13. Theo Baumgartner
    Aug 02, 2020 @ 01:22:49

    Will the iMX8 SOC chosen have ECC memory option? Will you make a board with an extra memory module installed to make use of ECC memory?

    Reply

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