iBOX

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Got an engineering sample of this new embedded board solution from iTead Studio. It is based on the Allwinner Technology A20 Dual Core SoC  (The same processor as the Cubietruck board). iBox is being crowd-funded at indiegogo [link]. At $70 including power supply and case is an incredible deal.

The iBox is an example implementation of the modular approach that iTead is developing. A “system” can be configured with a “core board” and a “baseboard”. Thus iBox is a core board plus a baseboard and plus a case.

The case is made of gray-anodized aluminum with a plastic top and a steel bottom. (I added some rubber feet)

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Here is compared to the size of a uSD card

 

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Front side: uSD card reader, status LED and IR receiver

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Side: Multi-function expansion connector

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Back side: Peripheral connectors

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The Core board

The A20 core board  [link] is designed as a “computer on a module” and consists of

  •  Allwinner Technology A20 SoC
  • 1 GB DDR3 RAM
  • 4 GB NAND Flash
  • Power Management Unit (AXP209)

The core board is designed as a bare minimum computing module that breaks out most of the I/O pins and buses through two rows of pin headers. The approach also is to “standardize” the pin-header form-factor to allow mixing and matching with baseboards in order to suit different requirements. In addition, this approach provides an upgrade path to newer or different processors.

A20 SoC and DDR3 RAM (The GT chips, each 512MB). The 4 GB Flash should be in the back side of the board.

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The Power Management Unit, AXP209

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24MHz oscillator

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Detail Connection to baseboard

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iBox Baseboard

The baseboard in iBox is designed to provide peripheral interfaces and connect to a core board. The iBox baseboard is one of different baseboards that iTead is developing and as one of the first implementations, it aims at wide appeal by providing the most common I/O interfaces.

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USB Hub: GL850G Hub

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Ethernet Interface: Realtek RTL8201CP

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The board has a 3 Amp switching regulator, the MP2307 set at 5V. The input range of the regulators is  4.75V to 23V.

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uSD Card reader, IR receiver and LED indicator

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Multi function expansion connector

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USB and HDMI connectors

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SPDIF Toslink optical connector, Ethernet and power connector. The bundle supply is rated a 9V, 2 Amp

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Summary of iBox baseboard interfaces and connectors:

  • Power connector
  • 5V regulator (MP2307)
  • Four 2.0 USB ports (Integrated GL850G Hub)
  • HDMI port,
  • Ethernet interface (Integrated Realtek RTL8201CP 100M transceiver)
  • SPDIF optical (Digital Audio Output)
  • U-boot button (Universal Bootloader. U-boot to embedded boards is like BIOS to PC motherboards)
  • uSD care reader
  • IR receiver (for remote control)
  • Status LED indicators
  • 32-pin multi-function expansion interface providing the most common interfaces
    • Video output
    • Serial Interface
    • Debug interface
    • I2C
    • SPI
    • SATA Interface
    • Analog audio In
    • Headphone Out

iboxEx

In fact there will be an expansion board [link] available with SATA connectors plus other connectors

IboxSata-001

iBoxCard-001

AUDIO

Since this site is dedicated to audio, we will focus a bit on the audio capabilities of iBox

ANALOG AUDIO

According to the datasheet, The A20 has the following built-in audio features:

Analog Output

  1. DAC
    • 16bit, 24-bit data
    • 44.1KHz, 48KHz, 96KHz and 192KHz sample rate
    • 100 db SNR
  2. Analog/Digital volume control (62 steps)
  3. Stereo headphone amplifier (capless). dedicated headphone output

Analog Input

  • ADC: 24-bit, 8KHz to 48KHz, 96 db SNR
  • Line-in Stereo or one differential
  • Two Microphone input
  • Stereo FM input

Here is the analog/headphone output diagram:

A20AnalogOut

DIGITAL AUDIO

Spdif

The iBox has a built-in SPDIF/Toslink connector. According to these discussions [link], the SPDIF output supports:

  • 16bit data
  • Up to 192KHz sample rate

I2S

  • Resolution: 16bit, 20bit and 24bit
  • Sample rates: 8KHz to 192 KHz
  • Format: I2S, Left Justified, Right Justified
  • Frame (BLCK): 16bit, 20bit, 24bit and 32bit

I’ve previously described the I2S capabilities of the A20 processor here [link]. The A20 datasheet (p.20) [link] specifies that the chip supports up to 8 channels of I2S output (DO0 to DO3 represent the 4 stereo channels of I2S data).

A20I2S

I2S support in the core board

In the Itead A20 core board pin schematic [link] we can see that the I2S pins are available and connected to the pin headers (PB5 to PB11):

IteadCorePins

I2S support in the baseboard

Looking at the schematic of the iBox base board, pins PB5-PB11 are not connected to the expansion header.  However, PB5-PB11 pins are available on the underside of the base board  (they are just soldered without connecting to anything) and can be easily tapped.

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SOFTWARE

I shall get familiar with the software environment and report shortly in the next post…

ALLWINNER TECHNOLOGY, THE COMPANY

The A20 SoC was announced about a year ago. I have to admit, I had never heard of this company. A bit of digging uncovered that this company is fast becoming a dominant player in the SoC market:

You may never have heard of Allwinner but they are huge and as of CES now have an 8-core tablet part on the market. With the release of the A80 SoC and the OptimusBoard that SemiAccurate used, the company is well positioned for the mainstream tablet market in 2014.

Allwinner rarely makes the headlines because they don’t make bleeding edge products that go in to high-end phones and tablets, instead they make mainstream SoCs that go in to high volume tablets. This mid-range market has decent margins, huge volumes, and since they don’t target phones directly there are no radio hassles and regulation to deal with. How big is Allwinner? Huge. Continue reading: [link]

The most interesting part of this company is their announcement to join Linaro’s newly formed Digital Home market segment group as a founding member together with media behemoth Comcast (and others). This means that there will be more video and audio applications coming our way.

Linaro Ltd, the not-for-profit engineering organization developing open source software for the ARM® architecture, today at Linaro Connect Asia 2014 (LCA14) in Macau announced* that …

Allwinner Technology is a founding member of a new market segment group being formed in Linaro to focus on the Digital Home market. This group will be the third Linaro segment group, following the formation of the Linaro Enterprise Group (LEG), focused on ARM servers, and the Linaro Networking Group (LNG) focused on the networking equipment market space.

OS SUPPORT

The list from iTead should work as is. Others are compatible with the A20 SoC, but may require additional work to support the peripheral components.

REFERENCE

  • iTead Documentation and Download Repository [link]
  • Audiophile bit-perfect with the A10 [link]
  • CNX Software Blog. Developments on embedded computing, including news on Linaro [link]
  • Review of A20 built-in DAC and headphone output [link]

 

 

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  1. David Quayle
    2014/04/01 at 07:36

    More great info thanks

  2. brian
    2014/04/11 at 04:46

    The 70 USD price does NOT include the power supply!

  3. Nary
    2014/05/24 at 20:27

    Hi,
    Any progress?
    I also buy iBox and try to setup MPD.
    Now I can hear music with Amanero, next I try to I2S direct…

    • BlgGear
      2014/06/09 at 21:28

      Haven’t had the time to work on the iBox. Currently, I am trying to finalize code for the ES9018K2M DAC…

      • David Quayle
        2014/06/10 at 11:28

        A new project at hand (ES9018K2M)?

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