New Part Day: The BeagleBoard Gets Bigger

Officially, the latest hardware revision we’ve seen from BeagleBoard is the BeagleBone Black, a small board that’s perfect for when you want to interface hardware to a Linux software environment. This last summer, the BeagleBone Green was introduced, and while it’s a newer hardware release, it’s really just a cost-reduced version of the BB Black. Over the entire BeagleBoard family, it’s time for an upgrade.

It’s been talked about for more than a year now, but the latest and greatest from the BeagleBoard crew is out. It’s called the BeagleBoard X15, and not only is it an extremely powerful Linux board, it also has more ports than you would ever need.

The new BeagleBoard features a dual-core ARM Cortex A15 running at 1.5GHz. There is 2GB of DDR3L RAM on board, and 4GB of EMMC Flash. Outputs include three USB 3.0 hosts, two Gigabit Ethernet controllers, one eSATA connector, LCD output, two PCIe connectors, and an HDMI connector capable of outputting 1920×1080 at 60 FPS. The entire board is open hardware, with documentation for nearly every device on the board available now. The one exception is the PowerVR SGX544 GPU which has a closed driver, but the FSF has proposed a project to create an open driver for this graphics engine so that could change in the future.

The expected price of the BeagleBoard X15 varies from source to source, but all the numbers fall somewhere in the range of $200 to $240 USD, with more recent estimates falling toward the high end. This board is not meant to be a replacement for the much more popular BeagleBone. While the development and relationship between the ~Board and ~Bone are very much related, the BeagleBone has always and will always be a barebone Linux board, albeit with a few interesting features. The BeagleBoard, on the other hand, includes the kitchen sink. While the BeagleBoard X15 hardware is complete, so far there are less than one hundred boards on the planet. These are going directly to the people responsible for making everything work, afterwards orders from Digikey and Mouser will be filled. General availability should be around November, and certainly by Christmas.

While it’s pricier than the BeagleBone, the Raspberry Pi, or dozens of other ARM Linux boards out there, The BeagleBone has a lot of horsepower and plenty of I/Os. It’s an impressive piece of hardware that out-competes just about everything else available. We can’t wait to see it in the wild, but more importantly we can’t wait to see what people can do with it.

Title image credit: Vladimir Pantelic

30 thoughts on “New Part Day: The BeagleBoard Gets Bigger

      1. Yes but they have much worse specs (example – QNAP TS-431: ARM v7 Cortex A9 dual-core 1.2GHz + 512MB RAM + 512MB Flash). This board would run circles around any Home/SOHO NAS if only it had enough SATA ports which sadly is not the case. I also hope it supports port replicators.

        1. According to the TRM it supports port multipliers, but only command-based switching.

          It doesn’t have multiple SATA ports since the SoC isn’t designed for storage appliances. (It is actually mainly designed for Advanced Driver Assistance systems in cars, as well as automotive infotainment.)

        2. I get the impression that some modern consumers NAS boxes are getting a bit too eager to call home too, there’s a thing to be said for making your own for that reason too.

  1. It does not have PCIe slots/”connectors”. It has two PCIe channels available on the expansion headers, but that would still require non-trivial hardware to create PCIe slots (and their power supply requirements). Note that the PCIe subsystem could alternatively be configured into endpoint mode, to make the x15 into a really odd PCIe card ;-)

    Also, the SGX 3D accelerator isn’t the only subsystem with no public docs and only closed source blobs, IVA-HD (video en-/decoding) is in the same situation. The TRM also omits docs for various other subsystems (including PCIe), although they may have linux driver support nevertheless.

    It’s still a mighty board though, and the features of the SoC are nuts :-D

    1. Good point about the connectors but two PCIe lanes and two ethernet adaptors just screams NAS or firewall router. The extra IO and DSPs is also very interesting. I can see this being used in may places but a really good ARM based NAS is something I have been wanting for a while.

  2. I’m a big fan of Beagle family, I have at least one of each board they released, but at $240 I think I’ll give up x15. It’s looks like a great board, however unless big number of I/O lines is required, NVIDIA Jetson, or even a small Intel board will come out cheaper, at comparable performance.

  3. too expensive. I’d rather use x86 and mini-itx which is bog standard and everyone knows/supports it.

    ARM should be cheap and this is not cheap anymore. not sure what its place is but I can see the rasp pi and BBB as a nice compute level for its price; but if you want to get more serious, that bumps me into mini-itx land and then I can pick lots of standard options. x86 is getting lower power all the time.

    paying more than $100 for even a full featured arm board seems a bit at the upper end. just my take, though; ymmv.

    1. I agree, it’s a bit in the high range, you have to be realistic and when you deliver a ARM system without a display you can’t go too high.
      I guess they went with design first and price later, which might not have been a good idea, but we let the market decide I guess.

    2. Exactly, by now you can get a full fledged x86 PC with an SSD for ~120€ which also supports 4k and multi-head output if you’re interested in the display part of the board.
      I can only really see this as an interesting development plattform for PCI-E devices. Though this sounds like a super niche product.

    3. Definitely agree there. I can’t see even paying $100 for an ARM board. I top out at about $60 before I’d start looking at x86.
      $60 for an ITX board with an A4-5000 APU and another $25 for 4 gb of RAM.

    4. It’s not just a dual core Cortex-A15 though. It also has two powerful C66x DSP cores, four PRU cores (which are seriously cool), four Cortex-M4 cores, and a ton of dedicated subsystems and peripherals. You can do serious real-time processing on this.

      1. Just to be clear, the DSP cores are for what? Audio processing? Same question for the PRU cores.

        And I assume the four Coretex-M4 cores take over when the board goes into power save mode. Am I right or am I mistaken?

        1. For whatever you want. Those DSP cores are also used in WCDMA/UMTS cellular basestations, they can do 32 MACs per cycle (per core). You could use them for audio (if you like overkill).

          The PRU cores are non-pipelined processors for real-time I/O: they can literally bitbang all sorts of bus protocols, since their GPIO is directly into registers and any instruction that isn’t external memory access takes exactly 1 cycle, allowing precise timing to be created in software.

          The M4s are typically used for soft real-time stuff. One the two dual-core Cortex-M4 subsystems is generally occupied by looking after the various video peripherals, the other is freely programmable.

      2. That’s good, but very niche, you can’t run a business on the handful of people that need that I expect.
        Still though, if you happen to need it then it’s great that it’s available.

        1. They’re not running a business off of it – they’re Texas Freakin’ Instruments. It’s a dev board. If it persuades someone to spec a TI part down the road instead of some other company’s for the next iWhatever, then that right there pretty much pays for the whole program. That’s why they give away their stuff to schools.

  4. Saying that this “out-competes just about everything else available” is a bit excessive.
    The specs are impressive until you get to the price tag. At $200+, the BBX15 is going to miss the consumer strike zone. Maybe a BBX15-b model will bring this design back down to a price and feature point that will make into a more attractive option. It looks like a nice board, but bigger is not always better.

  5. It’s nice to see more use of the powerful Cortex-A15 core.
    But for that price, you’d be better off getting the Jetson TK1 board from Nvidia. Not only do you get twice as many cores at a higher clock speed, more eMMC, and a real miniPCIe slot, but Nouveau supports the Kepler GPU. So you get Open Source OpenGL 4.x instead of closed OpenGL ES.

  6. You haven’t been able to buy a BeagleBoard for over a year … the PCB’s (or something) were too hard to make. I had heard that the circuit boards had a terribly high reject rate due to the trace/component density. This version is their punt to get around that problem. At least one will be able to buy a BeagleBoard now. I ordered one at Mouser a year ago … along with a Leopard HD cam for it. The Cam arrived a week later …. Mouser eventuraly (in July) asked me to cancel the order or wait an unknown time for the BeagleBoard. They still list a lead time of 26 weeks (half a year) from the manufacturer.

  7. Odroid XU4 has 8 cores, 2GB RAM, USB3, and GigE. ~$75US. Built a NAS with it using USB3 drives. The 8 cores are great for ARM container development. And there are a number of ARM containers on docker hub. To avoid wear on the eMMC, I added a USB3 SSD as well to my setup. Mostly for docker builds and 4GB of swap. The only downside is the fan of the XU4. Runs on/off/on/off, etc… a bit annoying in my very quiet office, but then that’s why I have a rack in the basement. :-)

  8. It’s a dev board. Most real applications use a couple of connectors. Maybe 3, like Ethernet, a serial with RS232 or CAN, and LCD. Or WiFi of some sort and two GPIO. To load it up for a NAS? Without an enclosure that helps mechanical support I’d be afraid of breaking the board from all the connectors hung on it.

  9. If I had about $8,000 for every failed GPU driver project I’ve seen since the early two thousands I’d be able to hire a lot of developers and fund my own startup..

    Still no trustzone stuff for isolation either

    1. Yeah, reverse engineering a GPU driver is no small thing, although SGX at least makes it easy to sniff traffic between the closed-source blob and the GPU.

      And it’s indeed annoying as hell that TI keeps locking up secure world on GP devices instead of allowing it to be used freely. Note however that trustzone would be limited to the Cortex-A15 anyway, where you also have hardware virtualization available for isolation. You can configure the interconnect firewalls to keep different initiator subsystems from messing with each other’s resources (with reasonable granularity).

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