Today’s Diminutive Device is a small castellated System-On-Module (Twitter link, nitter proxy) from [MangoPi] called M-Core, with a quad-core A53 CPU and 1 GB of RAM. As such, it’s very capable of running Linux, and even sports an HDMI output! Taking a closer look at the devboard picture, we can spot traces for three USB 2.0 ports, what seems to be two SDIO interfaces for MicroSD or WiFi cards, and an Ethernet MagJack with its termination network. This is a decent set of interfaces, rivaling what we’d expect out of a Pi Zero!
More importantly, this module is as small as an SD card itself – or as an OLED display that we hobbyists sprinkle onto our projects. Having power of Linux in such a small footprint is certainly something to behold! The back of the module is mostly flat, save for a few decoupling capacitors on the other side of the CPU – it seems, an Allwinner H616. On top of it, we can see the CPU itself, a small buck regulator and a DDR3 RAM chip, as well as tightly-packed passives. There’s even an unpopulated footprint for a DFN8 QSPI flash chip – with a lightweight enough OS build, you could perhaps dedicate your MicroSD card to storage only.
The devboard for uses the “FlexyPins”-like connectivity technique we’ve covered recently, and [MangoPi] say they bought those pins on TaoBao. We can’t help but be a bit amused at the thought of putting HDMI through such connections, but it seems to work well enough! Castellated modules like these are relatively easy to work with, so it shouldn’t be hard to literally pop this module out of the devboard and figuratively pop it onto your PCB. Next step is, reportedly, porting Armbian to this board, likely solving quite a few software support hurdles.
MangoPi have been posting updates on their Twitter page over the last few weeks, and, as it comes with the format, a lot of questions are left unanswered. Why does the devboard only show a single linear regulator of the kind we typically expect to deliver 1 A at most? Will we get higher-RAM versions? What’s the price going to look like? Will this module ever get to market? We can only hope, but if it does indeed, we are sure to see a few projects with these, whether it’s smart glasses, smart displays, phones, handhelds or malicious wall chargers. As usual, community makes or breaks an SBC, and we shall watch this one closely.
We thank [WifiCable] and [DjBiohazard] for sharing this with us!