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600MHz Cortex-A8 module starts at $49

Oct 28, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 50 views

Variscite is shipping what it claims is the lowest cost Cortex-A8 computer-on-module (COM) on the market. The $49 VAR-SOM-AM35 integrates the 600MHz AM3505 or 3D-accelerated AM3517 processor, running on only one Watt, and offers LCD and touchscreen interfaces supporting up to 2048 x 2048 resolution, plus interfaces including SD card, Ethernet, USB, serial, and CAN Bus.

The VAR-SOM-AM35 is designed for a variety of industrial and automotive applications, says Israel-based Variscite. The company produces and distributes numerous SODIMM-sized modules under its own name, although many are also resold by Direct Insight.

A recent Variscite module was the VAR-SOM-OM37 COM announced in July, which is based on the Texas Instruments (TI) DM37xx system-on-chip (SoC), with an ARM Cortex-A8 core clocked at up to 1GHz.


The VAR-SOM-AM35 is instead based on TI's Sitara AM3505 or AM3517 SoCs. The processors had their Cortex-A8 cores clocked at 500MHz when they were announced a year ago, but are clocked to 600MHz here. Able to run on less than one Watt, according to TI, the Sitara AM3505 and AM3517 are similar to the OMAP35x, but lack their video acceleration DSPs (digital signal processors).

The AM3505 and AM3517, which differ only in the addition of an Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX 2D/3D graphics accelerator on the AM3517, are targeted at industrial and automotive applications, as well as "smart white goods" and digital signage.

A block diagram of TI's AM3517
(Click to enlarge)

The AM3505 and AM3517 are distinguished by their support for lower-cost DDR2 memory, instead of the LPDDR required by the OMAP35x products. The AM35x chips also add 10/100 Ethernet controllers, provide PHY (physical layer) functionality for their USB 2.0 on-the-go (OTG) interfaces, and include high-end CAN controllers, the company says.

The VAR-SOM-AM35 can use either of these Sitara SoCs, and is further equipped with 128MB to 256MB DDR2 SDRAM plus 256MB of 512MB NAND flash, says Variscite. An LCD interface is said to support up to 2048 x 2048 resolution, and a touchscreen interface is also available, says the company.

I/O is carried forward to an available baseboard (see farther below) via a 35mm SODIMM connector. The module provides an Ethernet controller, dual USB host interfaces, a USB OTG interface, and various serial controllers including SPI and I2C.

The VAR-SOM-AM35 makes use of the Sitara processors' CAN controllers to offer a CAN bus interface, says Variscite. The COM also provides four UARTs, audio I/O, a memory card interface, and an image-sensor interface, says the company.

Features and specifications listed for the VAR-SOM-AM35 include:

  • Processor — TI AM3517/AM3505 @ 600MHz (Cortex-A8) with NEON SIMD coprocessor and PowerVR SGX 2D/3D accelerator (AM3517 only)
  • Memory — 128-256MB 400MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256-512MB NAND flash
  • Display:
    • LCD interface
    • touchscreen interface
    • up to 2048 x 2048 resolution
    • HDMI/LVDS connectors available on baseboard
  • Audio — mic in; line out; 16-bit linear audio stereo DAC and ADC
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet controller
  • Other I/O:
    • CAN bus
    • 2 x high speed USB host interface
    • High speed USB OTG interface
    • TDM interface (over McBSP1)
    • SPI interface
    • 2 x I2C interfaces
    • 1 wire/HDQ
    • 4 x UART ports
    • RAW image-sensor module interface
    • SD card/SDIO/MMC card interface
  • Power — 3.3-5V DC-IN supply (1 x Li-Ion battery); typical 1 W consumption
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 185 deg. F (-40 to 85 deg. C)
  • Dimensions — 35mm SODIMM


The VAR-SOM-AM35 is available with "complete" Linux and Windows Embedded CE support, says Variscite. The website lists the availability of a VAR-3XCustomBoard and a VAR-DVK-AM35 evaluation kit.

The website links, however, go to the VAR-OM3xCustomBoard (pictured above) and VAR-DVK-OM37, respectively, two development options available with the aforementioned VAR-SOM-OM37. The CustomBoard page says that it the baseboard also supports the AM35 module, and presumably, the full evaluation kit, which includes an LCD display, does so too. (For more information, please see our earlier coverage, here.)


The VAR-SOM-AM35 is available now at prices starting at $49, says Variscite. More information may be found here.

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