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$7 Soc runs Linux

May 15, 2008 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 49 views

Atmel is now sampling an ARM9-based system-on-chip (SoC) that runs Linux and targets “power-constrained applications that also need high performance.” The AT91SAM9G20 consumes a maximum of 80mW, has twice the clock speed of its predecessor, four times the cache, and a host of standard interfaces.

Supplied in a 217-ball LFBGA (low-profile, fine-pitch ball grid array) RoHs-compliant package, the AT91SAM9G20 is described as a “pin-compatible evolution” of the company's previous AT91SAM9260. Retaining that SOC's ARM926EJ-S core, it quadruples data and instruction caches to 32KB apiece, doubles internal ROM to 64KB, and takes internal SRAM from 8KB to 16KB.

A block diagram of the AT91SAM9G20
(Click to enlarge)

The AT91SAM9G20 also more than doubles the AT91SAM9260's CPU frequency, taking clock speed from 190MHz to 400MHz. Pin-to-pin compatible with the earlier part, with the exception of power supply pins, it additionally increases the system bus to 133MHz.

Yet, claims Atmel, the SoC's power consumption is half that of the earlier part, hitting just 80mW in full-power mode with all peripherals enabled. The device has four reduced-power modes, including a “backup mode” that turns off the main power supply.

The AT91SAM9G20 has an external bus interface with controllers for SDRAM, NAND flash, and CompactFlash, and integrates a host of on-chip peripheral interfaces. Multiplexed to three 32-bit parallel I/O controllers, in order to reduce pin count, these include:

  • USB full speed host and device interfaces
  • 10/100 Ethernet MAC
  • Image sensor interface
  • 1 x two-slot MCI (multimedia card interface)
  • 1 x SSC (synchronous serial controller)
  • 2 x master/slave SPI (serial peripheral interfaces)
  • 4 x USART
  • 2 x 2-wire UARTS
  • 1 x TWI (two-wire interface)
  • 1 x four-channel 10-bit ADC

Additional features include a system controller, reset controller, shutdown controller, clock management, advanced interrupt controller (AIC), debug unit, periodic interval timer, watchdog timer, and real-time timer.

The AT91SAM9G20 will be supported by an AT91SAM9G20-EK evaluation board, although details of this were not yet available. Due to the differing power supply pins, it is not compatible with the AT91SAM9260-EK evaluation board (shown at right) that has been used for the AT91SAM9260. The new board will likely provide very similar features, however, including USB host and device ports, an SD/MMC card slot, serial ports, a JTAG debug interface, and connector for an image sensor.


The AT91SAM9G20 supports Linux, Windows CE, and .NET Micro Framework, as well as “a number of real-time operating systems (RTOSes) and middleware products,” according to Atmel. It is sampling now, and will be priced at $7 in quantities of 10K. The AT91SAM9260 will continue to be supplied and fully supported as long as demand continues, adds Atmel.

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