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$8 ARM chip touted for DDR2 support

Jul 27, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 7 views

Atmel announced a new member of its Linux-compatible ARM9-based SAM9G family of industrial-focused embedded processors. Touted for supporting DDR2 memory and 100Mbps+ data rates, the “AT91SAM9G45” clocks to 400MHz, supports LCD touchscreens and 3.3 V power, and offers a 480Mbps USB interface, says the company.

The SAM9G45 is targeted at industrial applications including building automation, data loggers, POS terminals, alarm systems and medical equipment, says Atmel. According to the company, the move to DDR2 was spurred on by the recession, which has forced many memory vendors to shut down their SDRAM fabs. In short, SDRAM "is basically obsolete for current generation PCs," says the company.

Like the AT91SAM9G20, announced in May 2008, the SAM9G45 uses an ARM926EJ-S core clocked to 400MHz, as well as 32KB each of data and instruction cache. This is twice the clock speed and four times the cache of the earlier AT91SAM9260. Like the SAM9G20, the SAM9G45 provides 64K of internal SRAM.

SAM9G45 architecture

The SAM9G45's twin parallel external bus interfaces (EBI) support DDR2 memory at 133MHz, as well as SDRAM, NAND flash, and NOR flash, with dual interfaces for MMC 4.3 and SDIO/SDCard 2.0. The device provides boot from NAND flash, SDCard, DataFlash, or serial DataFlash, Atmel adds.

The processor integrates high speed (480Mbps) EHCI-compliant USB host and device ports with on-chip transceivers, says Atmel. Additional interfaces are said to include Ethernet, an LCD controller with resistive touch screen interface, as well as those for a CMOS camera and audio, says the company.

A 12-layer system bus matrix is linked to the core's memory management unit (MMU) and offers 37 DMA channels, says Atmel. Each of eight central DMA channels and six high-speed DMAs is said to be dedicated to interfaces including the video decoder, LCD controller, USB host and device, and Ethernet MAC. As a result, the SAM9G45 can perform 100Mpbs+ data transfers, enabling "user interface rendering in parallel with computationally intensive data processing," says the company.

SAM9G45 block diagram

(Click to enlarge)

The SAM9G45 supports both 3.3V and 1.8V supply voltages, according to Atmel. The processor is also said to offer integrated power management, and slew rate control I/Os with programmable 1.8V or 3.3V voltage levels.

With a 1.0V core supply, typical power consumption is less than 300 uW/MHz, claims Atmel. In backup mode, with the real-time clock, a timer, and four 32-bit registers running, the SAM9G45 is claimed to consume around 8 uA.

The SAM9G45 offers board support packages for Linux and Windows Embedded CE, says Atmel. Software vendors supporting the processor are said to include Mentor Graphics, Fluffy Spider Technology, QNX, Micrium, IAR, Keil, Segger, Adeneo, and Timesys.

Stated Jacko Wilbrink, Atmel's director of ARM products, "The vast majority of ARM9-based embedded MPUs support only SDRAM memories. DDR2 and DDR3 offer higher memory densities, higher performance, lower cost and lower power consumption than SDRAM. We believe that DDR2 is predestined to become the memory of choice for the industrial embedded market."

In June, Atmel announced its SAM9G10 processor, said to improve upon the earlier SAM9261-S part with a 266MHz clock rate, a 133MHz bus, and lower, 100mW power consumption.


Samples of the SAM9G45 are available now in a 0.8mm ball pitch package, says Atmel, and production is scheduled for the fourth quarter. The processors are said to be priced at $8.60 in quantities of 10k units. More information may be found here. More information on the Linux BSP may be found here.

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