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Tiny SBC builds on Cortex-A8 SoC

Oct 28, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 140 views

Gumstix launched a tiny fourth-generation version of its open-source, gumstick-shaped SBC (single-board computer). The Linux-based Overo Earth measures 0.7 x 2.3 x 0.2 inches, 40 percent smaller than the earlier Verdex, and it has switched to the ARM Cortex-A8-based Texas Instruments (TI) OMAP 3503 system-on-chip (SoC).

(Click for larger view of the Overo Earth)

Targeted at runs of between 1,000 to 50,000, the $150 Overo Earth mini- motherboard is the first in a line of OMAP35xx-based Overo SBCs, says Gumstix. Whereas the 3.2 x 0.8 x 3.2-inch (80 x 20 x 8mm) Gumstix Verdex was based on the Marvell (formerly Intel) PXA270 (aka “Bulverde”) processor, clocked at up to 600MHz, the 17 x 58 x 4.2mm Overo Earth uses TI's more powerful OMAP3503 processor.

Overo Earth
(Click to enlarge)

Although the OMAP3503 is the low-end version of TI's four OMAP35xx processors, and is clocked similarly to the Verdex's PXA270 at 600MHz, the processor is more powerful than the PXA270, according to Gumstix. In large part, this is due to its ARM Cortex-A8 superscalar core, which enables instruction-level parallelism within a single processor.

Overo Earth, which was pre-announced in conjunction with the OMAP35xx shipment announcement, is also equipped with 256MB of low-power DDR RAM and 256MB of NAND flash, says Gumstix. The RAM and Flash are packaged with the TI processor in a multi-chip package (MCP) supplied by Micron.

In addition, there is an on-board microSD adapter, a 24-pin flex ribbon connector for camera control signals, and dual 70-pin AVX 5602-14 connectors for various functional options in expansion board design, says the company. Power consumption is claimed to be less than a single Watt.

The board runs Linux kernel 2.6.27 or higher, and is supported by extensive software documentation. In the spirit of Gumstix's “open-source” modus operandi, the board also comes with detailed schematics, physical drawings, and 3D images.

Summit expansion board

Summit expansion board
for the Overo Earth

(Click to enlarge)

A “Summit” expansion board is also available (pictured at right). It offers features such as USB host mini-A, DVI-D (HDMI), audio in/out, a USB serial console, and multiple signals available on 0.100-inch through-holes at 1.8V logic, says the company.

Overo Earth will be plug-compatible with future Overo products based on other OMAP35xx processors, says Gumstix. These include the high-end OMAP3530, which features digital signal processor (DSP)-based video acceleration and a PowerVR SGX graphics engine licensed by Imagination Technologies.

Gumstix has already signed up at least one customer for its Overo. British handset design firm Roke Manor Research Limited says it will “incorporate Overo into the design and production of our handsets that terminate a network such as a PDA or cell phone.”

Stated Ben Toner, Engineer and Business Consultant for mobile terminals at Roke Manor Research, “Our customers are always asking us for smaller and more powerful handset devices, developed in faster timescales. Building on TI's powerful OMAP family, the additional functionality offered by Overo can facilitate even faster handset design.”


The Overo Earth motherboard is available now for $150, says Gumstix, and the Summit expansion board will cost $60. More information may be found here. Gumstix is demonstrating the Overo Earth at TI's booth (#701) at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) Boston show this week.

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