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IoT-oriented dev kits run Ubuntu on new Toshiba Cortex-A9 SoC

Feb 23, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 1,389 views

Toshiba announced two Linux-supported “ApP Lite” dev kits for its new 600MHz Cortex-A9 based “TZ2100” series SoCs, which target IoT and other embedded apps.

In December, Toshiba Semiconductor & Storage Asia-Pacific began sampling the TZ2100 series, a single-core, 600MHz Cortex-A9 product family, and has now announced two Linux-friendly Application Processor Lite (ApP Lite) starter kits for the new SoCs. Sohwa & Sophia Technologies (SS-Technologies) is the hardware partner for the boards.

Transitioning from MIPS to ARM

For over a decade, Toshiba, which makes a wide variety of ICs, ASICs, and other chips, has been shipping Linux-ready MIPS64 based SoCs such as the TX System RISC. A MIPS-based, consumer electronics oriented TX4939 SoC still shows up on the Toshiba USA site, but this appears to be a fading business. Like many other vendors of MIPS- and PowerPC-based processors, Toshiba is now focusing on ARM Cortex-based SoCs.

In 2013, Toshiba launched its first Cortex-A9 offering with the TZ2000 series of 200MHz, single-core SoCs, which may be the lowest clock rate we’ve seen for a Cortex-A9 SoC. SS-Technologies built the associated Linux-ready ApP Lite development kit.

Last August, Toshiba announced its first Linux-ready Cortex-A9 system-on-chip — the 1.2GHz dual-core, networking focused TZ5000 series. In this case, the ApP Lite development kit, which shipped in October, came from TAEC. Now we have the mid-range TZ2100 series.

TZ2100 SoCs

The TZ2100 SoCs, which enter mass production in June, are designed for embedded Internet of Things (IoT) devices, including handhelds and industrial equipment, says Toshiba. The single-core Cortex-A9 SoC is available in a 300MHz TZ2100 version, as well as the 600MHz TZ2101 and TZ2102. The only difference between the two 600MHz models is that like the TZ2100, the TZ2102, which ships on the ApP Lite board, lacks support for the secure boot and encryption functions available with the TZ2101.

Toshiba TZ2102 SoC
(click image to enlarge)

The TZ2100 series SoCs are otherwise identical, offering an FPU, two 32KB allotments of L1 cache, 128KB L2, as well as 1MB SRAM and 32KB backup SRAM. The SoCs support 16-bit DDR3 and DDR3L RAM.

Unlike the dual-core TZ5000, which has a 3D-accelerating PowerVR SGX540 GPU, the TZ2100 provides only a 2D graphics accelerator, accompanied with an LCD controller for 800 x 480-pixel resolution. The TZ2100 also lacks the TZ5000’s built-in WiFi option and some other advanced interfaces like HDMI or DSI/CSI. Only the TZ5000 also offers Android support.

Toshiba TZ2100 series application example
(click image to enlarge)

High-speed peripheral support on the TZ2100 includes 10/100 Ethernet, and USB 2.0 host and device interfaces. It also supports a wide variety of other interfaces including UARTs, I2C, I2S, SPIM, SPIB, PWM, ADC, SDIO, eMMC, GPIO, and an infrared camera. The TZ2100 chip supports a 27-bit (address) and 32-bit (data) extended bus interface. Other touted features include Toshiba power-saving technology and RTC support.

ApP Lite TZ2100 development kits

SS-Technologies’ ApP Lite TZ2100 kits will be available from Toshiba in a “general-purpose” RBTZ2100-1MA model and an “amusement” RBTZ2100-2MA model, as in “amusement equipment.” Both ship with the 600MHz TZ2102, which lacks the security extras. The 2MA model has half the RAM of the flagship 512MB 1MA model, and offers 256MB parallel flash ROM instead of 16MB SPI flash on the 1MA model.

ApP Lite TZ2100 board
(click image to enlarge)

The 2MA model has an I2S connector instead of the 1MA’s audio jacks, and it lacks the 1MA model’s parallel camera input, LCD panel connector, and microSD slot. It’s also missing the 1MA model’s USB device port, Fast Ethernet port, and ADC connector. However, the 2MA model is the only one with a 32-bit external bus connector.

Like Toshiba’s other ApP Lite kits for its Cortex-A9 SoCs, the ApP Lite TZ2100-1MA ships with BSPs for Ubuntu 14.04 and the venerable, open source μ-ITRON, a hardened RTOS that was said to be the most widely used OS in the world back in 2003. The 2MA model, however, offers BSPs for neither.

Specifications listed for the ApP Lite TZ2100 kits include:

  • Processor — Toshiba TZ2100 (1x Cortex-A9 core @ 600MHz) with 2D accelerator
  • Memory — 512MB (on 1MA) or 256MB (on 2MA) DDR3 RAM
  • Flash — 16MB SPI (on 1MA) or 256MB Parallel (on 2MA)
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet (on 1MA only)
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 host
    • USB 2.0 device (on 1MA only)
    • UART
    • I2C
    • PWM
    • SPIM
    • ADC connector (on 1MA only)
    • JTAG
  • Power — 5V DC
  • Operating system — BSPs for Ubuntu 14.04 and μ-ITRON (on 1MA only)

Further information

The ApP Lite TZ2100 will ship in March from Toshiba at an undisclosed price. More information may be found on the ApP Lite TZ2100 announcement, the Toshiba TZ2xxxx SoC family product page, and the SS-Technologies evaluation board page.

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