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Next-gen TV STB platform runs Android on quad-core Cortex-A53

Aug 31, 2016 — by Rick Lehrbaum — 1,332 views

The “Poplar Board,” based on HiSilicon’s quad-core Hi3798C V200 SoC, is the first SBC to implement Linaro’s “96Boards Enterprise Edition TV Platform” spec.

The “under $100” Poplar Board is aimed primarily at Internet connected TV set-top box (STB) developers, but it also targets hobbyists and the open-source community, according to HiSilicon’s announcement. The SBC, which is the first to adopt Linaro’s “96Boards Enterprise Edition TV Platform” form-factor specifications, was developed for use in “Digital Home applications including Digital TV and Set Top Boxes,” says HiSilicon.

HiSilicon Poplar Board
(click image to enlarge)

Linaro, the multi-vendor consortium that develops ARM support and infrastructure for Linux-based devices, hosts a range of 96Boards specifications, including both Consumer Edition and Enterprise Edition implementations. The group’s Enterprise Edition TV Platform spec, available in PDF format here, defines a standardized form-factor and base-level functionality for SBCs aimed at “Digital Home applications including Digital TV and Set Top Boxes (STBs).”

Poplar Board front and back views
(click images to enlarge)

Although HiSilicon is mainly targeting STB developers with its Poplar Board, the company says it also expects the board to be of interest to hobbyists and the open-source community. The board is built around HiSilicon’s Hi3798C V200 system-on-chip, which integrates a quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 CPU along with a Mali T720 GPU.

Poplar Board details
(click image to enlarge)

When HiSilicon announced the Hi3798C V200 last year, the chipmaker hailed it as industry’s “first STB SoC for DVB and IPTV with Dolby Vision HDR technology.” According to the company, the SoC’s ARM Cortex-A53-based processing core offers up to 15K DMIPS CPU performance. Additionally, its ARM MaliTM-T720 video engine supports up to H.265 HEVC decoding of 4K video at 60fps, plus 2160p60 HEVC and VP9 decoding, 1080p PIP, and transcoding capabilities. Video formats and protocols supported include OpenGL ES3.1/2.0/1.1/1.0, OpenVG1.1, EGL, and ImprexTM2.0 PQ. The SoC is also touted as featuring “ultra low power” consumption during both normal playback and standby modes.

Poplar Board block diagram (left) and 96Boards Enterprise Edition TV Platform dimensions
(click images to enlarge)

HiSilicon says the Poplar Board provides “advanced codecs and graphics support, combined with a full complement of audio and video interfaces.” Available add-ons include a remote control, tuner card, and SmartCard module. The optional tuner card is said to enable terrestrial, cable, and satellite sources to be processed in parallel with with multimedia content received from Internet sources.

Optional tuner card
(click image to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the Poplar Board include:
  • Processor — HiSilicon Hi3798CV200 SoC
    • CPU — 4x 2.0GHz 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 cores
    • GPU — multicore Mali T720
    • Memory/storage:
    • RAM — 2GB LPDDR3 (800MHz)
    • 8GB eMMC (on-board)
    • microSD slot
  • Networking — 1x Gigabit Ethernet port (RJ-45)
  • Wireless:
    • WiFi 802.11 ac/b/g/n dual-band 2×2, with WiDi support
    • Bluetooth 4.0/4.1
  • Multimedia I/O:
    • HDMI 2.0a with HDCP 2.2; supports up to 4K x [email protected]
    • 1x CVBS interface
    • Stereo audio out
    • S/PDIF
    • I2S/PCM digital audio in/out
  • Other I/O ports:
    • 2x USB 2.0 ports
    • 1x USB 3.0 port
    • 1x micro-USB console input port
    • IR interface
  • Other expansion interfaces:
    • Smart Card expansion connector
    • Tuner Subsystem (TS) interface connector
    • PCI Express 2.0 expansion card slot
    • 96Boards 40-pin “Low Speed” (LS) multi-I/O connector — UART, SPI, I2S, 2x I2C, 12x GPIO, DC power
  • Other features — ARM TrustZone security support; 6x status/user LEDs; 6x control buttons; JTAG interface
  • Power — [email protected] input
  • Operating temp. — 0 to 70°C
  • Dimensions — 160 x 120mm; “96Boards Enterprise Edition” form-factor

Operating system support

HiSilicon supports the Hi3798C V200 SoC with both Linux and Android, and is launching the Poplar Board with Android 5.1.1 pre-installed “for an instant boot out of the box.” A Linux RDK (reference design kit) based on Yocto project and Open Embedded is also available for license.

The HiSilicon SoC’s ARM TrustZone support also enables the use of “secure world” operating systems such as OP-TEE, and supports the integration of commercial DRMs and downloadable conditional access (DCAS) solutions including “HDCP 2.2 copy protection to protect 4K Ultra HD content,” says the company.

Further information

The HiSilicon Poplar Board is currently available for “under $100” from Tocoding Technologies, and is available at for $96.57 (price includes $17.57 shipping). Further details are at the Poplar Board page.

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