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Quad-core, Cortex-A53 hacker SBC runs Linux and Android

Mar 9, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 2,717 views

The $89 uCRobotics “Bubblegum-96” SBC has a 1.8GHz quad-core Cortex-A53 Actions S900 SoC, 2GB RAM, 8GB eMMC, onboard wireless, and 96Boards compatibility.

The posting of a product page for the uCRobotics “Bubblegum-96” SBC was one of several announcements about Linaro’s 96Boards open SBC project that preceded this week’s Linaro Connect event in Bangkok. First, Linaro released Android Open Source Project code for the octa-core, 96Boards-compatible HiKey SBC — the first Linaro/AOSP release to be maintained within the AOSP common tree. Meanwhile, the LeMaker Cello debuted with AMD’s ARM Cortex-A57 Opteron A1100 SoC. The Cello is the first 96Boards SBC to use the server-oriented Enterprise Edition (EE) form factor, which is larger than the CE version used by the similarly 64-bit, ARMv8 HiKey, DragonBoard 410c, and new Bubblegum-96.

Bubblegum-96, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The Bubblegum-96 was first tipped by Chinese fabless chipmaker Actions Semiconductor in Feb. 2015 with the launch of the open-spec 96Boards project and the original HiKey board. Actions, which is a founding member of, revealed more details last April, including the board’s name and use of a new Actions Semi quad-core, Cortex-A53 Actions S900 SoC clocked to 1.8GHz.

An ActDuino S900 “open source reference design platform” that is almost identical to the Bubblegum-96 was unveiled last May along with the Actions S900 SoC in an announcement that also used the Bubblegum-96 name. An Actions Semi product page for the similarly 85 x 54mm, 96Boards CE form-factor ActDuino S900 is posted here.

Angled views of the Bubblegum-96
(click images to enlarge)

The Bubblegum-96’s arrival date is still unclear, as Actions Semi partner uCRobotics lists only an $89 price along with a form to sign up for notifications about an upcoming pre-sale launch. In addition to being sold on the uCRobotics shopping page, the SBC is listed on the site.

The Actions S900 follows other Actions Semi SoCs, such as the quad-core, Cortex-A9 Actions S500. The S500 SoC was similarly offered with a reference SBC, via its Action Technologies subsidiary, called the ActDuino S500.

The 28nm fabricated Actions S900 ships with an Imagination PowerVR G6230 GPU clocked to 600MHz. The first of the Series6 Rogue GPUs, this is the same model used by the CubieBoard4 SBC. Other Actions S900 features include 4Kx2K video playback, an ISP that supports up to 13-megapixel cameras, and ARM TrustZone security.

As a quad-core, Cortex-A53 96Boards CE SBC, the Bubblegum-96 is most comparable to Qualcomm’s $75, 1.2GHz Snapdragon 410-based DragonBoard 410. The Bubblegum-96 lacks the DragonBoard 410’s GPS chip, but has twice the RAM at 2GB, and its S900 chip is faster than the Snapdragon 410. The 600MHz PowerVR G6230 GPU is more powerful than the 400MHz Qualcomm Adreno 306 GPU, but the latter is supported with a Freedreno open source Linux driver, while PowerVR chips are mostly closed to prying eyes.

Compared to the ActDuino S900 reference board, the Bubblegum-96 lacks the maximum 4GB RAM option, and the LCD resolution tops out at 1920 x1080 pixels instead of the ActDuino’s 2560 x 1600. However, on the Bubblegum-96, one of the two USB 2.0 host ports moves up to USB 3.0. Otherwise, they are almost identical, including the 8GB of flash, which is also available on the similar DragonBoard 410c.

Bubblegum-96 detail view
(click image to enlarge)

Aside from the 96Boards standard 40- and 60-pin mezzanine expansion connectors, the Bubblegum-96 provides an HDMI port, microSD slot, a micro-USB port, and the aforementioned USB host ports. As required by the 96Boards CE spec, WiFi and Bluetooth are also onboard, and as usual there’s no Ethernet port.

The Bubblegum-96 supports Android 5.1 Lollipop, Debian Linux, and the Remix OS 2.0 alternative Android distribution. Although not as prominently featured, the board also supports the newer Phoenix OS Android variant.

As per 96Boards compliance rules, the Bubblegum-96 is an open spec board. Schematics and other in-depth documentation have yet to be posted, but uCRobotics has provided a chart showing expansion pin definitions.

Specifications listed for the Bubblegum-96 include:

  • Processor — Actions Semiconductor Actions S900 (4x Cortex-A53, 28nm cores @ up to 1.8GHz); PowerVR G6230 GPU @ 600MHz
  • Memory/storage:
    • 2GB LPDDR3 DRAM (800MHz)
    • 8GB eMMC
    • MicroSD 3.0 slot
  • Display:
    • HDMI 1.4 (type A/C) with HDCP
    • Up to 4K Ultra HD MHL 2.1 decoding, [email protected] H.264 encoding
    • RGB/LVDS/MIPI-DSI/eDP via 60-pin and onboard connectors @ up to 1920 x 1080
  • Wireless — 802.11b/g/n WiFi; Bluetooth 4.0
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 port
    • USB 2.0 port
    • Micro-USB 2.0 port
    • JTAG interface
    • 40-pin low-speed connector (+1.8V, +5V, SYS_DCIN, GND, UART, I2C, SPI, PCM, 12x GPIO)
    • 60-pin high-speed connector (SDIO, MIPI-DSI, MIPI-CSI, I2C, USB 2.0)
  • Other features — On/off and reset buttons
  • Power — [email protected] with ATC2609 PMU
  • Dimensions — 85 x 54mm; 96Boards standard CE
  • Operating system — Android 5.1 Lollipop, Debian Linux, and Remix OS 2.0; supports Phoenix OS

Further information

The Bubblegum-96 board will go on sale for $89. Sign up for notifications for pre-sales is available on this uCRobotics Bubblegum-96 product page. The board is also posted on

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