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Tiny SODIMM-style module runs Linux on Cortex-A5

Apr 3, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 1,039 views

Denx announced an “MA5D4” COM that runs Linux on Atmel’s SAMA5D4 SoC, plus a baseboard kit that adds a touchscreen and CAN, serial, HDMI, USB, and camera ports.

Like Denx Computer Systems’s recent, Freescale i.MX6-based Denx M6R computer-on-module, the MA5D4 is supplied with the Yocto Linux based Embedded Linux Development Kit (ELDK) distribution from sister company Denx Software Engineering. Applications are said to include mobile input and output terminals, measuring instruments, or scanners with simple UIs. Many other types of IoT gizmos could make use of this module, especially those that require low power consumption, which is claimed to be ~500mW on the MA5D4.

(click image to enlarge)

The module is equipped with the SAMA5D4 SoC, which Atmel unveiled in October as an update to the similarly single-core, Cortex-A5-based SAMA5D3. The SAMA5D4 adds NEON media processing, L2 cache, 720p video decode, and security features to the SAMA5D3 feature set. So far the only SAMA5D4 product we’ve seen is Atmel’s own Linux based, Arduino shield-expandable SAMA5D4 Xplained development board built by Newark Element 14.

SAMA5D4 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The Denx MA5D4 module appears to support any of the four SAMA5D4 models, including the ATSAMA5D43, which adds 720p video decoding, and the ATSAMA5D44, which also adds support for 32-bit DDR RAM. The module can load 128MB to 512MB DDR2 RAM and 4GB to 32GB eMMC flash.

The 70 x 40mm MA5D4 uses a 230-pin MXM2 edge connector to hook up to an external carrier board such as the Denx MA5D4EVK (see farther below). The MA5D4 is equipped with dual Fast Ethernet controllers and offers display I/O including HDMI and LCD interface with resistive touch. A camera interface is also provided.

MA5D4 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The module provides dual USB host and one USB OTG connection, as well as an SD interface and one or two CAN ports. An external, 16-bit expansion bus appears to offer 25 pins, if we’re interpreting the data sheet correctly.

The module supports the SAMA5D4 SoC’s on-the-fly encryption and decryption from external RAM, including support for AES/3DES, RSA, ECC – TRNG, and SHA. The module is also touted for its tamper detection pins and memory content protection for secure key storage.

Specifications listed for the MA5D4 module include:

  • Processor — Atmel SAMA5D4 (1x Cortex-A5 core @ 528MHz)
  • Memory:
    • 128MB to 512MB DDR2 RAM
    • 4GB to 32GB eMMC flash or optional 256MB NAND flash
    • 4MB SPI NOR flash
  • Networking – 2x 10/100 Ethernet controllers with IEEE 1588 support
  • Other I/O (via (230-pin MXM2 edge connector):
    • HDMI
    • LCD TFT controller with overlay support for image comp. and resistive touch
    • 2x USB host
    • USB OTG
    • 1x or 2x CAN
    • Camera/CMOS interface
    • SD
    • External bus A/D 25 (16-bit)
  • Other features — RTC; security features including AES/3DES, RSA, ECC – TRNG, SHA
  • Power — ~500mW dissipation; PMIC
  • Dimensions — 70 x 40mm
  • Operating system — Linux 3.x with UBoot (Yocto based ELDK Linux)


The MA5D4 is available with a MA5D4EVK development kit that includes a carrier board, a 5VDC power supply, and a 7-inch touchscreen. The MA5D4 module supplied with the kit has 256MB of DDR3 and 4GB of eMMC memory.

MA5D4EVK carrier board
(click image to enlarge)

The MA5D4EVK board is equipped with an SD socket and a Fast Ethernet port. Other coastline connections include a pair each of RS232 and CAN interfaces on DSUB9 ports. Also fitted with real-world ports are the USB 2.0 host and mini-USB OTG ports, audio I/O, and an HDMI port. A camera port, JTAG port, and LCD flat cable header are also available. Schematics are available for the carrier board.

Further information

The MA5D4 module and MA5D4EVK kit will be available in the second quarter at undisclosed prices. More information may be found at the Denx MA5D4 product page.

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