I must admit that my brain is starting to spin with regard to all of the different ARM processors out there – on the one hand we have little rascals like the Cortex-M0, M1, M3, and M4; on the other hand we have little scamps like the Cortex-A8, A9, and A15.
Well, I was just talking to the folks at Atmel about the fact that they've recently started shipping production quantities of their SAMA5D3 series, which they say is the highest-performance, low-power microprocessor units (MPUs) based on the ARM Cortex-A5 core. They explained that The A5 offers the best processing power at the best power budget, being 1/3 the size and consuming 1/3 the power of an A9, while offering 3X the performance of an A8. (Note to self, I have to "bone up" on all this stuff and write a blog explaining how all of these processors fit into the "big picture.") But we digress…
The new SAMA5D3 series is designed for embedded applications in the industrial space, including factory and building automation, smart grid, medical and handheld terminals, along with consumer applications such as smart watches, outdoor GPS, DECT (digital enhanced cordless telecommunications) phones.
For industrial applications in particular, there is an ongoing requirement for higher processing power and faster connectivity. In the consumer space, battery-powered applications and wearable products are driving the requirements for lower power consumption, while smartphone and tablets are setting new, more advanced standards for user interfaces as the shift moves beyond mobile to home automation and control panels for white goods. In both market segments, security threats such as hacking and cloning are growing concerns. Finally, regardless of the application area, all designers are under pressure to shorten their design cycles with smaller development teams.
Understanding these demands, Atmel has developed the new series of SAMA5D3 MPUs
using a 65nm low-power process technology to deliver up to 850DMIPS at 536MHz while offering 1328MB/s at 166MHz bus speed. The floating point unit (FPU) also provides additional high-precision processing power for image, audio and sensor data. The SAMA5D3 series delivers market-leading low-power consumption under 200mW in active mode at maximum speed and below 0.5mW in low-power mode when retaining context and offering fast wake-up. All these features make the SAMA5 series ideal for high-performance industrial applications requiring high-precision computing and low power, including interfaces, control panels, networking, gateways, programmable logic controllers, barcode scanners or printers, terminals and battery-operated applications.Rich Peripherals
To serve a broad range of applications, the Atmel SAMA5D3 series embeds a comprehensive peripheral set. This includes a dual Ethernet port (one Gigabit), 3x high-speed USB ports, dual CAN, TFT LCD controller with graphics accelerator for image composition, camera interface, SDIO/SD/MMC, UARTs, SPIs, TWIs, soft modem, 12-bit ADC and 32-bit timers. Shipping in a 324-ball BGA package, the four versions with a different peripheral mix are available to best match the end system requirements. The powerful peripherals in the devices enable connectivity and user interface applications for home and commercial building automation, smart grid, point of sale, medical and other industrial applications.Security
The SAMA5D3 series also integrates state-of-the-art security capabilities that address piracy, counterfeiting and other risks. With a secure boot loader, the SAMA5D3 ensures the integrity and authenticity of the program stored in the boot memory, protecting customers against cloning. The series also includes a hardware encryption engine with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), Triple Data Encryption Standard (3DES) and Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA) support to encrypt/decrypt data or communications while a true random number generator (TRNG) can be used to generate or diversify unique keys.Easy-to-Use, Easy Migration
A large majority of Cortex-A core-based devices on the market today are very complex to use. Atmel has leveraged the success of the preceding SAM9 series and architected the SAMA5D3 series for ultra-ease-of-use including power management at minimal system cost, from a hardware and software perspective. By maximizing software reuse, the SAMA5D3 series provides an easy migration path for Atmel SAM9 customers requiring more performance. Reduced System Cost
To lower overall system cost, the devices feature a simple power management scheme and includes over three embedded USB ports, eliminating the costs of an external USB hub. The impedance control on the DDR IOS eliminates the need for external serial resistors, and the 0.8mm pitch package supports a simpler and lower cost PCB design.Ecosystem
Designers can access free Atmel Linux distributions at linux4sam.com
, and a free Android 4.0 port will be available in March at www.at91.com/android4sam
. A C-language software package (softpack) is available for non-operating system (OS) use. There is also a worldwide ecosystem of industry-leading suppliers for development tools, OS, protocol stacks, along with system-on-modules and kits. “With so many vertical applications in the industrial sector, it’s important to offer the right mix of MPUs to satisfy every customer’s requirements,”
said Jacko Wilbrink, Sr. Director of ARM Products, Atmel Corporation. “Our new Cortex-A5 processor-based devices address all these requirements, from battery-operated wearable products to high-performance applications requiring high-precision processing and secure connection to the Internet. We’ll continue to grow our ARM portfolio, developing new state-of-the-art products to meet the unique design criteria of a broad range of customers.”“The launch of the Atmel next-generation MPUs, based on the Cortex-A5 processor, extends the company's strong support for the ARM architecture,”
said Gary Atkinson, Director, Embedded Segment, ARM. “These products enable industrial designers to select an ARM processor-based chip with low power consumption and robust security, supported by easy-to-use design tools. We are pleased that Atmel continues to bring solutions to market that utilize the ARM architecture and help designers create a wide range of exciting new products for consumers.”
SAMA5D3 Evaluation Kits
Designers can start prototyping their designs with the SAMA5D3 evaluation kits. There is one kit per SAMA5D3 derivative. A kit is delivered with a Linux demonstration software and a graphical user interface (GUI) based on Qt. The softpack is also compatible with the evaluation kit.Availability and Pricing
The Atmel SAMA5D3 is shipping in a 324-ball BGA package and is in mass production now. Pricing starts below USD $7.00 for 1,000-piece quantities.
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