RoadTest: Freescale i.MX6Q Sabre Lite Board
Evaluation Type: Independent Products
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?:
What were the biggest problems encountered?: Timesys Linux locked down the entire board.
The i.MX6Q board is an excellent product, that has been completely locked down by the manufacturer. Not only was the bootloader and actual build process of an application locked down through a website, the documentation for running other linux distros were non existent. Being a student hobbyist, this product is not recomended for those trying to build a small media center by themselves. A Rasberry Pi has a much larger community and documentation (that is available with out paying for it)
Now, I can say all I want about the board's code, etc etc etc. Simply put, it is made for commercial embedded systems, where professional engineers would be working with Timesys to build specific applications. The build quality of the board was great, everything was placed perfectly for development, with the touchscreen and camera connections, the dual sd card ports and the optimal 2 usb and Ethernet "port tower".
Isn't that pretty?
Now, when I recieved the product I immediately opened the box, read the instructions then plugged it into the demo mode. The demos seemed promising with the accellerated graphics and overall speed of the board. I bought a 41 dollar usb to serial cord, booted up #! in a virtual box and got to business. First I used minicom (as per the directions in the documentation) I shelled into the board. Awesome! I setup a complete test environment with a switch and got my host linux distro all set up. I played around and installed their default linux build and ran it. It was an alright distro. So I moved on and tried to flash Arch Linux, with some minor problems such as getting uboot to make the main slot the boot slot and configuring a Sata hdd. I then used an old wifi dongle to get on my network. Mounting the freescale in a box behind my tv with a 500 gb hdd, I now have a media center that kicks butt.
This board is a solid overall dev board that is slightly biased towards companies and not hobbyist, however given some time and hacking this little board sure can power through streamed 1080p video and .flac audio. I look forward to the next Freescale product road test and other roadtests as well!
I have been facing booting issues with the sd-card supplied in the box, I am not seeing any boot messages on the serial console using the DB9 cable provided with the box. Can you share the part number or the link of the "41 dollar usb to serial cord" that you used for testing and also, please share any configuration to be changed to use this cable for seeing the boot messages.
While I agree the locked down nature of the Timesys stuff isn't good and the lack of visibility of other options here is troubling, I think it's somewhat misleading to put all the blame at their door.
e14 picked Timesys as their partner when there are other choices available.
The board itself isn't in any way locked to the Timesys code and you can pickup ready to use images from Linaro & Boundary Devices amongst others. There's even a Windows CE7 image available from Adeneo.
While the (free) Timesys stuff is locked into their website, the full linux BSP and LTIB distribution builder is available direct from freescale. As far as I can tell, Boundary take that and build on it, then Timesys take most of what Boundary do and build their stuff on top of that. Most of the Boundary stuff is on github, and easy enough to find.
Documentation availability is relative, there's a Reference Manual for the i.MX6 SoC, again freely available from freescale, that's almost 6000 pages. You won't get anything like that level of documentation from the RPF or Broadcom for the SoC on the Pi. Of course the other side is that for the Sabre-Lite there's no 5 minute guide to installing Debian or whatever distro you choose - yet... But now that you've managed to do it, you could always help out the, albeit small, Sabre-Lite community by writing a guide of your own?
For anyone else that's interested, there are some pointers to other resources in the rather less than easy to find Sabre-Lite discussion group here http://www.element14.com/community/community/knode/dev_platforms_kits/element14_dev_kits/sabrelite?view=discussions