Review of AT91SAM9G45-EVK

Table of contents

RoadTest: AT91SAM9G45-EVK

Author: alastairn

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Evaluation Boards

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?: Main problems being lack of clear instructions on programming the board with different operating systems. It would not take much to rectify this and make it slightly clearer on how to program it in an easy to follow step by step guide. Also the buttons on the board are very hard to access once the screen is in place.

Detailed Review:

I was very impressed with the packaging and content provided when I opened the box.

 

 

 

Included in the kit were the development board with the lcd attached, a CD with manuals and firmware on it, a JTAG convertor board and IDC cable for it, a power adaptor(US), mini usb cable and a serial port cable.  I was impressed that all of this came in the kit and so I wouldn't have to buy anything else to get started.

 

The board itself was well made with sturdy brass stand offs holding the lcd board away from the main board.

 

 

The connectors on the sides of the boards were easily accessible even with the LCD attached:

 

 

Of the sockets I used on the board are the USB, mini usb, Power, ethernet, Audio jack out, SD card and Micro Sd card slots.

 

I was also pleased that when I powered up the board it came with an operating system (Linux Angstrom) pre installed.

 

 

It booted up quite quickly and was responsive to use. The screen is quite bright and clear, with a resistive touch layer.  I found that using a Stylus was best whilst in Linux, as most of the buttons are quite small on the screen.

 

 

There are several programs preinstalled with the Linux build.

 

 

Although it was good that it came with an OS on the board I was more interested in the Android possibilities.

 

 

 

I read the user manuals on programming the board, I found them not completely straight forward to use.  I would have liked to see an easy to use step by step guide to programming the board with the different operating systems in a seperate document, as once I had it figured out it was very easy to program the board.  It just involved finding the correct section in the document provided.  I could not get the my computer with Windows 7 to recognise the development board and install drivers for it, this may be just a compatibility problem, but I decided to use my windows XP machine and I had no problems detecting the board on the USB port.  To allow the board to be detected as a USB device requires removing a jumper which is located underneath the screen.

 

 

It was very easy to remove the screen by way of unscrewing the four screws holding it in place.  This gave good access to the board and I did not have to undo the cable to the screen.

 

The biggest problem I had was that after I had removed the jumper (number 2 on the board) so that the computer could detect the board, I had to put back the jumper to be able to program the board.  Although this is mentioned in the manual I seemed not to notice this on my first try and so didn't program the board correctly on my first attempt.

 

Once I had this figured out the process of uploading a new OS was very straight forward.  Included on the CD were the Linux Angstrom build, Windows CE, and Android 2.3.1.  I uploaded Android, it takes a few minutes to upload to the device.

It took a bit longer to startup the board with Android running, as it uses a linux boot loader to boot into Android.

 

After it was started I was presented with the familiar android home screen.

 

 

The touch screen work reasonably well with my finger as Android is much better setup for touchscreen devices.

 

I connected the ethernet port to my network and was pleased to be able to connect to the internet without any problems.  I also played music from an SD card out to headphones on the audio port.

 

 

 

The general system works very well, although it is a bit slow and sometimes unresponsive.  Most of the time it works well, and it may be that the Android build is not optimised for the hardware or that the Arm chip is not quite powerful enough.  When I tried to play video on the device (from youtube) it didn't work at all.

 

The biggest flaw with the hardware design I only found when using Android, and this was that the buttons on the main board are very hard to access when the screen is in place.  The back button is essential whilst using android and I found it quite hard to navigate as you have to reach under the screen to get to the buttons.

 

 

 

I also tried the Windows CE build which was included.

 

 

This provided a windows desktop experience, unfortunately I didn't get it to work onthe internet, but I did get it to play audio files.  It is quite responsive and best suited to using a stylus.  I think you can also use it with an external mouse.

 

 

 

My conclusion is that this is a good development board with lots of features and is very easy to get started with.  It would be better with slightly clearer instructions, and also if the buttons on the main board were more accessible while the screen is in place.

I was pleased the board would run android and have internet connectivity, play audio and access SD and Micro Sd cards, but I would have preferred it to run a bit faster in the Android environment.  There is information on how to build your own Android OS to put on the device and it may be that with a bit of tweaking it would run faster. I also think that the price of this is quite good for a developer board of this sort.  It did run both Linux and Windows CE with reasonable speed, but maybe these are less demanding.

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