Atmel SAMA5D3 Xplained - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Atmel SAMA5D3 Xplained

Author: migration.user

Creation date:

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?: Raspberry Pi, Arduino mega

What were the biggest problems encountered?: GCC wouldn't compile properly on my computer, rendering my project impossible

Detailed Review:

Introduction


Firstly, I want to thank Christian DeFeo and everyone else who made this road test possible! It has been an interesting experience, and certainly a valuable one.

 

The Atmel SAMA5D3 Xplained is a quite powerful and impressive board, featuring the SAMA5D36 processor, Arduino Mega headers, 1 ethernet port, 1 gigabit ethernet port, and 2 usb ports.This development board is a great alternative to the Raspberry Pi if you need a lot of GPIO, and can sacrifice video output. While this board is quite good at demonstrating the power and of the SAMA5D3 microprocessor, it is certainly not a replacement for the Arduino or the Raspberry Pi. While I would recommend this quite a bit to anybody making an advanced robot or a home automation system, I would not recommend this for everyone. The SAMA5D3 is not nearly as straight forward and simple as Arduino, or as useful for general computing as the raspberry pi. It unfortunately does not have any HDMI connector, or any video out beyond a single lcd connector located at the bottom of the board.

 


Unboxing

 

The Xplained comes in an nice, simplistic box, containing nothing more than a welcome card, a USB to micro USB cable, and the board its self. The box its self is very well designed, which shows the care and attention to detail put into this product. The Xplained was of course kept in an anti-static bag. Getting connected to the Xplained required no additional setup.

 

 


Getting Started

 

Getting connected to the Xplained is as simple as it gets. From your terminal, type in "screen /dev/cu.usbmodem1d111." I'm running OS X, though it should work on linux as well. After connecting to the Xplained through your serial terminal, simply type in "root" at the login screen. After logging in, you will be greeted with the root shell. From there, I poked around, seeing what programs were installed. Fortunately, the Xplained comes with Bash 4.2.10, Python 2.7.3 and Perl 5.14.3, all running on Yocto Linux 3.10.0. The Xplained even comes with utilities like wget, file, and find! This, combined with its web hosting capabilities makes is the perfect device for automated backups, cloud storage, or whatever else you can imagine.

 


Features

 

The Xplained is quite the powerful board, with a speedy processor, lots of RAM and onboard storage, and plentiful I/O. Its specifications are as follows:


1 Atmel SAMA5D36 Cortex-A5 microprocessor running at 536 MHz

256 MB DDR2 RAM

256 MB NAND Flash

2 USB hosts

1 Micro USB device port

1 100 Mbps ethernet port

1 Gigabit ethernet port

1 Reset switch

1 Wake up switch

1 User switch

1 Red user LED

1 Blue power LED

1 Micro SD card connector location (connector not included)

1 5 volt max power input location (connector not included)

1 Full size SD card slot

1 set of Arduino Mega compatible headers

1 Proprietary LCD connector

1 SPI EEPROM

1 JTAG connector

1 DBGU interface



Development process


Due to the fact that I couldn't get GCC or any compiler working for the Xplained, coupled with it's late arrival, I can't give much insight into the development process for the Xplained. When I do finally get my compiler working, the source code will be available on my GitHub. The system does have Bash, Python, and Perl, which could be used in conjunction to make some basic projects, though for my project, I needed access to OpenCV.

 


Final notes

 

So, should you get the Atmel SAMA5D3 Xplained? If you're just beginning with microcontrollers, new to software development, or wish to make a graphics based project, then I'm afraid this isn't the product you're looking for. On the other hand, if you're thinking of integrating the SAMA5D36 processor into one of your products, or want to make a GPIO intensive and computation heavy project, like a robot or smart appliance, then I'd fully recommend you get this development board. If you're on windows, there are IDEs available to you that are able to compile for the Xplained, and if you're on OS X or Linux, you should be able to compile a version of GCC. I'm almost positive that my system has some sort of odd config that's preventing me from properly compiling GCC.

 

If a SAMA5D3 Xplained 2 is being or will be developed, then I would suggest including GCC on the internal storage. I would also suggest that an HDMI connector be added, though I can understand the rationale behind leaving one off as there is no hardware acceleration for it. The SAMA5D3 Xplained something different from your run of the mill microcontroller, or a general purpose single board computer. It is a rich, powerful computer designed for automation, networking, and perhaps even the internet of things.

 

This has been my first road test, so feel free to leave suggestions on how I can improve on them!

Anonymous