Linaro And Huawei Announce the HiKey 960 — A Professional ARM Board for Development
Developers building apps that require close integration with the hardware in order to maximize performance, take advantage of new sensors or security features, or support new peripherals need to purchase a device that contains the hardware they are looking to test against. Developers of AOSP-based ROMs are also examples of people who need to work closely with the hardware inside of a device in order to ensure that all components will function properly. As such, developers often rely on reference boards that contain the same base hardware of smartphones, excluding the display, battery, and all the other things that make it usable to a non-developer. Recently, Linaro and Huawei announced the HiKey 960 96boards development platform to provide developers access to a reference board with the latest ARM technology.
The new board is based around the Huawei Kirin 960 octa-core ARM big.LITTLE™ processor with four high-end ARM Cortex-A73 and four low-power Cortex-A53 cores with 3GB of LPDDR4 SDRAM memory, 32GB of UFS 2.0 flash storage, and the latest generation Mali-G71 MP8 graphics processor. Here are the full specifications of the board.
|SOC||Kirin 960 octa-core CPU|
|CPU||4x Cortex-A53 cores to 1.8 GHz, 4x Cortex-A73 cores to 2.4 GHz|
|GPU||Mali-G71 MP8 GPU|
|SOFTWARE||AOSP with 4.4 AOSP common kernel|
|STORAGE||32GB UFS 2.0 flash storage, MicroSD card|
|DISPLAY INTERFACE||HDMI 1.2a up to 1080p plus 4-lane MIPI DSI|
|USB||1 x USB 2.0 type C OTG port, 2 x USB 3.0 type A host ports|
|CONNECTIVITY||Dual-band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 with on board antennas|
|CAMERA||1x 2-lane MIPI CSI, 1x 4-lane MIPI CSI|
|IO EXTENDED INTERFACE||40 pin low speed expansion connector +1.8V, +5V, DC power, GND, 2x UART, 2x I2C, SPI, I2S, 12x GPIO, 60 pin high speed expansion connector 4L MIPI DSI, 2L+4L MIPI CSI, 2x I2C, SPI (48M), USB 2.0, PCIe Gen2 on M.2 M Key connector|
|MISC||4x user LEDs, LEDs for WiFi & Bluetooth, Power button|
|POWER SUPPLY||12V/2A power supply recommended, 8V-18V/2A via 4.75/1.7mm power barrel (EIAJ-3 Compliant)|
|DIMENSIONS||85mm x 55mm|
Linaro has also announced that the device will have initial support of Linux 4.4 kernel. It’s not the last mainline version of the kernel that will be supported, though, as Linux 4.9 is already in the works. This is great news for developers as the latest stable Linux kernel version at this moment is 4.10. Furthermore, device will run AOSP out-of-the-box, though Android will not be the only compatible operating system as developers will be able to port any Unix-based OS to the board.
The CPU embedded has enough power to encode 4K videos, but the provided HDMI port will stream the video up to 1080p. That’s not a perfect solution, nevertheless it should suffice for most of the potential users. The board allows attaching other hardware like cameras, and the PCIe M.2 M Key connector should also allow connecting fast SSD to expand the in-built 32 GBs of storage.
The team behind the board has also published a YouTube video with an in-depth explanation of the product.
HiKey 960 reference boards are already available to buy. While most of the current ARM devices cost less than $100, the LeMaker HiKey 960 Single Board Computer costs a whopping $239. It’s certainly not cheap, but this price should not be an obstacle if you are looking for a powerful development unit based on the Kirin 960.
Don’t assume that because this reference board runs AOSP and its kernel source has been released that you’ll be seeing stable AOSP ROMs on your Huawei Mate 9, Honor 8 Pro, or Huawei P10 though, because you’ll still need the device specific drivers in order for all hardware components such as the touchscreen, charger, and display to function properly.