Until recently ARM9 has often been the first choice in a category of applications because performance has been just about enough and the price really competitive. Now Texas Instruments Sitara AM335x Cortex A8 processors seriously challenge ARM9 in both aspects.
These Sitara processors are offering more performance, additional connectivity and the price is definitely comparable with ARM9. Also DDR3 memory is supported, which will cut memory cost drastically and secure availability of memory components in the future. ARM9 is not supporting DDR3 memory.
Existing ARM9 applications typically use DDR2 memory. The market is shifting towards DDR3 which has made it the memory type most widely used today. The change is beginning to show in the level of availability and price. DDR2 is both more expensive and suffers from problems regarding component availability, at least for some memory densities. TI Sitara Cortex A8 supports the use of DDR3 memory. This makes it future proof as the shift progresses towards that memory type.
More room for OS and application software
Engineers with experience from developing application software based on hardware with an ARM9 processor may have noticed the limitations. That could be in performance, memory and otherwise compared with X86 processors. It has been part of the challenge to keep the component cost down.
TI Sitara Cortex A8 and DDR3 memory introduce possibilities for more performance and memory space without price increase. There is Sitara Cortex A8 processors priced in the same category as ARM9. The DDR3 is about half the price compared to DDR2. It makes room for a bigger operating system and more functionality in the application software.
Hectronic believes strongly that TI Sitara Cortex A8 will win a great percentage of the ARM9 business. Especially in application areas like for example Fleet Management, Home/Building Automation and Industrial Automation. Typical requirements for these applications include industrial temperature operation, protection against shock, vibration, damp and dust.
TI Sitara isn’t suitable for graphics intense applications. It’s more suitable for applications that require only basic man-machine interfaces often limited to include only buttons, lamps and LEDs. There are a lot of applications in the above mentioned areas that require such rudimentary HMIs only. Power consumption is kept low due to reduced graphic performance. In the typical embedded application, increased graphics performance is one of the main power consumers.
Sitara Cortex A8 reference platform
The low power consumption of TI Sitara Cortex A8 makes it well suited to base development of rugged systems. Low power means that less heat needs to be dissipated. Only a small heat sink is needed, if any at all. Small and lightweight components and parts withstand shock and vibration well the since the forces brought upon them are limited.
Hectronic has developed a reference platform based on processors from the TI Sitara AM335x family, building blocks and components all specified for the so-called industrial temperature range, -40°C to +85°C. The limited amounts of heat generated and industrial temperature components make it possible to use sealed enclosures protected against damp and dust without exceeding inside temperature levels.
Reuse of building blocks saves time
The strategy to use a reference platform to base development of a specific custom design system is a well proven and successful strategy at Hectronic. The platform is a library of Hectronic’s ready-made and verified building blocks including schematics, PCB layout, bill of materials, BIOS and firmware for the CPU, chipset and memory as well as for instance power supply circuitry and I/O interfaces. Thus work is about adapting and integrating building blocks rather than developing from scratch. It’s fast and improves product quality.
The vehicle PC described in the right hand column is an application developed for a customer using the platform with TI Sitara AM335x processors.
We strongly believe that TI Sitara is the obvious replacement for ARM9 processors as stated in the headline. The reasons are the support for DDR3 memory for which the future availability is secure, a reduced cost for Bill of Material compared to DDR2 and that the Cortex A8 CPU offers increased performance at roughly the same price as ARM9.
Hectronic has the platform, the building blocks and the experience to develop your next custom design based on TI Sitara Cortex A8. We deliver systems in quantities so that your application developers and product engineers are able to focus on the application software, product features and success of your product.