nVidia Jetson TX1 board


Exophase

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So nVidia recently announced a new Jetson board equipped with the Tegra X1 SoC:


http://www.nvidia.com/object/jetson-tx1-module.html


For those who are aware, Jetson is nVidia's Linux-based development board series. This one is more interesting than the last because it comes in the form of a small module for the main components (like the one being used in Pyra) and because it's 64-bit. So all in all, you get a relatively high end ARMv8 CPU with a strong GPU and extensive OpenGL ES 3.1+ and plain OpenGL 4.4 support. The small module also embeds the 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, PMIC, 16GB eMMC (400MB/s theoretical peak access speed) and wifi/BT. I/Os include 2x SD, USB 3.0, gigabit ethernet, SATA, and HDMI/eDP.


So I'll say what I bet some others are also thinking.. it sure would be nice to see a Pyra-like handheld built around this board instead of OMAP5 + DDR3. Not that I would push ED to even consider such a thing, but maybe if all the drawings are released (AFAIK they will be?) funding could be raised allowing a third party to respin the Pyra main board and hopefully it would still fit inside the same case. That's assuming that the power profile isn't too extreme to be useful in this form factor, but that's the nice thing about being able to purchase it now - that can be tested for beforehand.


There are however two big downsides. First is the price, which is $299 for the module ($599 if you want the full dev board it plugs into, the HSF, etc). This might still allow a roughly Pyra-priced unit, but it's still pretty steep - especially when you consider that the Shield TV has more or less the same hardware plus a bunch of other stuff and only costs $199. Maybe nVidia would in time lower the price or offer volume discounts.


The other downside is that none of the documentation for the module makes mention of the SoC's Cortex-A53 cluster, leading me to believe it has been disabled. Bad news for a handheld where it would have been very useful for lower end tasks like basically anything that runs fine on Pandora. But maybe there's something more to this.
 
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Hồng Thất Công

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Yah, would be very nice if Pyra next SoC board will somehow use this X1 thing.  Gamecube emulation on Pyra woud make me pee in my pants :D
 

Exophase

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Did you see the heatsink/fan on that thing? How well would it fit the thermal envelope of a Pyra-like device?



nVidia has said that the HSF is overspecified, but putting that aside...


Power consumption/heat are very dynamic parameters and there a bunch of controls in place to make it fit into whatever envelope is specified. What becomes relevant is not whether or not this could run full-tilt in a Pyra-like form factor. It probably can't, but neither can most high end phones. For that matter, it already sounds like you may not be able to run both Cortex-A15 cores at 1.7GHz in Pyra. Let alone the 2GHz TI once advertised the SoC as being capable of. Look at the OMAP5 EVM, it also has a heatsink that's bigger than what can fit in a Pyra-like device and it's only specified for 1.5GHz.


We're talking about quad core devices here so there's a big dynamic range between one core running at 1.5GHz and four cores running at 1.9GHz. The latter doesn't have to be attainable for this to be better suited for the form factor.


That makes the relevant question this: is the efficiency as good or better than OMAP5 + DDR3. All things considered, I suspect that it is. It's a newer CPU incorporating more efficiency advances (OMAP5 isn't just Cortex-A15, it's an early revision Cortex-A15 prior to various optimizations) on a newer process (OMAP5 isn't just 28nm but probably not 28HPM which brought a lot of efficiency advance over the process used for eg Tegra 4; Tegra X1 is on TSMC 20nm) And it's using more power efficient RAM (LPDDR4 vs DDR3L) The GPU is also known to be very efficient.


nVidia certainly says as much themselves: they've made the claim that their CPU implementation is 1.4x more efficient than Samsung's Exynos 5433, another Cortex-A57 SoC implemented on a 20nm process. And given the power measurements I've seen of that SoC I expect it's more efficient than OMAP5 as well. I fear OMAP5 will be more in line with the old Exynos 5250 which wasn't very efficient at all.


Now granted, this isn't a given. By all appearances, it may not apply to Qualcomm's S810/S808 despite it having those advantages too. But I definitely would not write it off. That's why it'd be worth getting and doing some tests with.
 
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Neelix

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Sounds great,  but wasn't there also a requirement with nVidia SOCs to choose an nVidia approved design company for the board?  (or am I misremembering that?)


-Neelix
 

Exophase

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Sounds great,  but wasn't there also a requirement with nVidia SOCs to choose an nVidia approved design company for the board?  (or am I misremembering that?)


-Neelix



For their SoCs, yes. Here they are selling an entire module that combines SoC, RAM, PMIC, storage, and wifi/BT on a small form factor PCB. Much like Pyra's CPU board. They're selling it publicly and in individual quantity so I doubt they have any stipulations on what you do with it.
 

Exophase

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Some other positives about the SoC and module:


- Full SoC TRM and datasheet are available if you register at nVidia's site


- Full drawings for the module are available


- From the TRM, it looks like the display controller supports rotation in a pretty straightforward way:

The display supports 0°, 90°, 180°, or 270° rotation or image flip. To support rotation, the memfetch unit rotates the data at the input to the line buffers. That is, memfetch walks the Y axis and stores these columns in memory as rows to the display.
 

Neelix

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For their SoCs, yes. Here they are selling an entire module that combines SoC, RAM, PMIC, storage, and wifi/BT on a small form factor PCB. Much like Pyra's CPU board. They're selling it publicly and in individual quantity so I doubt they have any stipulations on what you do with it.



Ahh, I better understand what you are suggesting now, I had misunderstood your original suggestion.


What are the physical dimensions?  How does it compare sizewise with the Pyra's CPU daughterboard? (I'm just trying to get an impression of the practicality of using such a module in a Pyra sized device)


-Neelix
 
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Exophase

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Dimensions are 87x50mm, roughly like the size of a credit card (85.6x53.98mm).


I don't have precise dimensions of the Pyra CPU board, I think ED or hns would have to provide these.. but you can estimate from drawings by comparing to standard connector sizes. I rotated/sheared a picture (http://cdn.liliputing.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/pyra1-680x424.jpg) and estimate that the USB connector (12.5mm) is about 32 pixels wide. Board total is about 282 pixels wide by about 114 pixels tall. So, dimensions are about 110x44.5mm. Meaning the nVidia board is not nearly as wide but a bit taller. Now, the Pyra CPU board fits really snugly in between the connectors so there'd be some challenge moving it. Worst case scenario would be moving to microSD (yeah, I know...) but maybe it can be avoided somehow.
 
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slaeshjag

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Another consideration is that you got the SoC sitting right under the battery. With the OMAP5, the hope is to dissapate heat through the keyboard PCB. The Tegra board would have a big hunk of LiPo sitting right above it, which should preferably be kept as cool as possible. So a different way of getting the waste heat out would be needed.
 

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i've read about that thingy, very intereasting. However, I would like to see how it performs, compared to known ARM devices like we have on Pandora/Pyra. Have not much tech. knowledge about this.
 

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So nVidia recently announced a new Jetson board equipped with the Tegra X1 SoC:



Thanks! I've been periodically checking Nvidia's site for this, but have missed it so far. Sadly it's a little bit to pricey for my taste...

i've read about that thingy, very intereasting. However, I would like to see how it performs, compared to known ARM devices like we have on Pandora/Pyra. Have not much tech. knowledge about this.



Phoronix made some benchmarks with a Shield Android TV a while ago, which was running Ubuntu. Maybe it's of interest for you:


http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=nvidia-tegra-x1&num=1
 
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Askarus

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I would buy one if I could use it without active heatsink (even with some throttling) and could attach 2 touchscreen.


Does it provide that dual screen option?
 

Exophase

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I should have mentioned before, but another good example of varying thermal envelopes was the Tegra 4, which was deployed in the original Shield handheld with an HSF but still had respectable performance in the Xiaomi Mi3 phone (although it's obscure since only the Chinese version used Tegra 4). In theory something like Pyra could have somewhat more favorable thermal characteristics than a phone, although in practice it'll be hard without employing high end materials and cooling design.

Another consideration is that you got the SoC sitting right under the battery. With the OMAP5, the hope is to dissapate heat through the keyboard PCB. The Tegra board would have a big hunk of LiPo sitting right above it, which should preferably be kept as cool as possible. So a different way of getting the waste heat out would be needed.



Not a very desirable solution, but you could possibly use a pair of flat angled ribbon connectors to flip the board around. It'd still be secured through the same screwholes going the other way.

Phoronix made some benchmarks with a Shield Android TV a while ago, which was running Ubuntu. Maybe it's of interest for you:


http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=nvidia-tegra-x1&num=1



I've seen it, they're pretty good, but like mentioned before probably not representative of what you'd get in a Pyra like platform. Still, Cortex-A57 is a pretty known quantity - a little better IPC vs A15 (maybe 10-15%?), so if it can manage so much as 2x1.5GHz it should be a good bet. AArch64 support is also interesting, for example it can lend itself better to emulators with recompilers what with the extra registers, flagsless branches and big address space.

I would buy one if I could use it without active heatsink (even with some throttling) and could attach 2 touchscreen.


Does it provide that dual screen option?



The display specs for the board are:


2x DSI, 1x eDP 1.4, 1x DP 1.2/HDMI


So I'm not certain it lets you use all of those simultaneously. You would think so.
 
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Kev2442

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While the NVIDIA fanboy inside of me already celebrates the future PCB, I'd still like to have a more official confirmation as to whether it is possible or not.


But if you ask me, depending on the dev time, if it's actually doable, it may be worth it to delay the release...
 

Exophase

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IMO it'd be disrespectful to even broach the subject of investigating a redesign around this for Pyra when so much money and effort has been put into designing the OMAP5 based solution and it's so close to release. Even if the community were willing to absorb the delay and cost hike associated with this.


I'd rather see other people verify the viability of this on the bench and later propose a design that's basically a Pyra fork with a separate mainboard, possibly sharing the same case/LCD/controls/etc (so maybe something you could migrate a Pyra to or make with off the shelf parts). Then see this funded with a separate initiative, something like a ~$100k KS campaign (just a guess number...). But even this could be problematic for DragonBox, so I would hope it'd only happen with ED's considered blessing.


The alternative would be to just do a new handheld altogether. Even there I wouldn't want to see a straight up competitor steal Pyra sales outright.


Now any of this would mean a split hardware userbase. But if Pyra is going to ever upgrade again (and I think they'll want to..) this will have to be accepted as an inevitability. Going forward I think there's going to have be lighter weight migration/compatibility paths than what we're seeing with the move from Pandora to Pyra. There really shouldn't be much about the SoC choice that is unportable between software so long as the ISA stays compatible, but some care and effort will have to be made in using pretty generic interfaces for things like 2D acceleration and display windows. As much as is possible anyway.


But please no one take this too seriously, this is just daydreaming really, maybe brainstorming, not some big call for initiative. And before anyone asks, I personally probably wouldn't be able to play a role in something like this outside of maybe funding :p
 
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Nilsnsn

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The Jetson TK1 also comes with a an HSF, which can be replaced. There is a picture on http://www.elinux.org/Jetson/Thermal#Replacing_the_fan_with_a_heatsink where the SoC is cooled by a thin aluminum heat spreader. That raises some hope :)


There were some discussions on the nvidia developer board about using the eDP port on TK1, but unfortunately i don't know of any succesful attempt. Display specs are similar to the X1, but maybe the expansion port is different.


While typing this, i found a report of working LVDS, so maybe i'm wrong about the eDP:


https://devtalk.nvidia.com/default/topic/822612/embedded-systems/-issue-lvds-panel-enabled-effect-hdmi-out-image-pull-down-menu-items/
 

Exophase

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A Tegra X1 PCB (http://www.notebookcheck.net/fileadmin/_processed_/csm_P1000157_e4c0fd7899.jpg)


was demonstrated at CES 2015 in this video: http://www.notebookcheck.net/Nvidia-announces-Tegra-X1-SoC.134068.0.html


There's no particularly bulky HSF but there is a slab of metal on top of the SoC and RAM (much like the SoC in Samsung's Exynos 5250 Chromebook, which is very OMAP5-ish). The PCB is the one in the lower left, this is clearer when the video zooms in around 1:15.


Tegra X1 is also in the Pixel C tablet. I can't find any teardown shots of it. It's obviously fairly thin and not actively cooled but it's also a big old tablet so that doesn't really amount to much.
 
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