EYE on NPI: BeagleBoard.org BeaglePlay® Single Board Computer Chips #digikey #BeaglePlay @beagleboardorg @digikey ​@adafruit

This week’s EYE ON NPI (video) will stick by your side like a faithful hound – it’s the BeagleBoard.org BeaglePlay® Single Board Computer.

Single Board Computers (SBCs) are like tiny computers that are less powerful than desktops but much better at booting quickly and interfacing with hardware.

They also tend to run Linux or BSD because it’s easier to get those OS’s ported to new chipsets than convincing Apple or Microsoft!

This new generation of SBC from BeagleBoard builds on their prior success with the BeagleBoard and BeagleBone by adding a ton more interfaces and connectors so many projects can be built with no soldering.

Here’s a bullet list to get us started:

  • AM6254 SoC processor
  • 16 GB eMMC storage
  • 2 GB DDR4 memory
  • Supports expansion with OLDI, 4-lane CSI, and QWIIC connectors
  • CSI for compatibility with the BeagleBone AI-654, Raspberry Pi Zero W, and compute modules
  • Full-size HDMI connector
  • Small size: 8 cm x 8 cm
  • USB Type-C® with 5 V @ 3 A input connector
  • mikroBUS connector
  • RJ45 Ethernet connector for Gigabit Ethernet
  • Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz capabilities
  • BLE and SubG
  • MicroSD slot
  • USB Type-A connector at 480 Mbit
  • Grove connector

The main processor is the TI Sitara AM6254 with quad-core 64-bit A53 and a Cortex M4 coprocessor. This chip is paired with 2 GB of DDR4 RAM and 16 GB of eMMC storage for a powerful AI-ready chipset that has tons of onboard graphics support such as 1080P HDMI and 4 lanes of OLDI/LVDS. This chip has 9x UARTS, 5x SPIs, 6x I2C’s, 3x PWM modules, 3x quad encoders, and 3x CAN-FD, and of course some GPIO. Note there’s no ADC or DAC – you’d use SPI to connect those externally.

Note this board doesn’t have a 2×20 header like a Raspberry Pi, or even the dual header strips from the BeagleBone – but in exchange it stuffs a ton of hardware support directly onto the PCB. For example, if you’d like to add a camera, there’s an onboard 22-pin 0.5mm pitch CSI FPC connector that is compatible with the Pi Zero camera cables – use that adapter to interface with any low cost Pi Camera modules or compatibles.

For video output, a vertical full-sized HDMI port will connect to any monitor or display. In fact, we plugged in our desktop monitor and powered the Play with a USB wall adapter, and it immediately came up with an X desktop display. Mouse and keyboard can be added via the USB 2.0 socket, a mini hub will allow multiple devices since there’s only one type A port.

The BeaglePlay does a great job of including everything you may want to expand your Raspberry Pi with. For example, there’s a BQ32002 Real Time Clock with a CR1220 coin cell holder right on board – normally that would have to be included as a separate module. A microSD card slot can be used for storing large amounts of data: unlike most SBCs, there’s onboard 16GB eMMC, so you don’t have to juggle SD cards to install the OS.

There’s also a ton of expansion ports! For I2C, the onboard QWICC JST SH connector lets you use the hundreds of SparkFun sensors as well as any Adafruit Stemma QT devices. For UART/PWM/ADC/I2C/GPIO, you can use the onboard Grove connector that works with any Seeed components. If you want even more hardware interfacing, an SMT mikroBUS port can plug in a wide range of boards available from MikroElektronika.

Finally, for networking either to the internet or to a sensor network, there’s Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi 2.4G and 5G, BLE and Sub-G networking. Yeah that’s a lot! It’s almost all provided by the onboard TI SimpleLink CC1352P7 which boasts support for 6LoWPAN, Amazon Sidewalk, Bluetooth 5.2 Low Energy, IEEE 802.15.4, MIOTY, Proprietary 2.4 GHz, Thread, Wi-SUN NWP, Wireless M-Bus (T, S, C, N mode), Zigbee. Note LoRa is not in there, so if you need LoRa that would be added with a separate module. There’s also an RJ-11 with Single-Pair Ethernet which makes this a good fit to connect to industrial robotics or automation.

All this hardware is available at a great price of under $100 at Digi-Key, we already picked one up and we’re going to try and get Blinka working on it so that all of our CircuitPython libraries will ‘just run’ in CPython. Especially given the ready-to-run Stemma QT / Qwiic port on the side, this is an excellent board for a powerful but solder-free configurable SBC. Digi-Key has tons of BeaglePlay’s in stock for immediate shipment, so order today and you will be playing with your new BeaglePlay by tomorrow afternoon.

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