New hardware: Pandaboard

First of all *big* thanks to Freescale for lending me i.MX53 Quick Start Board. This was a move which basically started my project and although days of i.MX53 in my office are numbered and I need to return the board soon it still did a lot of work here and also motivation of myself to continue with the project! So thanks a lot Freescale!
As I wouldn’t like to stop the project I’ve decided to purchase Pandaboard myself and at least give it a try, since general feeling you can get about the board from the Pandaboard discussion group is kind of mixed. Let’s compare both boards in a table and then I’ll explain it a little bit.

i.MX53 Quick Start Board Pandaboard
CPU speed single-core Cortex A8 dual-core Cortex A9 (twice and a bit faster than single-core Cortex A8)
CPU/MEM temperature stability stable as a rock easily overheated, e.g. make -j2 fails several times per week
SD/microSD card stability stable as a rock very weak and very sensitive to card in use
Ethernet/NFS mount stability stable as a rock kernel sometimes crashes on memory allocation in USB/Eth driver

i.MX53 Quick Start Board and Pandaboard together on top of SMC GS8P-Smart switch


With Pandaboard, the first problem I’ve hit was sensitivity to SD card. I’ve originally purchased Kingston SDHC 8GB Class 10 (UltimateX 100X), but this does not work well. The second attempt with card purchase was much better and I’ve used recommended Transcend SDHC 8GB Class 10 this time without any issue (so far, knocking on the wood! :-)). I reported this my issue and complained loudly about it. I’ve though this is really board design issue (weak hardware), but some people also think that it might be software issue. See the thread SD card compatibility issue on panda discussion group. Also search the group and you will see a lot of other reports about incompatible cards or cards issues. So if you are going Pandaboard route, be very careful with your card choice!
Another issue you will easily hit with Panda, especially if you plan to use it like me for building some huge software package, is overheating. I’m using this nice temperature monitoring tool for temperature measurements on OMAP4. When stress testing panda with make -j2 I’ve been able to get up to 92°C without any troubles, I mean it’s really easy to get to this temperature. Anyway, this temperature is quite high for my taste and also for Panda since it fails several times during the stress testing and so at the end I’ve decided to start another discussion thread on the group and ask what’s the recommended heatsink for Panda. I’ve purchased Primecooler PC-NB1 for my panda at the end and it really does its job very well. It basically decreases top temperature from 92°C to just 52°C which is much more acceptable for me at least.
The last issue with Panda which I’ve observed so far is its mediocre ethernet controller connected to USB. Its current software support is quite weak, but I still don’t have time to test proposed solution yet.
I hope this last kernel/NFS/Eth/USB issue will be solved in the next Ubuntu release for Pandaboard and makes my Panda really stable at the end.

Primecooler PC-NB1 on top of Pandaboard


Primecooler PC-NB1 on top of Pandaboard from the top

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2 thoughts on “New hardware: Pandaboard

    • Yes, it solved temp-based issues — which were in minority. It of course does not solve USB-Eth issues which is majority of kernel panics here…

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