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Samsung's 533MHz A9home CPU successor

By Nick Brown. Published: 11th Aug 2007, 12:25:37 | Permalink | Printable

Nothing like a little speed boost, eh?

Block diagramThe recently unveiled Samsung S3C2443 processor is a close cousin to the A9home's CPU - leading to speculation it could be used to upgrade Advantage6's diminutive 400MHz computer.

The ARM-compatible processor builds upon many features found in its older relative, and also introduces a few new ones. These include a 533MHz ARM920T core, support for multiple memory types up to 1 GB in size and USB 2 provided as standard.

Another improvement can be found in the memory bus: it is multilayered with a speed of up to 133MHz to enable simultaneous data transfers between the processor, memory and any peripherals. In terms of graphics support, the manufacturer said: "Its flexible LCD controller enables designers to specify many different displays, such as 4-bit black and white, 12-bit CSTN and 24-bit TFT."

However, it is understood a non-Samsung chipset could be considered for a future A9 machine, according to well placed sources, such as an ARM-compatible processor from Freescale. The S3C2443 has been deployed in a number of handheld gadgets so far this year.

Since the A9home's launch in 2005, some users have raised concerns over the machine's non-upgradable 128MB RAM, lack of USB 2, and slow progress on finishing its version of RISC OS. AdvantageSix have said a number of personal set backs have hit its development team, leading to delays.


The A9 website Samsung S3C2443 processor

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It's interesting that in day-to-day use the speed of the A9Home stands up well against the Iyonix (in my opinion), even with its currently slower processor. I suspect this is down to the graphics, so the impact of the clockspeed may not be so significant.

I do feel that the A9Home has yet to reach its full potential, but having said this, an improvement in the raw speed is always going to be good and it's good to see new chips being considered.

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 11/8/07 1:33PM
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The article is a slightly bit misleading: it says "USB 2 provided as standard", however it is only a USB 2 Device that is provided, the USB Host is still 1.1, so no real progress when thinking about using it in a new A9-type computer.

However, an increase in clock speed is surely welcomed.

Looking at the Samsung roadmap however it all strikes me as "too little, too late" concerning the RISC OS desktop market. I wonder why they cancelled their Halla/Sorak projects - they initially promised a 3 GHz ARM10 in 2004...

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 11/8/07 3:54PM
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flypig: "I do feel that the A9Home has yet to reach its full potential..."

Indeed, which I believe is to come in no small measure from finalising its version of RISC OS. I think it's quite disappointing to many people that after a reasonably long period of time the A9home version of RISC OS is still unfinished. Let's just hope it won't take too long anymore, since this market simply can't withstand another big disappointment. I feel the RISCOS Ltd 'side of the fence' is taking too large risks at times, when taking so much time to complete so early announced projects.

Though interesting news, it remains quite unpredictable whether anyone in the RISC OS market is willing to take a chance with this.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 11/8/07 5:13PM
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Let's see 533MHz and 400MHz - hardly worth the effort is it? Might as well get an Iyonix which is superior in virtually all ways.

What disgusts me is the fact that Castle won't indicate if its worth getting an Iyonix NOW in case they produce some new hardware or if the Iyonix will be upgradable alternatively/as well.

I can either save up now for their next machine or I can save up a bit longer for an upgradeable Iyonix but as far as you can tell from assessing the current situation it seems its the end of the road.

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 12/8/07 1:34PM
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All computer companies will always have a better machine waiting in the wings. I bought my last Mac just before the new ones came out.....

You can't reasonably expect Castle to say they are about to release a new machine - thats the mistake Acorn made and their sales dried up. If they start telling people it would get out.

Its 5 years since the Iyonix so either they are working on something new or its the end of the line.


 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 12/8/07 5:10PM
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markee174>Not preannouncing something *is* an important consideration Acorn, if my memory serves me right, caused itself no small amount of trouble by "preannouncing" Pheobe - this (virtually) killed RPC sales.

Trouble is *future* developments are funded by *current* sales. If no-one buys so that they have the money to buy the "future" hardware then the current stuff will ultimately fail and future developments won't happen.

The analogy between the A9Home and Iyonix is, however, a weak one. The A9Home has a CPU+Memory on a daughterboard that plugs into the small mainboard. It would be *feasible* to replace that board with an updated one that takes the new CPU and appropriate RAM (assuming both mainboard and CPU use compatible voltages). Also from a software viewpoint how compatible is the new and old Samsung processor? If they're identical then work on completing RO6/Select (or whatever) on A9Home will work with either.... if they're not exactly identical then there may be some software/OS development work *as well as* new hardware design to support the processor. Both will cost (and take time)

The Iyonix IOP80321 is soldered to the mainboard. To replace it with something else would (in effect) require a new mainboard - this is a taller order. But both paths for A9Home (or Iyonix) does involve some hardware development, (probably) some software development and both entail additional costs which will be passed onto the end user.

If Ad6/Simtec *do* provide an updated CPU+RAM board for A9 then it'll cost (as a retrofit) it'll also up the price of any new A9 incorporating it - as someone else pointed out the performance difference with the Iyonix will narrow - but the A9 still won't be as expandible and it's advantage on price will be considerably eroded it may (almost counterintuitively) make it *less* attractive - unless of course Ad6/Simtec can do the upgrade *without* effecting the price. That would be a *big* ask though.

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 12/8/07 5:52PM
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AMS - the point is it's been 4-5 years since the Iyonix without a processor upgrade and the reason I didn't buy one at the time was because I couldn't. I bought one of Castle's Acorn RPCs some years before that. Spending £1000 on a machine that is superseded in the space of a year would be exasperating.

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 12/8/07 8:14PM
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But that is the nature of every computer platform. You should buy a machine when you want to use it/can afford it. Do you need a new machine? MAybe an A9 would be a good interim stopgap. OR buy a cheap PC and run Virtual Acorn.


 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 12/8/07 9:50PM
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markee174>The presumption here is that a new Iyonix *will* happen and that it will do so with no-one willing to buy the existing kit.

Don't quite see how that works if everyone wanting a hypothetical Iyonix II buys A9 or VA as the makers of Iyonix make no money out of such sales.

Also surely having spent 3/4 the price of an Iyonix on an A9 - AW surely would be 3/4s as upset if the new Iyonix were released within a year of his having bought the newly obsoleted A9?

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 12/8/07 10:18PM
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Given the A9 has several USPs it would seem a good halfway house to someone wanting more power now.

no-one knows if 'Iyonix II' will happen so the original point to buy a machine when you need it is still valid.


 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 13/8/07 8:29AM
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Why do we need a faster Iyonix? What software is there that will take advantage of the extra speed? It is true that a faster processor might encourage the development of a media player for Iyonix (which probably can't happen because of licencing issues anyway), and Firefox would perhaps run a bit better, but apart from that, I can't think of anything I use that would benefit much from slightly more speed. I do a fair bit of digital photography, and faster display of JPEGS would be nice, but the main thing that that needs is a faster graphics card. I think the next jump in processor speed needs to be a big one, up to something like 2GHz or more, and accompanied by applications that use the extra power to make upgrading worthwhile.

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 13/8/07 9:18AM
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Having just moved from a 2.1 megapixel camera to a 7.1 mega pixel camera, a faster Iyonix would be very welcome to make up for the increased processing times of the larger pictures. I'd buy one like a shot.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 13/8/07 9:37AM
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Since dramatically more powerful arm processors appear unlikely, how viable would a co-processor on a PCI card be?

I'm not thinking of running RO itself on on, more for accelerating OS functions. You would presumably have replacement modules that use the card to process rather than the main CPU.

Would PCI be too big a bottleneck?

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 13/8/07 11:50AM
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There is one - its called the GPU ;-)

Which is a very, very untapped resource...

 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis on 13/8/07 12:15PM
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Anyone who's tried to print an A4 photo using Guten-print would benefit from a faster machine as would anyone who works on large images or gets fed up waiting for web pages to render. A computer can never be fast enough, only as fast as possible.

 is a RISC OS Userfwibbler on 13/8/07 2:25PM
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If AD6 were able to offer this as an upgrade to existing owners, I would certainly buy it (price being acceptable). As fwibbler states. "A computer can never be fast enough, only as fast as possible".

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 13/8/07 2:40PM
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Incidently, how much would A9 owners be prepared to pay for a 533mhz upgrade with say 512MB ram?

 is a RISC OS Userfwibbler on 13/8/07 5:01PM
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fwibbler: I doubt 512MB would be feasible due to the parts needed - you need to use very dense RAM as the CPU module is so tiny. Perhaps 256MB. I think if you look at it as a CPU and RAM upgrade, you could use the approximate prices of RiscPC upgrades as a guide. Say, perhaps the cost of a 710 upgrade and a 64MB SIMM? If you take the costs of back then, adjust for inflation, and apply Moore's law, you end up with a price around 150-200 quid. Give the list price for something very similar to what the A9 already has ([link]) is 115 quid, I don't think 150-200 quid would be unreasonable, given you'd need to also pay for work to be done to RISC OS to support the new CPU, as well as to send your A9 back to Advantage 6, as it is not user-serviceable.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 13/8/07 5:19PM
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To be frank, speculating about any new hardware is largely academic. There's nothing from both Castle or Advantage Six to firmly indicate new machines are on the way. It simply remains a (rather remote in my opinion) possibility.

I think the software side, i.e. RISC OS itself, deserves much more attention in my opinion. The A9home's version of RISC OS needs to be completed. It's taking too long and a completed and refined OS is crucial to appreciating the machine fully. Personally, I think speculating about hardware is reminiscent of (self-built) PC's. RISC OS machines are quite different in that there's a very specific combination of hardware and OS. Like on a Mac, the software is the computer. RISC OS is the computer and the whole reason why people pay a little bit extra for the experience.

In other words, RISC OS needs all the attention it can get and I think a good place to start is asking when the current A9home gets 'its better half' completed, so to speak.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 13/8/07 5:24PM
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In reply to fwibbler: I am happy with my 128Mb. But certainly would not say no to it being doubled as part of a processor upgrade.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 13/8/07 6:11PM
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In reply to hEgelia:

It maybe academic, however I beleive speculating is something we are all good at. Especially users of RISC OS.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 13/8/07 6:36PM
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I haven't checked, but if the new chip is pin compatible and software compatible, there would be very little reason for STD not to use it in the production of new A9s. It may not offer a big speed increase, but I'm sure enough existing A9 owners would be willing to upgrade to make it worth while offering new processor cards, particularly if it was combined with a memory increase.

However, if its not pin compatible and requires a board redesign, it wouldn't be worth it for a small clock increase unless a big client demanded it. Otherwise its then in the same territory as the Iyonix where Castle have stated its not worh producing an upgrade until they can offer a system performance increase of 2x to 3x over the existing hardware.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 13/8/07 7:11PM
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druck: My understanding is that it's not pin compatible, and not entirely software compatible (although I don't know if RISC OS uses the features for which there are differences.) I agree with the doubt that the market isn't big enough to warrant creating an upgrade exclusively for RISC OS users.

However, I suspect if building a machine from scratch, it should be pretty easy* to build a machine that's 2x times faster than the Iyonix. The parts are available. What's missing is money, and unless Castle can find a client who wants such a device, I don't see it happening. And there isn't a big market for such motherboards even outside the RISC OS world. Advantage 6 have been sailing on the back of the embedded business: a large ATX board such as the Iyonix's doesn't fit in there.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 13/8/07 7:23PM
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The lack of a media player is something I just don't understand. What's holding people back that can't be surmounted or circumvented?

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 13/8/07 8:26PM
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AW: Time, expertise, will-power, and a RISC OS box that's actually fast enough to play what people want to play.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 13/8/07 9:14PM
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 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis on 14/8/07 12:06AM
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in reply to rjek: I'm sorry but that is a load of rubbish. Available already we have as separate applications:-

Mpeg 1 and 2 player MP3 player Shoutcast Radio Player Ability to convert CD's to mp3's

At it's basic level, a media player application could simply integrate all of the above into one application.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 14/8/07 8:28AM
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sa110: This thread is going dangerously off-topic. Do you really think an application that can play MP3s and play MPEG 1 and 2 video covers anywhere near as much as a media application that people want should? It's missing DivX, WMV, RealVideo, Flash Video, QuickTime, and dozens of other common formats. If people can already play everything they want to, why do they keep asking for media players? Why do you need to merge several applications into one? How does that make them more useful?

I don't think it's me talking the rubbish, here.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 14/8/07 9:47AM
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Ohhh dear. I'm going to get totally flamed here. But my interest is in the future of the OS.

Now I know that there will be people that will always use RiscOS for the next ten years, just like there are specky users just now. However IMHO GenuineHO, for RiscOS to survive it has to be ported to a platform that is mainstream. Now that can be two things. A well known games machine. The plus point of this is that it is there in tens of millions of homes; the neg. point is how many home gamers are likely to want to potentially bust their games console.

The second alternative is to port it to the mainstream computer hardware platform. IE x86. Now I know that there are people that think this is like sleeping with the devil, however, I see it more like the band playing courageously while the titanic went down.

This must be a boot time option. IE partition the hard drive and chose an OS.... Lets call it LIVROS (linux with virtual RiscOS for lack of a better name).... you chose that and it boots a linux kernel with RiscOS running as the default and only app. This would be a temporary situation until the OS is ported to run natively.

If that was realised then there would be tons of people out there who would give it a try. If they need ARM HW then they would not buy a new machine just to run it and the OS will slowly dwindle into obscurity.

An example of an OS from scratch on x86 is SkyOS and there are a lot o people that are using this.

Best regards Bob

 is a RISC OS Usernijinsky on 14/8/07 10:01AM
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Interesting point nijinsky, but there has been much discussion about porting and the issues and cost associated with it in the past. What I wonder about its feasibility is that if an emulator such as RPCEmu were to be combined with the Linux kernel (like you suggested) - to the uninitiated user it would look transparent and with modern hardware and emulators then it might outperform a RISC PC.

 is a RISC OS Userpolas on 14/8/07 10:41AM
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polas: VirtualRiscPC on modern PC hardware vastly outclasses any RiscPC, and gives an Iyonix a run for its money. I imagine VRPC now has the edge over the Iyonix. Without the overhead of a full and complex OS, this performance could only be increased.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 14/08/07 11:01AM
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In reply to rjek: True but what might really be nice is some VirtualRPC variant which does *not* rely on some OS underneath it but runs with no underlying OS, that is kind of is the OS itself. Or since that is probably asking too much due to need of hardware drivers a VirtualRPC coming with its own Linux variant which is based on some standard Linux distribution, be it debian (preferred) or RedHad or SuSE or the like. This approach is e.g. used by VMWare ESX server which you get as a package containing the RedHat distro and a special ESX linux kernel. The underlying Linux should then offer just what is needed for VirtualRPC to run and support would be less complicated since with this the underlying Linux is known to VA.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 14/08/07 1:50PM
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hzn: I don't think that would be nice. It'd involve reinventing thousands of wheels - ones that have already been perfected elsewhere. Writing "VRPC-OS" from scratch will yield a buggy and slow alternative. The use of a small Linux distribution (which one is used does not matter - the user wouldn't see it) has been a solution I've been advocating for years.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 14/08/07 4:38PM
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"the use of a small Linux distribution...": it could be cheaper than VARPC as well; I notice that Dell are about to offer UK Linux laptops and desktops at lower prices than the equivalent Vista models: a £60 difference in the case of the 6400 laptop.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 14/08/07 7:15PM
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I for one am waiting for an upgrade to the A9 (and a finished OS) before I will be putting my money down. It's both the CPU speed and not having USB 2.0 that kills it for me (more than 128MB of RAM would be nice also).

 is a RISC OS UserChappo on 19/08/07 04:02AM
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In reply to Chappo:

I find the A9home fine for everyday use. The lack 128Mb memory limit has not been a problem for me in the last two years. The OS whilst not finished, is finished off enough for it to be usable(this does very depending on who you speeak to) for most tasks. This system has been my only RO machine for 2 years now and I have no regrets about purchasing it. Processor speed is also fine for everyday use.

At the end of the day it depends on what you are going to use it for. If you require more memory, a faster processor and usb 2, go and buy an Iyonix which give you this and more.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 19/08/07 10:23AM
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Talking of performance....

Just wondered.... can the Iyonix not be overclocked? I have a HPC form factor machine with a 400Mhz PXA255 and I can overclock it to 530Mhz with no ill effects (well appart from slightly reduced battery life).

And in such a small portable decive it seems there are no cooling issues even if I test for prolonged periods at 100% load.

Just makes you wonder if I little more is available from the Iyonix's stock cpu (esspecially if better cooling was installed)...


 is a RISC OS Usermrmac on 23/08/07 10:22AM
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sa110: It's of course a personal thing, but I think the A9home has lost much of its original appeal. Only because it is taking so long and I simply can't justify purchasing a handicapped computer. I'm sure this view is shared by others. The design is simply great, so I'm really interested in that regard. Only having USB1.1 doesn't bother me, neither does the lack of internal expansion possibilities. I suspect a lot of dialogue to take place on mailing lists, so I hope sufficient pressure is being made on RISCOS Ltd and Advantage Six to finish the OS properly. There already is one unfinished RISC OS computer in this market, which undoubtedly has played its part in discouraging users to support further developments.

For me, the (feature complete) OS is essential, since it's the way I directly communicate with and employ the computer. I'm often surprised how people focus on hardware specs, but find the OS itself of trivial concern, even though it directly relates to the productivity and experience of the computer. Probably something to do with Microsoft Windows, which is usually acquired 'free of charge' and historically one of the worst OS's ever to survive this long.

It's quite discouraging to visit the official website and find so very little information there. Is there any reason why, since it's so bafflingly unusual? How hard is it to write a nice promotional website advocating the qualities and benefits of the A9home? What about any bundled software? Stuff like a word processor and e-mail application? I believe NetSurf is already bundled, which is great since it allows one to download more software. Do Advantage Six rely on customers to buy the rest?

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 23/08/07 3:35PM
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In reply to hEgelia: For information on the A9home you are best visiting CJE Micros website: - [link]

For information on software compatibility visit: - [link]

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 23/08/07 7:37PM
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