Cortex-A Development Platforms

The ARM Cortex™-A series of applications processors provide an entire range of solutions for devices hosting a rich OS platform and user applications ranging from ultra-low-cost handset through smartphonesmobile computing platforms, digital TV and set-top boxes through enterprise networking, printers and server solutions. The market-proven Cortex-A8 processor along with the scalable Cortex-A9 and the high-efficiency Cortex-A5 processors all share the same architecture and therefore full application compatibility, that includes support for the traditional ARM, Thumb® instruction set and new high performance and compact Thumb-2 instruction set.

A comprehensive guide for programming ARM Cortex™-A series of applications processors and can be downloaded from (you must register first):



 The BeagleBone is the low-cost, high-expansion hardware-hacker focused BeagleBoard. It is a bare-bones BeagleBoard that acts as a USB or Ethernet connected expansion companion for your current BeagleBoard and BeagleBoard-xM or works stand-alone. The BeagleBone is small even by BeagleBoard standards and with the high-performance ARM capabilities you expect from a BeagleBoard, the BeagleBone brings full-featured Linux to places it has never gone before.


Cortex-A8 Beagle Board
The Beagle Board is a low-cost, fanless single-board computer based on TI OMAP3530 processor (ARM Cortex-A8 Core ~600MHz + TMS320C64x+ DSP ~430MHz), with all of the expandability of today's desktop machines, but without the bulk, expense, or noise.

BeagleBoard-xM delivers extra ARM Cortex-A8 MHz and extra memory with 512MB of low-power DDR RAM, enabling hobbyists, innovators and engineers to go beyond their current imagination and gain inspiration from the BeagleBoard.org community. 

Beagle Board Homepage

The PandaBoard is a low-power, low cost single-board computer based on the Texas Instruments' 1 GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 MPCore-based OMAP4430 applications processor. 

The PandaBoard features a dual-core 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore CPU, a PowerVR SGX540 GPU, a C64x DSP, and 1 GB of DDR2 SDRAM. Primary persistent storage is via an SD Card slot allowing SDHC cards up to 32 GB to be utilized. The PandaBoard includes wired 10/100 Ethernet as well as wireless Ethernet and Bluetooth connectivity. Its size is slightly larger than the ETX/XTX Computer form factor at 4 in (100 mm) by 4.5 in (110 mm). The PandaBoard can output video signals via DVI and HDMI interfaces. It also has stereo 3.5 mm audio connectors.

PandaBoard runs the Linux kernel, with either traditional, Ubuntu, or Android user environments. 

ARM Processors meet Hardware Programmability
Zynq™-7000 All Programmable SoC is a new class of platform which combines an industry-standard ARM® dual-core Cortex™-A9 MPCore™ processing system with Xilinx 28nm programmable logic. This processor-centric architecture delivers a comprehensive processing platform that offers academics ASIC levels of performance and power consumption, the ease of programmability of a microprocessor and the flexibility of a FPGA.

More than Silicon: A Comprehensive Platform Offering
The value of Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoC is amplified by all the elements supporting the Zynq-7000 family that includes hardware (HW) and software (SW) development tools, operating systems, and much more.

A Flexible Scalable Platform Addressing a Wide Range of Applications
The flexible nature of programmable logic and its tight integration to the ARM based processing system offers academics the possibility to add virtually any peripheral they want and create accelerators to extend the performance of the Zynq-7000 devices. This makes Zynq-7000 devices the ideal solution for a variety of academic projects.

Cortex-A8-based Freescale i.MX53 Quick Start Board


Freescale i.MX53 quick start board

Freescale delivers a cost-effective, easy-to-use platform designed to simplify product evaluation and speed time to market with its new Quick Start development board series based on the i.MX family of multimedia applications processors.

The first in the series, the i.MX53 Quick Start board is a $149 open source development platform. Integrated with an ARM® CortexTM™-A8 1 GHz processor, the Quick Start board includes a display controller, hardware-accelerated graphics, 1080p video decode and 720p encode as well as numerous connectivity options ideally suited for applications such as human machine interface in embedded consumer, industrial and medical markets.

Designed as a feature-rich development platform, the i.MX53 Quick Start board includes hardware design files and a board support package (BSP) containing drivers optimized for multimedia operations. This decreases time to market, provides a basic product design, and serves as a launching point for more complex designs. Additionally, the ecosystem for the board is comprised of partners who provide a variety of cost-effective debugging tools and complete development suites optimized for the Quick Start development platform.

The i.MX53 Quick Start board recieves support from Freescale and the community of i.MX developers at imxcommunity.org.


Dual Cortex-A9 ST-Ericsson Nova A9500-based Snowball


Snowball is a low power, low cost Single Board Computer based on the ST-Ericsson Nova A9500 processor (Dual Cortex A9 + Mali 400 GPU) that targets hobbyists and professional developers wanting to prototype new embedded designs. It will help developers to create applications for Android, Meego and Ubuntu.

Features include ARM Dual Cortex A9 @ 1GHz, IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wireless LAN, Bluetooth BT4.0/ BLE. (ex Antenna), GPS (Ex. Antenna), 3x Expansion Connectors (FSMC, HSI, Audio, MiPi CSI / Camera, LCD, MiPi DSI, UART, SPI, I2C, GPIO), 1GB LP-DDR2, and 4 / 8GB e-MMC.


Dual Cortex-A9 NVIDIA Tegra 2

NVIDIA offers several Tegra development kits.

The NVIDIA Tegra 250 Developer Kit includes the Tegra 250 main board containing the Tegra processor, flash memory, power, reset and “recovery” buttons, SD card slots and associated connectors. A Tegra 250 mini-expansion (or satellite) board containing status LEDs, configuration switches, replicated power, reset and “recovery buttons”, and an RS-232 serial port is also included. Additionally, a detachable, foldable WiFi antenna and a 120-240V AC power adapter are also included.

The NVIDIA® Tegra™ 250 Dual-core ARM® Cortex-A9 MPCore™ processor includes a 3D Graphics processor with OpenGL ES 2.0, image signal processor with up to 12 Mpixel sensor support, an ultra low power audio processor, Advanced Power Management, dynamic voltage and frequency scaling, and multiple clock and power domains.

Cortex-A8-based TI OMAP3 Gumstix Overo Earth

Gumstix Overo Earth Cortex-A8 Platform

Gumstix has released the tiny, powerful Overo Earth motherboard which is based on Texas Instruments' OMAP 3503 applications processor. At only 17mm x 58mm x 4.2mm in size, the Overo Earth provides a 600 MHz processor, performance up to 1200 Dhrystone MIPS, 256 MB RAM, and 256 MB Flash memory.

Cortex-A8 IGEPv2 Board

The IGEPv2 platform is a low-cost, fan-less single board computer that unleashes laptop-like performance and expandability without the bulk, expense, or noise of typical desktop machines.

Cortex-A8 IGEPv2 Platform

Gumstix Cortex-A8 Stagecoach

The Stagecoach expansion board creates an OMAP (ARM Cortex-A8) computing cluster for both product development and academic research. Networking up to seven (7) Gumstix Overo™ computer-on-modules (COMs) on a single Stagecoach expansion board (roughly 1/3rd the size of a piece of letter-paper), developers can reduce the time for native compilation and shorten the development cycle. Hundreds of OMAP-based Overo COMs can be networked together using a collection of Stagecoach expansion boards, each mounted with seven Gumstix Overo COMs, while occupying only a portion of a 19" rack.

The Stagecoach expansion board provides a 100Mbps switched fast Ethernet network, assigns a unique IP address to each mounted Overo COM, has seven USB OTG ports and a single serial-over-USB console port, and draws less than 20 watts fully-populated. The Stagecoach expansion board is compatible with all current Overo COMs as well as the upcoming, more powerful Overo products still under development by Gumstix.

RealView PB for Cortex-A8

The ARM RealView Hardware Platforms, designed for quick and efficient prototyping and development, are easy enough for use in both graduate and undergraduate programs.

The RealView Platform Baseboard for the Cortex-A8 (PB-A8) is a member of the Versatile family of Platform Baseboards. The design enables ARMv7 architecture applications development and Cortex-A8 processor evaluation. It also supports Operating System porting and custom peripheral driver development.


A separate, compatible debug adapter is sometimes needed for development with ARM-based platforms. However, more ARM-based platforms are being made available with integrated, on-board debugging capabilities eliminating the need for such external hardware.

Some platforms have real-time data access and instruction trace capability for systems that that must be debugged in real-time without stopping the system and a physical trace interface will likely be needed for this purpose. 

These interfaces can be purchased directly from ARM (an ARM company), or through a variety of ARM partners and distributors.

Low-cost debug adapters are also available for purchase from third-party companies such as Olimex, as well as a variety of others. 

Be sure to check the compatibility between your boards, software tools, and debug adapter.



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