The BeagleBoard: $149 Linux System

If you're looking for a new project, check out the beagleboard.

The beagleboard is low cost fanless development board with Linux support. And it is low cost, you can get one for $149 from digikey. And it is low power, it uses less than 2 Watts and can run via USB power (although it does have a secondary power input).

So what do you get for $149? A bunch:

  • 600 MHz superscalar ARM Cortex A8 processor
  • HD Video (720p) capable C64x DSP core
  • 128MB Ram
  • 256MB Flash
  • I2C, I2S, SPI, MMC/SD (via expansion connector)
  • DVI-D
  • JTAG
  • S-Video
  • SD/MMC+
  • Stereo Out
  • Stereo In
  • USB 2.0 HS OTG
  • RS-232 Serial

What kind of performance do you get? A lot:

  • 1200 Dhrystone MIPS
  • 10 Million Polygons/sec
  • OpenGL 1.1 and 2.0 support

What can you do with it? How about this:

That's the beagle board running Linux and an X server! The hook-up is:

The beagleboard was designed by some TI employees (it uses TI's OMAP3530 processor). However, the beagleboard is not built or sold by TI. It's built by a contract manufacturer and available exclusively from digikey.

The beagleboard is pretty open, the fact that it runs Linux tells you a lot. In addition, according to Jason Kridner, one of the TI developers, the schematics and layout are also available although I haven't yet located them on the website. TI provides a free compiler for non-commercial use for the DSP. If you're gonna do any serious development you'll need a hardware debugging "dongle" to connect to the JTAG port, check out the flyswatter, its a mere $49 and it uses the OpenOCD software. Check out the digikey beagleboard page for links to other needed goodies.

One of the first things you notice as you examine the beagleboard is that there's no ethernet and no wireless. I asked Jason about this and his response was that during early development the list of desired hardware additions grew to the point where the only reasonable solution was to deny them all, if it could be reasonably not be added to the board it wouldn't be. Essentially, this meant that if there was a reasonable USB solution then it wouldn't go onboard. The second thing you may notice is that you can't find the processor, the RAM or the Flash chip. The reason for that is that they are all squeezed on top of each other using a packaging technology called POP (Package On Package). So the chip in the center of the board that you would think ought to be the processor, is the processor, along with the RAM and Flash.

There's a growing community of developers out there. Check out for more information.

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Mitch Frazier is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal.


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it's a start...

jonny rocket's picture

well, it's a start. but, you have to have ethernet.

I would buy one

Clifford's picture

I think it has allot of potential. Would look into one of those. Linux needs very little to run. So it has my thumbs up


Hemo's picture

No ethernet on board, but what about USB? Can a USB hub be connected to this and a few USB ethernet adapters added?

The fact that the article mentions what was kept off the board, but doesn't mention 'but hey... you can just hook up a USB ethernet device and away you go..' really makes me wonder if there is any solution for ethernet at all.

the sentence "Essentially,

Anonymous's picture

the sentence "Essentially, this meant that if there was a reasonable USB solution then it wouldn't go onboard." explains this, doesn't it?

I read that line to mean if you can find a USB linux driver for it, you can connect it to this board. This should include ethernet, external storage, etc.

re BeagleBoard

Anonymous's picture

No ethernet == No sale

Maybe this would be help to you?

Graeme's picture

I might buy this and get a load of adapters, sounds like a good cheap option for a computer.

Add Ethernet

Chandrakumar Muthaiah's picture

I will buy more only if there is ethernet port, if not Giga, at least 100MB

100MB is gigabit ethernet.

Anonymous's picture

100MB is gigabit ethernet.


Anonymous's picture

umm...WHAT?! You BEST be trolling...

He is (more or less) right and joking, not trolling

illys's picture

Many people mess up bit (b) and byte (B).

It takes 8 bits to make 1 byte.
So 100MB = 800Mb, so nearly 1Gb. Clear? if not read:

Ethernet 100M = 100 Megabit per second = 100Mbps / often written 100M or 100Mb
Ethernet 1G = 1Gigabit per second = 1Gbps / often 1Gb or 1G or 1000Mb or 1000M

Ethernet 100MB or 1GB is just an evidence the author does not have a clue what he is writing about (very common with hardware dealers).

EHCI broken in Rev B4

Brandon Philips's picture

It is too bad that EHCI is broken in this first rev :(

Where to find the design files

Jason Kridner's picture

The link to the design files is off the "Top Resources" page at Be aware that 0.4mm ball-pitch ball-grid array devices aren't for garage shops. There is a 0.65mm ball-pitch device option as well, which has some special features that allow use of design rules for 0.8mm ball-pitch design with minimal routing layers. While not quite for assembly with your toaster oven, it is quite a bit easier for the average board shop to handle.