It's no secret that ARM-based SoCs are advancing at an incredible rate compared to x86 CPUs. While ARM ratchets up the performance on the high end with multi-core architectures like the Cortex A9 and Cortex A15, which rivals and in many cases exceed the performance on low-power x86 chips, licensees such as TI have created full-featured SoCs at single-digit prices, enabling new low-power devices at tiny price points.
The $89 BeagleBone, created by the same group that created the BeagleBoard and performance BeagleBoard-xM, contains one of these not-so-new ultra-cheap, ultra-fast TI chips – the AM3359, based on the Cortex A8. This SoC delivers a fast 2-issue in-order CPU complete with PowerVR's SGX530 GPU, on-chip ethernet and LPDDR support. Those who are savvy in the ultra-mobile space will recognize the Cortex A8 from other popular devices, such as the ubiquitous iPhone 3GS and the faster-clocked A8 in the iPhone 4. The BeagleBone's A8 comes in clocked at 720 Mhz, a full 20% faster than the A8 in the 3GS and about 30% slower than the 4.