Mini-ITX Seaberry provides 11 PCIe slots to a Raspberry Pi

For the reason that Compute Module 4 got here alongside final yr, there have been just a few initiatives that use it that make me do a double-take: They did what with a Pi?

Mini-ITX Seaberry provides 11 PCIe slots to a Raspberry Pi

Alftel's Seaberry is a service board for the CM4 within the Mini ITX kind issue that provides on eleven PCI Categorical slots:

  • 1 x16 slot (with x1 lane) in the usual ITX location
  • 1 x1 slot on board edge
  • 4 mini PCIe slots
  • 4 M.2 E-key slots (with twin PCIe strains so you may run specialty playing cards like dual-TPU accelerators)
  • 1 M.2 M-key slot for NVMe SSD

The rear of the board additionally has an honest mixture of built-in IO, together with a Cisco-style serial console cable you should use with an easy-to-find USB adapter so you may attach to a Raspberry Pi's Serial Console (UART) for debugging.

I have been utilizing the board for a pair weeks, even putting in it inside my smallest ITX PC case, a Goodisory MX01. That is the primary Pi board I've used that matches in a normal PC kind issue, marking the primary time I have been in a position to construct a 'customized PC' with a Pi, utilizing standardized elements and never requiring additional time strapping collectively a makeshift or 3D-printed case:

Seaberry installed in mini ITX case

And the Seaberry wants all that room, to jam in all of the ports! I examined an Intel i350 dual-gigabit LAN card, a Dual-TPU Coral M.2 Accelerator, a KIOXIA XG6 M.2 NVMe SSD, a Compex WLE200NX 802.11n WiFi card, an Intel AX210 WiFi 6E card, a dual SATA controller, and extra—and every part labored (kind of...).

Many playing cards have built-in drivers in Pi OS—the NVMe drive and the SATA SSD I plugged in labored immediately, and required no customized drivers or kernel rebuilds. (For energy, the board additionally features a four-pin berg header to energy SATA drives and different peripherals).

Playing cards like Intel's AX210 required the set up of customized firmware and Intel's driver, however labored nice afterwards (giving me over 1 Gbps wi-fi on my dwelling's WiFi 6 community!).

Google's Coral TPU playing cards nonetheless do not work, sadly—the PCI Categorical implementation on the BCM2711 appears to not deal with a number of the reminiscence entry patterns it wants—however that brings me to a different characteristic of the Seaberry (and lots of different CM4 boards): it's also supposedly appropriate with Radxa's CM3 and Pine64's SOQuartz, two 'pin appropriate' replacements for the CM4.

I've a CM3 and am awaiting cargo of the SOQuartz, so I will check them out later this yr.

AMD Radeon GPU graphics card on Seaberry Raspberry Pi CM4 carrier

The opposite sort of card I am eager to get working with ARM64 SBCs is any sort of graphics card—principally for the enjoyable of it. I've struggled mightily to get AMD's radeon and amdgpu drivers working, and Nvidia's black field driver additionally has the identical downside with the CM4—random exhausting lockups and kernel panics.

In any case, the Seaberry is the proper platform for my testing—and I even put in Alftel's 12-card M.2 carrier board within the factor, so I may have 20 PCI Categorical units wired into the Pi directly.

Alftel Seaberry with 12-slot PCIe carrier board

Doing so additionally uncovered one limitation with the CM4 (apart from the anemic x1 Gen 2.0 lane): if I plugged in additional than three NVMe drives directly, it appeared the nvme driver would have some unusual kernel panics both at boot or shutdown. Typically it will boot high-quality with 4 NVMe drives, however by no means with 5 or extra.

Video

I've a whole video up on my YouTube channel that goes by means of the Seaberry in far more element:

Lacking issues

Apart from value—which I will get to in a bit—there are a pair issues I used to be lacking on my prototype board. The board I had could be very near the ultimate manufacturing board, minus just a few small tweaks they're making based mostly on my testing and suggestions.

  1. A correct entrance panel header. I truly discovered learn how to get front panel ATX connections working, however having labeled pins for the aim could be nicer.
  2. Constructed-in USB 3.0. It might add to the BOM, however by my rely, there's one additional PCIe lane obtainable, so it will be very good to have 2x USB 3.0 ports on the rear, and possibly expose the USB 2.0 ports by means of a front-panel header.
  3. PWM fan management fixes; on the board I had, we truly recognized just a few bugs within the unique IO Board design it was based mostly off of. It appears the fixes to allow full PWM fan control will make it to the ultimate manufacturing board.
  4. A built-in RTC battery holder—my board, no less than, has an RTC, however to make use of a battery I must solder in my very own battery holder.

Worth and Availability

The Seaberry is pricey, at $435. A variety of that value comes from a number of the elements required for such an unique board. The Broadcom PCIe change used—a PEX8619—costs over $125 from DigiKey... and it is not even in inventory, so I do not know what sort of magic incantations Alftel needed to undergo to get a provide of chips!

Nevertheless it's positively a specialty board. Individuals who want a low-power ARM-based growth or experimentation platform may use this board like I do, to check extra unique configurations on the Pi. And it is trying like it is going to be the primary commercially-available (although not most cost-effective) methods to put in a Pi into a normal desktop or rackmount PC case, because it's mini ITX.

So long as you needn't pump by means of greater than 5 Gbps of knowledge, this board has extra PCIe connectivity than most PC mainboards. However except you are Purple Shirt Jeff-level loopy, you won't have the ability to use all of it!



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