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posted by martyb on Sunday November 01 2020, @03:04AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the gimme-five! dept.

SiFive has announced a mini-ITX motherboard with its SiFive Freedom U740:

At the heart of the SiFive board is a SiFive FU740 processor coupled with 8 GB DDR4 memory and 32 MB SPI Flash. It comes with a 4x USB 3.2 ports and a 16x PCIe expansion slot. The mini-ITX standard form factor makes it easy to build a RISC-V PC.

[...] SiFive Unmatched board will be available by Q4'20 for USD 665, and you can already register your interest. You will get a mini-ITX board, 32 GB MicroSD, and 3-meter CAT5e ethernet cable. SiFive did not speak on the commercial aspect of the product but are very confident about future development. Android and Chrome support is something we can see in the future. The product looks promising and we are excited to see future development in the RISC-V PC ecosystem.

Performance will probably be comparable to a Raspberry Pi 3. Alternatively:

PolarBerry is a Compact, Linux-capable RISC-V FPGA SBC and module (Crowdfunding)

Powered by Microchip PolarFire RISC-V SoC FPGA, PolarBerry is both a single board computer with Gigabit Ethernet and 40-pin GPIO header, as well as a system-on-module thanks to three Samtec board-to-board connectors.

[...] PolarBerry is not available just yet, but LinuxGizmos reports the SBC/SoM will be soon launched on Crowd Supply for $995 and shipments are expected to start in January 2021. Besides the aforementioned crowdfunding page, additional details may be found on the product page.

See also: SiFive Is Launching The Most Compelling RISC-V Development Board Yet

Previously: SiFive to Debut a RISC-V PC for Developers in October


Original Submission

Related Stories

$119+ BeagleV "Powerful", Open-Hardware RISC-V Linux SBC Targets AI Applications 23 comments

$119+ BeagleV powerful, open-hardware RISC-V Linux SBC targets AI applications

Running Linux on RISC-V hardware is already possible, but you'd have a choice of low-end platforms like Kendryte K210 that's not really practical for anything, or higher-end board like SiFive HiFive Unmatched or PolarBerry for which you'd have to spend several hundred dollars, or even over one thousand dollars to have a complete system.

So an affordable, usable RISC-V Linux SBC is clearly needed. We previously wrote about an upcoming Allwinner RISC-V Linux SBC that will be mostly useful for camera applications without 3D GPU, and a maximum of 256MB RAM. But today, we have excellent news, as the BeagleBoard.org foundation, Seeed Studio, and Chinese fanless silicon vendor Starfive partnered to design and launch the BeagleV SBC (pronounced Beagle Five) powered by StarFive JH7100 dual-core SiFive U74 RISC-V processor with Vision DSP, NVDLA engine, and neural network engine for AI acceleration.

[...] Based on our previous article about SiFive U74 core, performance should be similar to Cortex-A55, so a dual-core U74 RISC processor will not have that much processing power compared to other Arm boards, but the network accelerator should make it competitive against other AI boards like Coral Dev Board mini.

One obvious item missing from the specifications is a GPU, and I was told while the first batch scheduled in March will be GPU less, but the next batch – slated to be manufactured in September – will come with an Imagination Technologies GPU.

BeagleV will be supported by mainline Linux and a Debian-based software image will be provided. I can also see mentions of Fedora and FreeRTOS. The RISC-V Linux SBC will be open-source hardware just like other boards from the BeagleBoard.org foundation meaning hardware design files, firmware, and the software will be made available publicly.

Related: SiFive Announces HiFive Unmatched Mini-ITX Motherboard for RISC-V PCs


Original Submission

Intel May Attempt to Acquire SiFive for $2 Billion 8 comments

Intel (INTC) Reportedly Offers Over $2 Billion To Acquire the Fabless Semiconductor SiFive as the Consolidation Trend in the Industry Is Nowhere Close to Slowing Down

[According] to Bloomberg, Intel has reportedly offered over $2 billion to acquire the fabless semiconductor SiFive, a provider of commercial RISC-V processor IP and silicon solutions based on the RISC-V instruction set architecture.

Should this deal become a reality, it would mark the climax of growing bonhomie between Intel and SiFive. For instance, back in 2018, Intel was one of the participants in the Series C funding round of SiFive. Thereafter, in March 2021, SiFive announced a collaboration with the Intel Foundry Business (IFB) to develop innovative new RISC-V computing platforms.

Of course, unlike legacy Instruction Set Architectures (ISAs), RISC-V's proponents believe that it addresses the skyrocketing cost of designing and manufacturing increasingly complex new chip architectures, given that that the ISA is layered, extensible, and flexible. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that some believe RISC-V to be the future.

Bear in mind that SiFive was last valued at $500 million, as per the data available at PitchBook. This means that Intel would be paying a premium of over 300 percent relative to SiFive's 2020 valuation.

Previously: SiFive HiFive Unleashed Not as Open as Previously Thought
Qualcomm Invests in RISC-V Startup SiFive
SiFive Announces a RISC-V Core With an Out-of-Order Microarchitecture
GlobalFoundries and SiFive Partner on High Bandwidth Memory (HBM2E)
SiFive to Debut a RISC-V PC for Developers in October
SiFive Announces HiFive Unmatched Mini-ITX Motherboard for RISC-V PCs


Original Submission

SiFive to Debut a RISC-V PC for Developers in October 9 comments

SiFive to Debut RISC-V PC for Developers based on Freedom U740 next-gen SoC

In recent years, people have discussed the need to have Arm-based PCs or workstations for developers to work directly on the target hardware, and there are now several options including SynQuacer E-Series 24-Core Arm PC, Ampere eMAG 64bit Arm Workstation, and HoneyComb LX2K 16-core Arm Workstation.

Now it appears we'll soon get something similar for RISC-V architecture with SiFive to debut the first RISC-V PC for developers at the Linley Fall Processor Conference 2020 taking place on October 20-22 and October 27-29. The PC will be powered by Freedom U740 next-generation RISC-V processor that will also be introduced at the event.

We have very few details about this point in time, but the company points the SiFive Freedom U740 (FU740) SoC will enable professional developers to create RISC-V applications from bare-metal to Linux-based. The processor is said to combines[sic] a heterogeneous mix+match core complex with modern PC expansion capabilities, which probably means PCIe, SATA etc.., and the company will provide tools to ease professional software development.

Freedom U740 details are unknown, but Freedom U540 is a quad-core CPU that was used in the HiFive Unleashed single-board computer.

Related: SiFive Introduces RISC-V Linux-Capable Multicore Processor
SiFive HiFive Unleashed Not as Open as Previously Thought
SiFive Announces a RISC-V Core With an Out-of-Order Microarchitecture
GlobalFoundries and SiFive Partner on High Bandwidth Memory (HBM2E)


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01 2020, @03:44AM (7 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01 2020, @03:44AM (#1071541)

    I guess these are the prices you have to pay to have a computer with no hardware backdoor for the alphabet bois to watch you browse pornhub.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Sunday November 01 2020, @05:43AM (5 children)

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday November 01 2020, @05:43AM (#1071552) Journal

      The prices are down to RISC-V boards being an immature, niche product not aimed at PC users in any way. $665 is also not as expensive as it seems, and less than the previous offering [cnx-software.com].

      The performance is the real bummer. They ought to increase the core count to 16+ to boost multi-core performance per dollar, even if those cores are still very slow compared to x86/ARM. Also, it's a mini-ITX motherboard but there are no DIMM slots, just 8 GB of soldered RAM.

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      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by driverless on Sunday November 01 2020, @10:00AM (4 children)

        by driverless (4770) on Sunday November 01 2020, @10:00AM (#1071570)

        It's not just performance, it's also cost as the OP pointed out. For an architecture whose sole selling point over ARM is that you don't have to pay the ARM tax (vs. endless downsides to do with the fact that ARM is everywhere and supported by and with everything), having to pay $665 for something that might cost $150 on ARM isn't doing a good job of demonstrating its cost advantages.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by takyon on Sunday November 01 2020, @10:12AM (1 child)

          by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday November 01 2020, @10:12AM (#1071571) Journal

          It's not for Joe Pi User. It's for people getting paid to work with RISC-V to have a native development platform.

          The extremely paranoid are going to have to pay a paranoia tax, for now.

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          • (Score: 2) by driverless on Sunday November 01 2020, @10:29AM

            by driverless (4770) on Sunday November 01 2020, @10:29AM (#1071572)

            It's not for Joe Pi User. It's for people getting paid to work with RISC-V to have a native development platform.

            Sure, but unless there's lots and lots of Joe Users getting RISC-V machines in the near future there's not much incentive to pay people to work with a RISC-V development platform now. I've asked for a RISC-V dev. system a few times but always got the same reply "why should we pay you to work on a platform with no market share?". And I expect lots of others are in the same boat.

            In the meantime if anyone wants to send me a RISC-V dev. system to play with, PM me, they can't tell me what I can do in my spare time...

        • (Score: 2) by EETech1 on Monday November 02 2020, @06:29AM (1 child)

          by EETech1 (957) on Monday November 02 2020, @06:29AM (#1071831)

          I used to spend thousands on development tools to support my projects that used $0.20 Atmel Tinys.
          It's a drop in the bucket when you're developing a high volume custom product.

          Development boards are priceless, they allow you to get your prototype rolling before you have the actual hardware you're developing.

          If you don't feel the need to invest in the up front costs that can save millions on the final product, then by all means, use an ARM..

          • (Score: 2) by driverless on Monday November 02 2020, @09:06AM

            by driverless (4770) on Monday November 02 2020, @09:06AM (#1071846)

            Development boards are priceless, they allow you to get your prototype rolling before you have the actual hardware you're developing.

            Problem with the SiFive devices is that it's unclear when the actual hardware will be available, in what volume, or how much it'll cost when/if it appears. Mouser? A few toy dev boards. Digikey? Same. Element14? Nothing. RS? Nothing. I can't even begin to sell this to management when it's like this. Sure, a dev board is priceless when it's for something that will be everywhere in a few months' time and you get a head start on the competition, but the only thing I can say with reasonable certainty about SiFive silicon is that it won't be everywhere at any point I can foresee, and with that I can't sell it to decision-makers as something worth investing in.

    • (Score: 2) by epitaxial on Monday November 02 2020, @12:22AM

      by epitaxial (3165) on Monday November 02 2020, @12:22AM (#1071722)

      You could always buy a Talos POWER9 based system. Don't get sticker shock though. https://www.raptorcs.com/TALOSII/ [raptorcs.com]

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01 2020, @05:37AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01 2020, @05:37AM (#1071550)

    The photo says 16x, then adds Gen 3 x8. So big slot, but only half the lanes it could have. At least not really old generations, and will be able to drive video cards, just not at full bus "speed".

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bzipitidoo on Sunday November 01 2020, @02:21PM (2 children)

    by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Sunday November 01 2020, @02:21PM (#1071592) Journal

    If it's possible to really put an entire System on a Chip, why do they keep putting these chips on boards? To better spread out and dissipate heat? Is a printed circuit board still the best way to connect chips to peripherals? Seems an area worth a hard look.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Sunday November 01 2020, @02:37PM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday November 01 2020, @02:37PM (#1071594) Journal

      A bigger board can have more connectors, and fit into standard mini-ITX cases. It could also have room for RAM slots, but they didn't do that here.

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    • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Sunday November 01 2020, @05:45PM

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Sunday November 01 2020, @05:45PM (#1071621)

      If it's possible to really put an entire System on a Chip, why do they keep putting these chips on boards? To better spread out and dissipate heat? Is a printed circuit board still the best way to connect chips to peripherals? Seems an area worth a hard look.

      It's not about heat; PCBs are made of fiberglass, which is not a very good heat conductor, though layers of copper can be added to conduct heat intentionally. PCBs are used because no one's come up with a better way of connecting the chip to all the things it needs to connect to: external memory (even "SoCs" still generally have external memory, so the "system on a chip" moniker isn't really accurate), connectors, peripherals like cameras, etc. Back in the old days, before PCBs were invented, electronic components were connected together with point-to-point wiring. So there was some kind of metal chassis holding major components, and lots of hand-soldered wires connecting everything together. It required an enormous amount of labor to make an electronic assembly, and mistakes were common and quality was poor because of human error. PCBs revolutionized all this, because this moved most of the "wiring" to a single, mass-produced board, and all humans had to do was insert the components into the appropriate holes in the board and solder them. It also reduced the need for a metal chassis to hold the components, as most of them just sat on the board, except for very heavy ones (transformers) or high-heat ones (large power transistors). Later, more automated ways were devised for "stuffing" the components onto the boards, and later, "surface mount" electronics were invented where the components just sat on top of the board, adhered only by solder. This is where we are currently: mass-produced boards are loaded into an automated assembly line where "pick and place" machines automatically stick the components onto the appropriate location on the board (aided by "solder paste", a stick paste with solder in it, which the components stick to), and then after all the components are placed, the whole thing goes into a "reflow oven" which melts all the solder paste and all the components are now fully soldered to their final locations. There's very little labor that goes into a modern electronic device now, which is why TVs don't cost nearly as much as cars, unlike back in the early days of TV.

      Anyway, back to your question: what I described here is the state of the art, and just keeps getting more and more miniaturized. No one's come up with some alternate way of connecting electronics together other than fiberglass-based PCBs which works as well in terms of cost, ease (and automatability) of assembly, and reliability. There are some more specialized kinds of circuit boards out there that get used in special applications (like military or spacecraft), and some of this technology may filter down to consumer-level stuff: different PCB materials, implanting capacitors and resistors into the board itself, etc., but I don't think PCBs are going anywhere for a very long time.

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