Hardware based on the open-source RISC-V architecture keeps coming, with the latest Chinese vendor going by the name LeapFive, as spotted in the pages of CNX Software (opens in new tab). Its NB2 processor comes with four cores and runs at a speedy 1.8GHz. It also comes with a GPU, making a Linux desktop a distinct possibility.
For now this is just a chip rather than a fully fledged SBC or anything to bother the Raspberry Pi (opens in new tab) hegemony, but we can guess at the features of such a hypothetical board by looking at the features the chip supports.
You could get 4GB of RAM, some built-in eMMC flash, and a Micro SD card slot. It would have two Ethernet sockets, both gigabit, a smattering of USB ports thanks to its 2.0 and 3.2 hosts, and 3.5mm audio thanks to the presence of a DAC. A UART connector provides RS232 and RS485 for serial applications, and there’s I2C, PWM, GPIO, plus a Bluetooth and Wi-Fi module too. Video output appears to be through MIPI DSI 2.0 and LVDS, without common connections such as HDMI, which could be a barrier to producing a consumer-grade board.
Along with the GPU, which runs at 850MHz but otherwise hasn’t been revealed in detail, the chip has NPU (4 TOPS) and DSP co-processors, along with a VPU for encoding and decoding 4Kp60 H.264/H.265. The CPU cores deliver 2.5 DMIPS/MHz, which as CNX Software notes is the same as SiFive’s U74-MC 64-bit RISC cores that put out similar performance to Arm’s Cortex A55 designs. The presence of the SiFive Shield security platform is another hint that there might be something similar to SiFive (opens in new tab)’s chip there.
In a press release (opens in new tab) to accompany the launch, Dr Aglaia Kong, CEO and CTO of LeapFive Technology (pictured above), made much of how RISC-V plays into China’s aims for carbon peaking followed by carbon neutrality, known as dual carbon. “We think a lot about chip innovation: first, because we are serving dual carbon, we must consider low-power chips; second, because it is a platform around dual-carbon, our data must be safe, traceable, and non-tamperable during the process; most importantly, because of de-globalization, we also need to ensure the supply chain, and the chips must be based on a controllable and autonomous platform, so we think RISC-V, an open instruction set architecture, is a great choice.”
The chip will likely run a Linux distro such as Ubuntu Kylin (opens in new tab), though mainstream Ubuntu has been making inroads (opens in new tab) into the RISC-V architecture itself. It will be used in smart appliances, intelligent logistics and warehousing, plus edge computing applications. No date appears to have been set for its release.