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RISC-V Powered BeagleV Board Announced Via New Collaboration

(Image credit: Seeed, BeagleBoard, StarFive)

The RISC-V CPU architecture is making progress across a plethora of devices. From soldering irons and watches to desktop computers, the open source RISC-V CPU looks set to make an impact in 2021. Seeed Studio and Beagleboard have today announced an official collaboration with StarFive, a leading RISC-V solutions provider. The focus of this announcement is the Beagle V, an affordable single board computer (SBC) which runs Linux and is powered by a dual core RISC-V.

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(Image credit: Seeed, BeagleBoard, StarFive)
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(Image credit: Seeed, BeagleBoard, StarFive)

Powering Beagle V is a dual core 64-bit U74 RISC-V CPU clocked at 1.5 GHz and up to 8GB of LPDDR4 RAM. From a CPU perspective Beagle V looks to be slightly faster than a Raspberry Pi 4, but looking at the StarFive JH7100 System on Chip (SoC) we can see a Tensilica-VP6 used in computer vision projects, an Nvidia Deep Learning Accelerator (NVDLA) used for artificial intelligence and finally a Neural Network Engine. All of these point towards a board that looks on paper to be quite the AI / machine learning powerhouse. Best of all Beagle V is a purely open source product, with both the hardware and the software offered under an open source licence.

ProcessorSiFive U74 RISC-V Dual core with 2MB L2 cache @ 1.5GHz
Vision DSP Tensilica-VP6 for computing vision
NVDLA Engine (configuration 2048 MACs@800MHz )
Neural Network Engine (1024MACs@500MHz)
Video ProcessingVideo Decoder/Encoder(H264/H265) up to 1 channel 4K@60FPS or 8 channel 1080p@30FPS
Dual channels of ISP, each channel support up to 4K@30FPS
1 x HDMI support up to 1080P@30FPS
Support MIPI-CSI TX for video output after ISP and AI processing
JPEG Encoder/Decoder
Peripherals4 x USB 3.0 Ports
1 x Gigabit Ethernet
1 x 3.5mm Audio jack
40 Pin GPIO Header (28 x GPIO, I2C, I2S, SPI, UART)
MicroSD card slot for operating system and data storage
1 x Wi-Fi 2.4GHz b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.2
Power with USB Type-C (5V@3A)
1 x Reset button and 1 x Power Button

At its heart, Beagle V is still an SBC and as such it has what we come to think as the "standard complement" of ports. With four USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, Micro SD card and a single HDMI port, capable of 1080P 30fps. A 40 pin GPIO suggests compatibility with Raspberry Pi HATs, and a casual glance at the pinout shows that the standard digital I/O, I2C and SPI seem to be mapped correctly. Dual camera (CSI) and a single display connector (DSI) suggest that Beagle V may be compatible with the official Raspberry Pi camera and display. Wireless connectivity is provided via 2.4 GHz WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2. A shame that 5 GHz WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0 are not present, but we can live without it. Power is provided via a USB-C port, and from the datasheet we can see that Beagle V requires 5V at 2A but a 3A supply would be a real benefit.

Starting from $119 for the 4GB model, or $149 for the 8GB, Beagle V is slightly more expensive than a Raspberry Pi 4 but for RISC-V and AI enthusiasts this is a small price to pay for a RISC-V machine of such power. With an anticipated early access release date of March, with larger availability from September 2021, Beagle V looks to be a worthy contender to the Nvidia Jetson for AI and machine learning projects. It may not be a direct competitor to the Raspberry Pi, but it will be interesting to put the two against one another to see both of their pros and cons.

Les Pounder

Les Pounder is an associate editor at Tom's Hardware. He is a creative technologist and for seven years has created projects to educate and inspire minds both young and old. He has worked with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to write and deliver their teacher training program "Picademy".