The 64bit RISC-V Raspberry Pi alternative we wrote about last month has turned up again, this time on Indiegogo, with a new name. The Nezha board, named after a protective deity in Chinese mythology, was also briefly listed for purchase directly from AliExpress but it seems that it has since been taken down. Nezha offers a low cost, point of entry into the RISC-V world for developers eager to try a new IoT platform.
Buyers get a single-core Allwinner D1 64-bit RISC-V processor running at 1GHz, backed by 1GB of DDR3 RAM and 256MB of flash storage. The 40 pin GPIO looks to be Raspberry Pi compatible, but we would bet against being able to use HATs and other add-ons with it. Allwinner’s favoured OS is Tina, a fork of OpenWrt, itself a Linux project targeting embedded devices such as routers. It’s been around since 2004 and is optimized to fit in tiny spaces, generally being configured through the CLI. Debian 11 with a lightweight desktop environment is also available, while Fedora, Gentoo, and Ubuntu are also being worked on.
The board is available in a few bundles, such as the one with a 720p USB camera board, or an eight-inch capacitive touchscreen. A ‘full suite’ bundles those two with a six-mic array, that also comes with five hardware buttons, for around $170.
Performance isn’t expected to be great, as the board doesn’t feature a 3D GPU and the 1GHz single-core CPU will be weak in comparison to others. It’s perfect for anyone looking to play around with RISC-V architecture.
Remember that backing a crowdfunded project is not a guarantee of receiving the final product. Crowdfunding is not the same as a retail purchase and so due diligence is required before you invest.
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Ian Evenden is a UK-based news writer for Tom’s Hardware US. He’ll write about anything, but stories about Raspberry Pi and DIY robots seem to find their way to him.
Suggestion: do yourself a favor, STOP using the expression "Raspberry Pi Alternative" in your articles.Reply
This RISC board is based on a single-core RISC-V processor @ 1.0 GHz at a $$$ price that is out of whack.
Definitely not the same market and/or target users as Pi 3 or 4.
RISC-V, as a license-free open-source hardware architecture, is a natural fit with open source software like Linux and BSD.Reply
The point of this product is to provide "hands on" access to developers interested in furthering open source computing hardware, and perhaps bring in some open source developers into the RISC-V fold.
I'm only going from what I've read (not an insider at all) but:
Calling it a "Raspberry Pi Alternative" does miss that this is a specialty product whose goal's not to "beat" a Pi but to get cheap hardware in developers' hands that they can actually use, to broaden the user base and accelerate penetration of the new architecture. THAT'S the "alternative: License and royalty free vs. proprietary chips. If it catches on, don't be surprised if subsequent models become more competitive with Pi on performance and value, but for today those just aren't as high a priority as just getting affordable hardware into developers' hands.
Open source hardware and open source software together is arguably a beautiful thing. Here's hoping the future has a place for that partnership.