SiFive has introduced its first desktop-class motherboard powered by a RISC-V system-on-chip (SoC) that's designed for Linux software developers, just as it promised last month. The HiFive Unmatched announced this week is a Mini-ITX platform for desktops and has all the industry-standard PC interfaces that software makers might need now -- and at least a couple of years to come.
SiFive's first RISC-V CPU cores from 2016 were primarily aimed at microcontrollers and simplistic SoCs for low-power devices. Eventually, the company became much more ambitious and launched U-series, Linux-capable 64-bit application processor cores, as well as S-series 64-bit cores designed for mission critical or deterministic processing. T
hese cores allow SiFive to play on the same field with Arm's A-series and R-series cores, but since RISC-V doesn't have an ecosystem comparable to Arm's, for now U-series and S-series IP cores are reserved for select projects and developers who do not need advantages offered by Arm.
In a bid to build software and hardware ecosystems around RISC-V cores, SiFive has developed its HiFive Unmatched motherboard that allows engineers to run programs (both applications and drives) on RISC-V.
The HiFive Unmatched platform is based on the SiFive FU740 heterogeneous multicore SoC that packs four U74 cores and one S7 core using the company's proprietary Mix+Match technology. The combination of cores enables the chip to address developers of both performance-demanding and real-time applications.
The Mini-ITX motherboard features a standard ATX power connector, 8GB of DDR4 RAM and 32MB of QSPI flash memory. It also has a GbE port and USB 3.2 Gen 1 connectors. Meanwhile, developers can also use a PCIe 3.0 x8 slot for graphics cards or FPGAs, a microSD slot, an M.2-2230 slot for Wi-Fi/Bluetooth adapters and an M.2-2280 slot for high-end SSDs with a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface.
With a motherboard like the HiFive Unmatched, developers could build low-power desktops akin to those based on x86 processors and then test whatever they need to test. Of course, popularity of the board will depend on the interest for RISC-V in general, but considering the number of RISC-V backers, SiFive should sell quite a lot of these.
SiFive's HiFive Unmatched is $665 and will be available directly from the company shortly . The board will ship with a bootable SD card that includes Linux and system developer packages.