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.
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.
|Processor||SiFive 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)|
|Memory||8GB LPDDR4 (2 x 4GB LPDDR4 SDRAM)|
|Video Processing||Video 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|
|2 x MIPI-CSI, 1 x MIPI-DSI|
|1 x HDMI support up to 1080P@30FPS|
|Support MIPI-CSI TX for video output after ISP and AI processing|
|Peripherals||4 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.