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Move over, ARM: BeagleV is a $150 RISC-V computer designed to run Linux

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Move over, ARM: BeagleV is a $150 RISC-V computer designed to run Linux

BeagleV is an affordable way to get your feet wet with RISC-V Linux computing.


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Seeed Studios—the makers of the Odyssey mini-PC we reviewed back in August—have teamed up with well-known SBC vendor BeagleBoard to produce an affordable RISC-V system designed to run Linux.


The new BeagleV (pronounced "Beagle Five") system features a dual-core, 1GHz RISC-V CPU made by StarFive—one of a network of RISC-V startups created by better-known RISC-V vendor SiFive. The CPU is based on two of SiFive's U74 Standard Cores—and unlike simpler microcontroller-only designs, it features a MMU and all the other trimmings necessary to run full-fledged modern operating systems such as Linux distributions.


StarFive's VIC7100 processor design is aimed at edge AI tasks as well as general-purpose computing. In addition to the two RISC-V CPU cores, it features a Tensilica Vision VP6 DSP for machine-vision applications, a Neural Network Engine, and a single-core NVDLA (Nvidia Deep Learning Accelerator) engine.


The BeagleV isn't the first general-purpose RISC-V Linux PC to come out of SiFive's designs, or even the second—but it's considerably more cost-effective than earlier designs such as the $680 HiFive Unmatched. The lower cost should make it far more attractive to hobbyists, as does the out-of-box support for Fedora Linux, with support for Debian Linux and the FreeRTOS microcontroller operating system to come shortly afterward.


In addition to the StarFive processor, BeagleV includes 8GiB of LPDDR4 RAM, gigabit Ethernet, an 802.11n Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.2 chipset, and a dedicated hardware video transcoder supporting H.264 and H.265 at 4K and 60fps.The system also offers four USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI out, 3.5mm conventional audio jack, and a 40-pin GPIO header. 5V/3A power is delivered over a USB Type-C port, and the system boots from a standard SD card.


We expect to have a review sample of the BeagleV at Ars sometime in late March, with community delivery of the first hardware run following in April. Widespread general availability will come to pass in September 2021. Although the first hardware run will be entirely $140 / 8GiB systems, lower-cost variants with less RAM are expected in following releases.


The initial pilot run of BeagleV will use the Vision DSP hardware as a graphics processor, allowing a full graphical desktop environment under Fedora. Following hardware runs will include an unspecified model of Imagine GPU as well.


Ars readers interested in purchasing one of the early "pilot" boards scheduled for April delivery can apply to be a part of the initial program here.


Listing image by Seeed


What's RISC-V, and why do I care?

RISC-V is a CPU ISA (Instruction Set Architecture) family, like x86_64 (the architecture in most PCs and laptops) or ARM (the architecture in mobile phones, tablets, and the new Mac M1 and Macbook Air).


Although RISC-V isn't known for being a particularly "powerful" architecture so far—you can broadly expect either x86_64 or ARM CPUs to be faster than a RISC-V CPU at the same clock speed—it's incredibly power efficient, and it's much more "open" in terms of intellectual property than either ARM or x86.


The RISC-V ISA is permissively licensed—meaning literally anyone is allowed to design, produce, and sell RISC-V CPUs without the need for either fees or complex license negotiations.



Move over, ARM: BeagleV is a $150 RISC-V computer designed to run Linux


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