February 5, 2018 // 10:30 a.m.
SiFive, a specialist in IP and silicon based on the open RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA), has announced the impending release of its first fully Linux-compatible single-board computer: The HiFive Unleashed.
Designed around the company's own Freedom implementation of the RISC-V ISA, which is entirely open source for anyone to implement or modify at will with no licensing fees or royalties to pay, the HiFive Unleashed builds on SiFive's earlier HiFive1 Arduino-style development board. Where the HiFive1's 32-bit RISC-V processor was tailored for low-power microcontroller tasks, the HiFive Unleashed boasts a 64-bit Freedom U540 system-on-chip (SoC) with four primary U54 cores running up to 1.5GHz and a fifth E51 management core sharing a coherent 2MB L2 cache.
The board's design also includes 8GB of DDR4 memory with error correcting code (ECC) protection, a gigabit Ethernet port, 32MB quad-SPI flash memory, micro-SD slot for removable storage, a header for an FPGA mezzanine card (FMC), and a selection of co-axial connectors the purpose of which has yet to be disclosed.
The key selling point for the HiFive Unleashed: It's the first off-the-shelf RISC-V product to be able to boot operating systems running the Linux kernel, which recently received mainstream support for the RISC-V ISA. During demonstrations of the board at the Free and Open-source Software Developer's European Meeting (FOSDEM) the board was demonstrated booting to a graphical Linux desktop, loading productivity software, and playing a port of id Software's seminal first-person shooter Quake.
Those interested in a departure from the x86 and ARM near-duopoly can pre-order a board from the company's Crowd Supply page, though the pricing is - as you might expect for the first device of its kind - pretty far from impulse-purchase levels: $999 plus $40 global shipping (around £734 excluding taxes) will get you a board shipping on June 30th, while $1,250 plus $40 shipping (around £913 excluding taxes) will get you one of a 75-batch pre-production run shipping at the end of March.