RISC-V, this new Raspberry Pi alternative board is approaching its release

RISC-V, this new Raspberry Pi alternative board is approaching its release


According to a message posted on the CNX-Software blog, a potential new Raspberry Pi competitor is coming soon. Based on the RISC-V open source architecture, the Allwinner D1 Single Board Computer is the size of a credit card and is equipped with a 64-bit XuanTie C906 RISC-V CPU with a frequency of 1GHz, accompanied by 1GB of RAM type DDR3.

Credit: CNX-software The board has a lot in common with other single board computers that we already know, even if it seems to be aimed at the more entry level range. In fact, in terms of computing power, Raspberry Pi 4 is definitely superior. On board we also find the familiar 40-pin GPIO that we assume is compatible in terms of layout with that of Raspberry Pi, but at the moment there are no confirmations about it.

There is also an HDMI video output on the board 1.4, a Wi-Fi 4 and Bluetooth network card, two USB Type-C ports, a single USB 2.0 Type-A, a Micro SD slot, Gigabit Ethernet, a 3.5mm audio jack, plus camera connectors and displays that appear to be the same format as the Raspberry Pi's CSI and DSI. Finally, we note that 256MB of flash memory and a four-pin UART header for debugging are integrated.

Allwinner is promoting the product as a "media decoding platform" and the data released by CNX shows that it is capable of smoothly decoding H.265 video streams up to 1080p60 or 4Kp30 and H.264 up to 1080p60 or 4Kp24. The dimensions are the same as the Raspberry Pi 4, measuring 85 × 56 mm, but the general layout is different enough to prevent it from being used inside the case made for the competing board.

Credit: CNX-software Beyond its video engine, the Allwinner D1 RISC-V card doesn't offer much in the way of graphics processing. The Coremark score of 3.8 / Mhz is far below the Raspberry Pi 4's 15.1 / MHz, but we expect this product to be significantly cheaper. Allwinner offers its custom Debian-based Linux distribution, Tina OS, although its Github page was last modified in 2017, so we hope the kernel will soon be updated to support this new card as well.

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Low-cost single-board computers with RISC-V chips are coming soon

The first single-board computers powered by an Allwinner Xuantie-C906 processor could be set to ship soon. The chip isn’t exactly a speed demon, but it is expected to be one of the most affordable processors based on RISC-V open chip architecture.

Earlier this year Pine64 announced it was developing a single-board computer (SBC) featuring the C906 processor that could sell for less than $15. And now CNX Software notes that chip maker Allwinner also plans to begin shipping its own single-board computer featuring the chip in May.

Late last year we learned that the Allwinner board would support Debian Linux and have a starting price as low as $13, which could make it an affordable entry point for developers looking to get started working with RISC-V hardware.

CNX Software

If you’re looking for a high-performance, general-purpose computer, you may still be better off picking up a SiFive HiFive Unmatched, which is a mini-ITX motherboard with one of the most powerful RISC-V processors to date. But while pre-orders for that board opened in late 2020, it’s not currently expected to ship until June, 2021. And with a $665 price tag, it’s also a lot more expensive than the Allwinner and/or Pine64 boards.

Just don’t expect these sub-$15 boards to offer the same level of performance.  At the heart of the Allwinner SBC will be an Allwinner D1 system-on-a-chip that features:

  • 1 GHz XuanTie C906 single-core 64-bit processor
  • HiFi4 digital signal processor
  • G2D 2D graphics accelerator
  • The computer will support up to 1GB of DDR3 memory and up to 256MB of onboard flash storage plus a microSD card reader for additional storage. But according to @SipeedIO, entry-level models may have as little as 32MB or 64MB of RAM and folks who want 1GB may have to pay $50 or more. Prices are said to be higher than anticipated due to the increase in chip prices caused by the global semiconductor shortage.

    With support for HDMI 1.4 ([email protected] output), MIPI DSI ([email protected] touchscreen support), Gigabit Ethernet, and USB 2.0 Type-A and Type-C ports, the board should be versatile, if not particularly fast. It also has a 40-pin GPIO connector, 4-pin UART header, a 3.5mm audio jack, and support for 802.11b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth.

    The system is about the same size as a business card (or a Raspberry Pi), measuring 85mm x 56mm (3.35″ x 2.2″).

    You can find more details at CNX Software, with even more likely to come next week when Allwinner officially launches the Allwinner D1 single-board computer.

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