Pine Details Upcoming Quartz64 Single-Board Computer, Teases $15 XuanTie-Based RISC-V SBC

After putting a RISC-V microcontroller in the Pinecil, Pine is ready for the big leagues with a low-cost Linux-capable RISC-V SBC.

Pine has confirmed plans to get into the RISC-V single-board computer (SBC) arena, while also confirming specifications of its Quartz64 SBC — bringing a SATA 6.0 port, an integrated battery charging circuit, and a dedicated port for an E Ink display.

"Designing the Quartz64, we envisioned that it will serve an additional purpose in the future," Pine's Lukasz Erecinski writes of the company's upcoming device. "Aside from being a stand-alone SBC, it will also be used as a development platform for future non-Pro devices. We have been thinking about democratizing development for some time now, and we intend to start the process with the Quartz64.

"Creating dedicated development platforms, such as the Don’t Be Evil PinePhone kit, is expensive and time consuming. Such kits also limit the number of people who can participate in the bring-up process, as usually a very limited number of such devices are manufactured. The Quartz64, however, features all the necessary circuitry to start work on a next generation phone, tablet or laptop. Plug a display into the DSI port, a modem into the USB port and add a battery – voila, you’ve got yourself a next-gen phone dev kit. So to those who aren’t usually interested in SBCs in general – it may be worthwhile picking one up and helping the Linux bringing-up process on the RK3566."

Pine has confirmed plans for two new SBC families, one to be based around the RISC-V ISA. (📹: Pine)

Built around the Rockchip RK3566, the Quartz64 includes a quad-core Arm Cortex-A55 processor running at 1.8GHz, an Arm Mali-G52 2EE Bifrost GPU running at 800MHz, a neural processing unit (NPU) coprocessor offering up to 0.8 TOPS, 2-8GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 16MB of SPI flash, a gigabit Ethernet port, 802.11b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi with Bluetooth 5.0 as an option on the Model A and built-in on the Model B, and microSD storage with an option for an eMMC module. Interestingly, there's also a dedicated E Ink display port, with plans to offer a 10in panel at launch.

Where the Models A and B differ is in connectivity. The Model A includes a SATA 6.0 port, four-lane embedded DisplayPort (eDP), a four-lane DSI port, a four-lane CSI port, an SPI-with-interrupt touch-panel connector, lithium battery charging circuit, a 2x10-pin general-purpose input/output (GPIO) header, and an open-ended PCI Express 2.0 slot; the Model B, by contrast, lacks the eDP and SATA ports, touch-panel connector, and charging circuit and drops to two-lane DSI and CSI connectivity while swapping the PCIe slot for an M.2 slot, but gains on-board Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and a larger 2x20-pin GPIO header.

"It is too early to talk about general availability at this point," says Erecinski. "A lot will depend on how quickly rudimentary Linux support can be brought to the Quartz64. That said, I place a lot of trust in the developer’s abilities. You can expect an update on Quartz64 in the next community update."

Erecinski has also confirmed the fact Pine is actively developing a single-board computer built around the free and open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA) — following its use, in a microcontroller implementation, in the Pinecil soldering iron. "Our first [RISC-V] SBC will feature two RISC-V CPUs, the main one being a [Alibaba T-Head XuanTie] C906 64-bit SoC coupled with an auxiliary 32-bit BL602 SoC for Wi-Fi and BLE," he writes.

"The overarching idea behind this board is to make an inexpensive board, accessible to all who wish to explore the RISC-V architecture, and to get it into the hands of as many people as possible. We’re aiming at a sub-$15 price point. We also want it to become a gateway to more powerful RISC-V SoCs in the future. While it’s our first entry into the world of this particular architecture, it most surely isn’t our last. The board will allow you to create fun IoT, learning and DIY projects, but I won’t be surprised to see someone make Doom, Sonic the Hedgehog or Mario Kart run on it in a matter of weeks."

More details on both products are available on the Pine website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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