SiFive has announced plans to release an off-the-shelf personal computer built around the free and open source RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA), powered by its upcoming FU740 64-bit RISC-V application processor.
The free and open RISC-V instruction set architecture offers an alternative to closed-source ISAs like x86 and Arm, and interest in it is growing ever stronger. While a number of commercial products have launched with RISC-V at their heart, these are primarily using low-power embedded implementations — with higher-performance desktop-class Linux-capable devices thinner on the ground.
The RISC-V community has been working to address the lack, putting together RISC-V PCs built from development boards and expansion add-ons — but at a high per-unit cost. That cost is slowly coming down, with Microchip having recently launched its PolarFire SoC Icicle Kit for $499, but the devices themselves remain a do-it-yourself task rather than a turnkey solution.
That's where SiFive comes in: The company, founded by RISC-V pioneers, is to launch a personal computer using a 64-bit RISC-V ISA which will, it pledges, be in a standard PC form factor with full expansion capabilities. At its heart, an as-yet unreleased processor dubbed the FU740 — a variant of the company's existing U74, which offers an eight-stage dual-issue superscalar pipeline with full Linux compatibility.
The idea: A product developers can purchase which allows them to developer RISC-V applications straight out-of-the-box, whether on top of an existing operating system like Linux or working straight at the bare metal. The company is also targeting those porting existing applications from other platforms — a key aspect of growing broader adoption of RISC-V.
Full details of the SiFive FU740 RISC-V PC aren't yet available, with pricing yet to be unveiled; the company is to discuss more about the project at the Linley Group Fall Processor Conference this October.