Sipeed Univels the Lichee Book 4A, a Notebook for the "RISC-V Explorer"

Powered by the Lichee 4A system-on-module — or a Lichee 3A or 5A, if you fit them yourself — Sipeed's laptop targets early adopters.

Gareth Halfacree
28 days agoHW101

Sipeed has announced a new entry in its Lichee RISC-V family, this time putting its high-performance Lichee 4A RISC-V system-on-module into a full-size laptop chassis: the Lichee Book 4A.

"Lichee Book 4A is a high-performance RISC-V lightweight laptop developed by Sipeed," the company writes of its latest launch, "designed to allow RISC-V developers to experience the application of RISC-V products in real life ahead of time. The software support for Lichee Book 4A is also quite comprehensive, with Debian as the default operating system, supporting Chrome browser, VSCode IDE, KiCAD PCB drawing software, Office software, 4K player, various game emulators, meeting the needs of daily work and study."

The system-on-module at the heart of the new laptop is the Lichee 4A, which the company has already put into compact clusters, a convertible tablet, a games console, and the Lichee Console 4A — the company's first Lichee 4A-powered laptop, designed around a compact 7" form factor with a somewhat cramped 72-key keyboard and IBM ThinkPad-style pointing device. This gives the laptop a T-Head 1520 system-on-chip, with four XuanTie C910 RISC-V processor cores running at up to 2.5GHz, a fifth digital signal processing (DSP) core, an Imagination Technologies BXM-4-64 graphics processor, and a four tera-operations per second (TOPS) coprocessor for machine learning and artificial intelligence workloads.

Two variants of the laptop are planned, one featuring 8GB of LPDDR4X memory and 32GB of eMMC storage with the other upgrading to 16GB of LPDDR4X and 128GB of eMMC storage. Both include support for an M.2 SATA SSD in 2280 form factor, a 14" 1920×1200 display with mini-HDMI output for an external monitor, an integrated VGA camera, and an 88-key keyboard with traditional touchpad pointing device. There's integrated Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.4 connectivity, one each of USB 3.0 Type-A, USB 3.0 Type-B, and USB 2.0 Type-A ports plus a microSD Card slot, all housed in a plastic case alongside a 4,500mAh battery.

While Sipeed has opened orders for the laptops, though, it's asking buyers to temper their expectations a little. "High-performance RISC-V consumer electronics are still in the early stages as of 2024," the company warns. "Lichee Book 4A is mainly aimed at RISC-V developers with at least proficient Linux operating experience, and ordinary consumers may not be able to use it directly. If you are an ordinary user without Linux experience, please do not purchase."

The Lichee Book 4A is up for pre-order on the Sipeed AliExpress store at $298.40 for the 8GB/32GB model or $348.80 for the 16GB/128GB version, both representing a claimed 20 percent discount over its final retail price. Those who already have a Lichee 4A SOM, meanwhile, can buy the rest of the laptop for $188.80. The same chassis is also compatible, the company has confirmed, with its earlier Lichee 3A and latest Lichee 5A systems-on-modules.

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