The Return of the RISC-V HiFive1

Since the Bay Area startup SiFive announced the release of their Freedom Everywhere 310 (FE310) system-on-chip (SoC) — the industry’s…

Alasdair Allan
8 months ago

Since the Bay Area startup SiFive announced the release of their Freedom Everywhere 310 (FE310) system-on-chip (SoC) — the industry’s first commercially-available SoC based on the open source architecture—back in 2016, the RISC-V architecture has undergone what can only be called a renaissance. After nearly a decade of neglect, the last two years has seen a big uptick in the adoption of the the RISC-V standard.

The release of the first Arduino-compatible development board, called the HiFive1, was seen as a real milestone by the open hardware community and now SiFive is back with the HiFive1 Rev B, now raising on Crowd Supply.

The board is based on SiFive’s new FE310-G002, an upgraded version of the original FE310 SoC. Like the original FE310, the newer chip is built around SiFive’s E31 32-bit RV32IMAC core running at 320MHz, but adds support for the latest RISC-V Debug Spec, hardware I2C, and an additional UART over the original chip.

However, the biggest obvious difference between the original HiFive1 board and the new Rev B is that unlike the older board, which operated at 1.8V, the new board supports 3.3V I/O on the GPIO pins only so that the pins can be driven directly from the F310.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on the board is provided by an Espressif ESP32 module, which while now a fairly common move by manufacturers, is more than somewhat over-specified for the job. This leaves me surprised that a cheaper, albeit less powerful, ESP8266-based module wasn’t used instead if they’re the board really only uses it as “…a wireless modem.” Although the description of the module as a “co-processor” does keep the possibility open that it ESP32 might be accessible from code for more than wireless support?

The new HiFive1 Rev B is currently on Crowd Supply. A single HiFive1 Rev B board costs $49, with free U.S. shipping, or an additional $12 for worldwide shipping. Although if you’re more interested in getting your hands on the new FE310–G002 SoC, a five pack of chips can be picked up for just $25 with free U.S. shipping, or another $10 for worldwide shipping. Orders placed now will be out for delivery towards the middle of April.

hardware
Alasdair Allan
Scientist, author, hacker, maker, and journalist. Building, breaking, and writing. For hire. You can reach me at 📫 alasdair@babilim.co.uk.
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