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$17 SBC runs Linux on Allwinner D1 RISC-V SoC

Nov 24, 2021 — by Eric Brown 5,163 views

Sipeed has launched a tiny, SoM-like “LicheeRV” SBC that runs Linux on an Allwinner D1 RISC-V SoC. The board supports standalone use, but is primarily intended to plug into upcoming “Lichee RV-86” panel PC and future carriers.

In Nov. 2020, Allwinner and Alibaba’s T-head subsidiary announced an Allwinner D1 SoC based on T-head’s RISC-V-based XuanTie C906 core. At the time, Sipeed said it would produce a $12.50 SBC based on the SoC that would arrive in early 2021. The SBC was delayed due to supply issues, and Sipeed instead went to Indiegogo in May to launch a more feature rich Nezha SBC based on the Allwinner D1 starting at $99.

Now, Sipeed has followed up with a LicheeRV-Nezha CM SBC that appears to be based on their original $12.50 design. The SBC is available on AliExpress for $16.90 or $22 for a “Suit” version that adds a 1.14-inch SPI display that plugs onto the top of the board.



LicheeRV-Nezha CM, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The LicheeRV-Nezha CM is as much a compute module as it is an SBC. Although it lacks Ethernet or built-in wireless, there is a USB Type-C OTG port and a microSD slot. On its own, the 46.2 x 25mm SBC can be used as a standalone development board “for basic RISC-V” systems aimed at “scientific research and teaching, product project pre-research, and ecological developer DIY” developers, says Sipeed.

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Yet, the LicheeRV is primarily designed to act as a compute module in sandwich-style designs. Like an Allwinner render of a proposed D1-based module released a year ago, the LicheeRV has dual M.2 golden finger connectors, each with 67 pins using the B-key form factor. These are intended as B2B connectors to power an upcoming Lichee RV-86 panel PC for home automation (see farther below). More “dock boards” for the LicheeRV are coming in December.

The LicheeRV-Nezha CM, which we saw on CNXSoft, runs Debian Linux and the OpenWrt-based Tina Linux on the single-core, 1GHz Allwinner D1. The board is loaded with 512MB DDR3 (792MHz) and is available with a microSD slot or an optional SD NAND boot chip with unlisted capacity.



LicheeRV-Nezha CM “Suit” model with SPI display (left) and LicheeRV detail view
(click images to enlarge)

In addition to the USB Type-C OTG port, you get a serial debug header and the SPI connector for hooking up the optional, magnetic micro-display. I/O support available via the golden finger M.2 connectors includes HDMI, MIPI-DSI, RGB/MCU display, RGMII, audio, SDIO, GPIO, and more. The board runs on a 5V input.

The unpriced Lichee RV-86 HMI panel PC houses the LicheeRV-Nezha CM inside an 86 x 86mm box compatible with “86 Box” junction boxes. The system has an RGB-connected, 480 x 480-pixel IPS capacitive touchscreen (FT 6336G).



Lichee RV-86 (left) and earlier Nezha SBC
(click images to enlarge)

The Lichee RV-86 panel PC has an XRadioTech XR829 wireless chip with 2.4GHz 802/11b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1 BLE. The board offers a 10/100 Ethernet connection vi a USB dual-mode port that uses an “RJ45 tail wire with 1/25mm terminal.” There is also a USB host port that appears to double as a serial debug interface (USB to UART.)

The panel PC provides dual MEMS digital silicon microphones and an amp circuit with support for up to 3W speakers. The system has an FPC-style GPIO connector, an RTC with batter holder, and a 12V/5V input.

The Lichee RV-86 ships with WAFT) (WebAssembly Framework for Things), which is based on WebAssembly (Wasm), a binary instruction format for a stack-based virtual machine. Wasm is designed as a portable compilation target for programming languages and a web deployment vehicle for client and server applications. WAFT, which adds a rendering engine to Wasm, is an IoT development framework aimed at smart speakers and low-profile smart terminals.

The Allwinner D1 builds on the XuanTie C906 core, which has a 5-stage, in-order pipeline with up to 64KB instruction and data cache, interrupt controllers, and a 128-bit AXI 4.0 bus. Allwinner adds a HiFi4 DSP, a G2D 2D accelerator, and video decode/encode. This includes H.265 decode at [email protected] (or [email protected]) and JPEG/MJPEG encode (CSI/CVBS) at up to [email protected] Like other RISC-V SoCs to date it lacks a 3D GPU.

Sipeed’s earlier Nezha SBC has a Raspberry Pi form factor, 1GB DDR3, and 256MB NAND. The board is equipped with a microSD slot, a GbE port, WiFi/BT, 40-pin GPIO, a USB 2.0 host port, and OTG and power-only USB Type-C ports. For media, the board supplies an HDMI port, MIPI-DSI, an audio jack, and a mic interface with optional array.


RVB-ICE

Last month Sipeed and and Alibaba T-Head launched a $399 RVB-ICE dev kit featuring a RISC-V compatible, dual-core, 1.2GHz XuanTie C910 ICE SoC. The C910 supplies a Vivante 3D GPU, an NPU, 4GB RAM, and support for Android 10 and Debian 11. The RVB-ICE SBC is equipped with 4GB LPDDR4, 16GB eMMC, microSD, GbE, and WiFi/BT. An LCD interface supports up to HD displays on the bundled 7-inch capacitive touchscreen. Other features include a micro-USB-OTG port, a Type-C for serial debug and 5V power, and 48 GPIO pins.

Also last month, MangoPi showed off a MangoPi-MQ1 SBC built around a feature reduced version of the Allwinner D1 called the Allwinner F133-A (D1s). The tiny SBC provides WiFi/BT, MIPI-DSI and -CSI, RGB, dual USB Type-C, and a microSD slot. The Allwinner F133-A integrates 64MB of DDR2 RAM and is limited to 1080p60 instead of 4Kp30 output. The SoC also lacks the D1’s HiFi 4 audio DSP.

 
Further information

The LicheeRV-Nezha CM SBC is available on AliExpress for $16.90 or $22 for the “Suit” version. No pricing or availability information was provided for the Lichee RV-86 or future dock boards. More information may be found in Sipeed’s announcement tweet and the AliExpress shopping page. More information should eventually appear on the Sipeed website and wiki.

 

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One response to “$17 SBC runs Linux on Allwinner D1 RISC-V SoC”

  1. Mike says:

    Looks like a great device. Sadly though being made in china the documentation is going to be terrible, and so will the software.

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