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PolarFire SoC board has GbE port and 40-pin GPIO

Oct 29, 2020 — by Eric Brown 3,226 views

Sundance will soon launch an SBC-like, $995 “PolarBerry” module that runs Linux on Microchip’s FPGA-enabled, RISC-V based PolarFire SoC with 4GB DDR4 and eMMC, dual CAN, a GbE port, and RPi style 40-pin GPIO.

Microchip’s PolarFire SoC, the world’s first SoC to combine a Linux-ready RISC-V architecture CPU with an FPGA, has so far appeared on an Aries M100PFS module and Microchip’s own PolarFire SoC Icicle Kit SBC. Now, UK-based FPGA manufacturer Sundance has announced a Raspberry Pi sized PolarBerry SoM equipped with the hybrid SoC. It will soon launch on Crowd Supply for $995, with shipments due in January.

PolarBerry, front and back
(click image to enlarge)

Sundance, which has introduced Linux-driven products such as its stackable, Zynq-7000 based EMC2-Z7015 SBC, calls the SBC-like PolarBerry “the first production and deployment-ready SoM with a hardened 64 bit, multicore real-time, Linux-capable RISC-V MPU subsystem.” Applications include defense/mil-aero, AI/ML, communications, automotive, industrial automation, imaging, and the Internet of Things.

With the lack of a microSD slot or USB port, the PolarBerry doesn’t perfectly fit our definition of an SBC, but then again this is the first compute module we have seen with an RJ45 GbE port and Raspberry Pi style 40-pin GPIO. The 85 x 55mm module can be further extended with an optional SE215 PCIe carrier board (see farther below).


The PolarBerry is equipped with 4GB 32-bit DDR4 and 4GB eMMC, compared to 8GB and up to 64GB eMMC on Aries’ M100PFS and 2GB and 8GB on the Icicle Kit. There is also 128MB SPI serial NOR flash for booting a Linux image.

PolarBerry and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

In addition to the GbE port, a second GbE interface is routed through one of the 3x high-speed Samtec connectors, which also deliver I/O including SPI, JTAG, and Bank 1 interfaces including ULPI. Dual CAN 2.0 PHYs are available via a header. The 40-pin, 3.3V GPIO provides I2C, UART, and 6x GPIOs linked to the CPU and 20x GPIO for the FPGA “PL” part of the module, including SPI, UART, and CAN.

The PolarBerry provides 4x high-speed, low-power FPGA transceivers ranging from 250Mbps to 12.7Gbps throughput. Other features include programmable clocks and an XO with 25MHz ±10ppm stability. The module supports 5V and 3.3V power input and runs at about 16W. The operating range is -20°C to +65°C

The PolarFire SoC combines Microchip’s PolarFire FPGA with a SiFive RISC-V CPU with 4x 1.5GHz U54-MC CPU cores. Microchip compares the SoC to hybrid Arm/FPGA SoCs such as the Xilinx Zynq or Intel Stratix 10, claiming advantages such as a more customizable, open RISC-V design, lower power consumption, and superior real-time deterministic capabilities.

The PolarFire SoC inherits the extensive security and reliability features of the 250K LE equipped PolarFire FPGA. The PolarBerry provides anti-cloning protection, device-level anti-tamper features, bitstream protection, key management, FPGA hardware access control, secure boot, physical memory protection (PMP), and supply chain assurance.

SE215 with SOM3 module (left) and detail view
(click images to enlarge)

Sundance’s optional, PCIe form factor SE215 carrier provides access to an FMC and other I/O. Designed for Sundance’s PolarFire FPGA-only SOM3 module, the fan-cooled SE215 extends the PolarBerry with microSD, GbE, DP, and JTAG via micro-USB and FMC. There is also a 10GbE SFP+ cage plus user buttons and LEDs.

Stated Flemming Christensen, Managing Director of Sundance (UK): “RISC-V has a global market presence that is growing rapidly. It is royalty-free so it can be used at minimal cost and extensible and you can add features to the instruction set as needed as well as tune it, for example, for lower power or higher throughput.”

Stated Krishnakumar Ramamoorthi, Mi-V Ecosystem Manager at Microchip Technology’s FPGA business unit: “The launch of PolarBerry, with our PolarFire SoC FPGA as its compute engine, opens up an exciting array of new design possibilities by enabling embedded computing engineers to easily harness the disruptive potential of RISC-V.”

Further information

The PolarBerry will soon launch for $995 on this Crowd Supply page as part of Microchip’s “Get Launched” campaign for ecosystem partners. Shipments are due in Jan. 2021. The Crowd Supply page offers a better presentation of specs than the Sundance product page. Sundance emailed us the announcement, which we also saw on Electronics Weekly.


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One response to “PolarFire SoC board has GbE port and 40-pin GPIO”

  1. MSGuy says:

    At a $1000 for this board, that is just ridiculous.

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