Now that NVIDIA has announced plans to acquire Arm holdings, it may be a good time for a reminder that ARM and x86 aren’t the only options for chip designs.
RISC-V is a free and open instruction set available for anyone to use without paying a royalty fee. While RISC-V isn’t as mature as some other options, it’s made a lot of progress in the past decade and it’s showing up in a growing number of products.
One thing you haven’t been able to do so far? Buy a personal computer with a RISC-V processor. But that could change soon.
A company called SiFive has been producing RISC-V chips for the past few years, and now the company has announced plans to introduce the “world’s first RISC-V PC” during the Linley Group Fall Virtual Processor Conference at the end of October.
Aimed at developers rather than end users, the idea is to give people a computer that they can use to code software for RISC-V powered devices while using a RISC-V device.
At its heart, the upcoming computer will feature a SiFive FU740 processor, which is a new system-on-a-chip featuring a “heterogenous mix+match core complex” with SiFive U7-series CPU cores, as well as support for PC form factors and expansion capabilities.
SiFive says it also plans to introduce a new processor core optimized for “high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, and computer vision applications.” Interestingly, those are exactly the same sort of applications NVIDIA highlighted as a key reason that the company is purchasing ARM.