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.

press release via CNX Software

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  1. “SiFive plans to unveil the first RISC-V PC in October”. Is that October 2020 or 2025? Because when I look all the “Open” items on this list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RISC-V, I can’t believe RISC-V is anywhere near done enough to squirt out something as complex as a real “PC”. Either that or that Wikipedia page is seriously out of date.

  2. But is it really the first, when the PicoRio exists has some sort of detectable presence?
    Well, it might be the first that comes in it’s own little box or has PCIe slots, but then again, “modern pc expansion capabilities” could just mean “gpio pins”.
    Who even knows. At least maybe there will begin to be some clarity on what using the typical RISC-V processor is like. But until more information is available, you just can’t count on this stuff to save you from things like the backdoors that you’ve convinced yourself that the NSA paid AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm to put in every chip.