Earlier this summer Sipeed launched the Lichee Pi 4A computer board powered by a system-on-a-module with a quad-core RISC-V processor. At the time, Sipeed also announced plans to release a bunch of other products powered by the same module, including a mini-laptop, tablet, and cluster board.
The laptop and tablet went up for pre-order recently. And now Sipeed is taking orders for the Lichee Cluster 4A board that lets you combine up to 7 Lichee 4A modules for more horsepower when applied to tasks that support parallel processing. Basically it turns a bunch of little computers with quad-core chips into a single system with as many as 28 RISC-V processor cores.
At the moment Sipeed isn’t selling the Lichee Cluster 4A as a standalone product, so it’s kind of expensive. Prices start at $929 for a cluster board paired with 7 Lichee Module 4A boards with 8GB of RAM and 32GB of storage each. You can also pay $1239 for a bundle that includes 7 boards with 16GB of memory and 128GB of storage, and/or spend a little more if you want a chassis with a built-in handle that makes it a little easier to transport the system.
The cluster board measures 170 x 170mm (6.7″ x 6.7″), which means it should also fit in just about any computer case designed for mini ITX boards.
But unlike most PC boards, the Lichee Cluster 4A has 260-pin SODIMM slots for up to 7 of the company’s LM4A systems-on-a-module, each of which has an Alibabab TH1520 processor with four 1.85 GHz T-Head C910 processors based on RISC-V architecture.
Each module also features an Imagination BXM-4-64 GPU and a neural processing unit with up to 4 TOPS of INT8 performance.
Since each module also supports up to 16GB of LPDDR4X memory and up to 128GB of eMMC storage, the Cluster 4A supports up to a total of 112GB of memory and up to 896GB of eMMC storage. But there’s also support for external storage devices including SD cards or USB hard drives or SSD.
- 7 x USB 3.0 (one for each board)
- 7 x microSD ports (one for each port)
- 1 x USB 2.0 port (for Baseboard Management Controller or BMC)
- 1 x HDMI port (for video output from slot 1)
- 3 x Ethernet ports (1 x GbE for slot 1, 1 x GbE switch, and 1 x 10/100 for BMC)
Sipeed says the cluster board requires at least a 60W power supply, but suggests you use 90W or higher for best performance.
Other features include support for a CR2032 RTC battery, seven 5V fan interfaces and a single 12V fan interface for a larger, higher-performance fan, and a 24-pin ATX power socket.
According to Sipeed, the system support Debian Linux-based software.