Lichee Pi 4A RISC-V SBC takes on Raspberry Pi 4 with TH1520 processor

Lichee Pi 4A is a single board computer (SBC) powered by Alibaba T-Head TH1520 quad-core RISC-V Xuantie C910  processor @ 2.0 GHz with an Imagination GPU and a 4 TOPS NPU for AI that can compete against the Raspberry Pi 4 in terms of performance and features.

We previously mentioned the Lichee Pi 4A (LPi4A) in our article about the Sipeed LM4A RISC-V system-on-module, but at the time we only had some benchmarks for the board and no photos and specifications about the SBC. Sipeed has now released photos, published detailed specifications, and is taking orders for the board. So let’s have a closer look.

Lichee Pi 4A RISC V SBC

Lichee Pi 4A specifications against the ones for Raspberry Pi 4.

Lichee Pi 4A Raspberry Pi 4B
CPU T-Head TH1520, 12nm, 4x RISC-V C910 @ 2.0 GHzBroadcom BCM2711B0, 28nm, 4x Arm Cortex-A72 @ 1.5 GHz
Memory 4, 8, 16 GB 64-bit LPDDR4X-37331, 2, 4, 8 GB 32-bit LPDDR4-2400
Storage MicroSD card OR
16, 32, 64, or 128 GB eMMC flash
MicroSD card
GPU Imagination BXM-4-64 GPU
OpenGL ES3.0/3.1/3.2
OpenCL 1.1/1.2/2.0
Vulkan 1.1/1.2
50.7GFLOPS, Fill 3168M pixels/s
Broadcom VideoCore VI
OpenGL ES3.1
Vulkan 1.0/1.2
32 GFLOPS
NPU 4 TOPS @ INT8 (1GHz)
Supports Tensorflow, ONNX, Caffe
N/A
Display 1x HDMI 2.0 up to 4Kp60
4-lane MIPI DSI up to 4Kp50
2x HDMI 2.0 up to 4Kp60
2-lane MIPI DSI
3.5mm AV port
Camera 1x 4-lane MIPI CSI
1x 2-lane MIPI CSI
2-lane MIPI CSI
Video H.265 & H.264 @ 4Kp75 decode
H.265 & H.264 @ 4Kp40 encode
H265 4Kp60fps decode
H264 1080p60 decode
H264 1080p30 encode
Audio Headphone jack
Stereo Speaker
PDM MIC
Headphone jack
Network 2x Gigabit Ethernet
WiFi 4 or 6 + Bluetooth 5.0
1x Gigabit Ethernet
WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0
USB 4x USB 3.0 Type-A
1x USB 2.0 Type-C
2x USB 3.0 Type-A
2x USB 2.0 Type-A
I/Os header20-pin GPIO header40-pin GPIO header
Power 5V via 5.5mm DC jack or USB Type-C
External PoE
5V via USB type-C up to 3A
5V via GPIO header up to 3A
Power over Ethernet via PoE HAT

 

TH1520 single board computer

The TH1520 used to be advertised at up to 2.5 GHz, but it seems to have now come down to 2.0 GHz. Software support will include Debian, OpenWrt, and Android which should then be posted in the wiki along with the schematics, pinout diagram, and mechanical files. Here are again some benchmarks that were shared in the initial announcement about the LM4A module.

Dhrystone CoreMarks TH1520 RISC V vs Raspberry Pi

Whether the Lichee Pi 4A or Raspberry Pi 4A is faster will depend on a given application since the platforms are close in the imperfect Dhrystone and CoreMarks benchmarks. RISC-V performance is also likely to improve as the software ecosystem gets more mature. The Imagination BXM-4-64 GPU should be faster than the VideoCore VI based on the GFLOPS numbers provided in the specifications.

Lichee Router 4A

The company had already showcased a 7-module cluster board based on LM4A at the time of the first announcement, but they will also release the Lichee Router 4A based on the Lichee Pi 4A SBC, a 6-inch Lichee Phone 4A and a 10.1-inch Lichee Pad 4A all fitted with the LM4A module.

Lichee Pad 4A

Sipeed has just started taking orders for the Lichee Pi 4A (8GB RAM + 8GB flash) for $119.00 on Aliexpress, and the 16GB RAM version is scheduled for next month. Additional information can be found on the product page.

Thanks to Jim and Mark for the tip.

Updated: This post was initially published on December 27, 2022, and updated once the LicheePi4A board was launched on Aliexpress

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38 Comments
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Willy
1 year ago

I’ll wait for it to be available for real, and if not too expensive by then (and if specs don’t significantly drop like the first visionfive) I’ll try to get one to port code to this architecture. Even if not very fast, I’m mostly interested in multi-core for atomic ops, and GbE networking for my tests, so this one looks like a pretty good option.

Vladimir Smirnov
1 year ago

Sad thing about C910 is that it only implements vector extensions 0.7.1 and gcc and clang went for 1.0.0. Basically that would mean that all vector code would need to be written in assembly and will be hard to transfer to release version of vector extensions or vendor’s compiler must be used (t-head had a compiler that had some quirks around that – they made a intrinsics library that mimics upstream gcc version for 1.0.0, but under the hood used their implementation, at least as far as I can tell by google translating changelogs for their compiler).

RK
RK
1 year ago

t-head is maintaining the 0.7.1 rv64gcv0p7 rvv gcc branch for the various Allwinner D1 boards: https://occ.t-head.cn/community/download?id=4090445921563774976
MIPS flashbacks anyone?

Willy
1 year ago

Good to know, thanks for the hint. No big deal for me. I’d really like to test nolibc live instead of under qemu, and make sure haproxy’s atomics work fine on 4 threads under load. Any new platform with its own memory model is nice to detect consistency bugs in code.

AR
1 year ago

IMO, c910 has no vector extension. Only c906 and c908 have it.

Pete
Pete
1 year ago
  AR

Article announcing C908. for those of me who just assumed that 910 would be a newer release that 906/7/8. 🙂

Johnny
Johnny
1 year ago

Will schematics be available for module and motherboard?

1 year ago

Of course, but sourcing that chip may be impossible.

Theguyuk
Theguyuk
1 year ago

Will the cnx software site be allowed one to test, assuming Jean- Luc has time to spare?

bernstein
bernstein
1 year ago

i’d be more interested in a comparison to the visionfive 2 (JH7110 with 4xU74). According to their benchmarks, the C910 is supposedly twice as fast as the U74. With double the IPC for the C910. Seems a bit too good to be true… even Alibaba only advertises a 40% uplift over the U74…

Vladimir Smirnov
1 year ago

C910 vs u74 gives somewhat similar performances differences like cortex a73 vs cortex a55, per clock.
I have rvb-ice board with dual core c910 and I have jh7100 based board, though later one have some design issues that cripples it, but basic benchmarks shows about that level of differences

The guy
The guy
1 year ago

So will it have backdoors for CCP to get in ?

thesandbender
thesandbender
1 year ago

Yes, but only doors for CCP affiliated ants.

Ekimia
1 year ago

Sounds pretty good but I guess ” Imagination GPU” mean binary closed source driver that will stop to work in 3 or 4 years with new kernel …

Isn’t there an ARM or RISC-V platform in 2023 with mainline support including GPU that could compete with let’s say Intel pentium ?

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

Imagination are working on an open source Vulkan driver.
https://www.phoronix.com/news/Open-Source-PowerVR-Vulkan

Fkardame
Fkardame
1 year ago

PowerVR driver is not the same as BXE
So sharing that links makes no sense.

Rpx
Rpx
1 year ago
mark
mark
1 year ago

I’m paticularly excited by this RISC-V SoM, and sbc.

It has sufficiency of performance.

It’s been designed in such a way as to be modular and versatile.

And it’s built using open sourced chips.

I will certainly be buying at least one of these boards, as soon as the software becomes easily bootable. Over to you, Debian!

Horst
Horst
1 year ago

In the specs table under power there is “External PoE”. What does that mean please? Does that require some adapter or GPIO hat?

bob
bob
1 year ago

i would imagine they mean a POE splitter can be used… so no real support for any sort of POE.
something like this, perhaps:
https://www.amazon.com/ANVISION-Splitter-Adapter-Connector-Compliant/dp/B082RNW8XJ/

Willy
1 year ago

When you look at the photo of the board from the top, you see 6 pads close to the left edge, marked “POE. This is for an optional POE module as is used on various boards. It’s likely connected via 4 pins to the center points of one of the ethernet jacks and the two pins likely deliver the required 12V to the board. It’s a pretty common design, they most likely rely on a standard module so that they don’t have to reinvent theirs. If you google for “POE pcb module”, you’ll see plenty of them. I think this… Read more »

nightseas
nightseas
1 year ago

It would be perfect if the 910 core supports RVV 1.0

AR
1 year ago

IMO, no rvv at all in c910

Willy
1 year ago

I went as far as being about to pay, but the eMMC is soldered and I know that I will regret not waiting a bit to get more than 8G for a dev machine; toolchains and dependencies are sometimes huge and I’m often short on other machines with similar sizes. Thus I gave up and prefer to wait a bit more for a model with more storage.

back2future
back2future
1 year ago

excited about 21. century RAM concepts, what’s the summarized RAM of all boards newer than DDR3 ($3-5/GB) for customers? With some few devices on a 2023 yrs base for hardware and software devs this possibly very fast exceeds a 100GB number (idling RAM percentage?)

Willy
1 year ago

I was not speaking about the RAM but the eMMC. I’m perfectly fine with 8G of RAM, most of my machines have much less and are happy with it. But 8G of storage when you install an ubuntu-like distro with some development tools can quickly become scarce nowadays (experienced a few times already). Other vendors use pluggable eMMC modules so you take what you need. Here you have to deal with a soldered module, so if you suspect you’ll be too short, you can’t upgrade it later. That’s my concern.

Jasbir
Jasbir
1 year ago

Yes 8GB is limited but there is a SD card slot on the underside of the board to install a rootfs on. On the VisionFive 2 they didn’t trace out 1.8v io mode for hs200/400 speed mode.

AR
1 year ago

Visionfive2 has nvme m2 slot which both cheaper and faster than sd card

Justin
Justin
1 year ago

This is a “beta” release. They have confirmed that booting from flash/SD is broken and can only boot from EMMC. So probably a lot of games to get it booting from SD.

The images/burning process seems pretty rudimentary at the moment. Something along the lines of fast boot.

back2future
back2future
1 year ago

“toolchains and dependencies are sometimes huge” maybe i thought natively compiling can sometimes be limited with 4GB RAM (sorry, yes emphasis is clearly on storage (avoiding snap dependencies?) with reading again)

Ghent the Slicer
1 year ago

Looks similar to the StarFive Vision2. Software support is “bare” and it seems to overheat. The cpu frequency seems all over the place 2ghz then 1.8, another person in the comments posted snipped with 1.2GHz.

The GPU is supposed to be open but the drivers are for some odd kernel version and not maintained.

It is good to see these risc-v boards, but it seems to me these are alpha silicon quality.

Justin
Justin
1 year ago

They confirmed 1.8Ghz on the wiki as shipped and say maybe 80% of boards can clock to 2Ghz but unstable.
(View the chinese version of the Wiki, the English version has not been updated)

varok
varok
1 year ago

Drivers for GPU are not ready yet so this is a dev board only.

mara
11 months ago

slarm64 images

Khadas VIM4 SBC