64-core RISC-V motherboard and workstation enable native RISC-V development (Crowdfunding)

There’s now a microATX motherboard and workstation for native RISC-V development based on the SOPHON SG2042 64-core RISC-V C920 processor with up to 128GB DDR4 memory, various SATA and M.2 NVMe interfaces for storage, three PCIe x16 slot for expansion and more.

I remember a few years ago, there was a lot of talk about making a workstation for native Arm development instead of relying on x86 machines, cross-compilation, and emulation. So we got hardware like the HoneyComb LX2K, Ampere eMAG, and more recently the ADLINK Ampere Altra Dev Kit to achieve this goal. The RISC-V ecosystem is now getting something similar thanks to the Milk-V Pioneer microATX motherboard and the Pioneer Box that provides a complete 64-core RISC-V workstation with DIMM memory, SATA and NVMe storage, a graphics card, 10GbE networking, a 350W power supply, and more.

64-core RISC-V motherboard

Pioneer board specifications:

  • SoC – Sophgo SOPHON SG2042 64-core RISC-V processor (T-Head C920 – RVV 0.71) clocked at up to 2.0 GHz with 64KB I-cache, 64KB D-cache, 1MB L2 cache per cluster, and 64MB L3 system cache
  • System Memory – 4x DDR4 DIMM slots up to 128GB ECC RAM
  • Storage
    • Up to 2x NVMe SSD via M.2 M Key 2280 (PCIe 3.0 x4) sockets
    • 5x SATA III ports
    • eMMC module socket
    • MicroSD card for recovery or OS loading
    • 64MB SPI Flash for BIOS
  • Networking
    • 2x 2.5GbE RJ45 ports
    • Optional WiFi and Bluetooth via M.2 socket
  • USB – 8x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports, 1x USB header for front panel (2x USB 3.0)
  • Expansion
    • PCI Express: 3x PCIe x16 Slot (PCIe 3.0 x8)
    • 1x M.2 E Key (PCIe 3.0 x1 + USB 2.0) for wireless module
    • 2x M.2 M Key 2280 (PCIe 3.0 x4) sockets for SSD or other modules
  • Misc – Header for front panel power, reset, LED, etc.
  • Power Supply – 24-pin ATX power connector
  • Dimensions – 24.4 x 24.4 cm
SOPHON SG2042 microATX motherboard block diagram
Block diagram

Pioneer Box specifications:

  • Motherboard – Pioneer board described above
  • System Memory – 128GB 3200 MHz DDR4
  • Storage – 1TB PCIe 3.0 SSD
  • GPU card – AMD R5 230 graphics card with HDMI, VGA, and DVI
  • Networking card – Intel X520-T2 network card with 2x 10 Gbps RJ45 ports
  • Power Supply – 350W MSI A350 power supply
  • Cooling – Cooler with PWM fan up to 2300 RPM
  • Slim enclosure with handle

64-core RISC-V workstation

The Pioneer microATX motherboard supports UEFI boot through the OpenSBI mainline code, and Yixun Lan, the developer of Gentoo, completed the initial porting of U-Boot so it can be used to boot the OS instead of Linuxboot. Sophgo engineers are also working on EDK2 for UEFI/ACPI support.

We are told the Pioneer Board supports various Linux distributions such as Fedora, OpenEuler, Debian, Gentoo, Deepin, Ubuntu, and ArchLinux. You’ll find some documentation on the project’s website, as well as tools and source code for Linux, the bootloader, openSBI, etc… on GitHub.

The 64-core RISC-V motherboard and workstation can be found on Crowd Supply with a $50,000 funding target. The Pioneer Motherboard sells for $1,199 with a heatsink and heatsink mount bracket, and the complete Pioneer Box with 128 GB RAM and a 1 TB NVMe SSD, a dual 10GbE network card, an AMD graphics card, and a power cable goes for $1,999. Prices include worldwide shipping, and deliveries are scheduled to start on December 19, 2023.

Thanks to Tom for the tip.

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25 Replies to “64-core RISC-V motherboard and workstation enable native RISC-V development (Crowdfunding)”

    1. well. 1200 USD is quite steep price for a mainboard. I was hoping for something around 500-700 USD to try out RISC-V as a development/experiment system

      1. What’s really sad about this RISC-V RVV Osborne effect is that T-Head is still maintaining the 0.7.1 GCC and LLVM forks that the SiFive dev abandoned so if they only did it more officially (just open a pull request really…), that chilling effect wouldn’t have spread across the community and library developers would have made efforts at developing the missing pathways for the branch as a semi-proprietary Alibaba extension much like how there’s multitude of ARM and MIPS and x86 SMID pathways for different micro-architectures.
        Well, we’re a year or two from RVV 1.0 hardware with similar specs so I suppose we should count ourselves lucky it only cost the community 2-3 years of recession and COVID… Still, shame.

  1. There is something off with the maths on the crowd supply web page. It is at the time of writing:
    $91,023 raised of $50,000 goal
    $1,199 Free Worldwide Shipping 8 claimed Milk-V Pioneer Motherboard
    $1,999 Free Worldwide Shipping 22 claimed Milk-V Pioneer Box 128 GB + 1 TB
    $95 Free Worldwide Shipping 2 claimed   Server-grade 32 GB DDR4 RAM

    That does not add up, it falls short, I did the match to see what could possibly match the current total and I get the following:
     0 x $1199 + 27 x $1999 + 390 x $95
     1 x $1199 + 36 x $1999 + 188 x $95
     8 x $1199 +  4 x $1999 + 773 x $95
     9 x $1199 + 13 x $1999 + 571 x $95
     10 x $1199 + 22 x $1999 + 369 x $95
     11 x $1199 + 31 x $1999 + 167 x $95
     19 x $1199 +  8 x $1999 + 550 x $95
     20 x $1199 + 17 x $1999 + 348 x $95
     21 x $1199 + 26 x $1999 + 146 x $95
     29 x $1199 +  3 x $1999 + 529 x $95
     30 x $1199 + 12 x $1999 + 327 x $95
     31 x $1199 + 21 x $1999 + 125 x $95
     40 x $1199 +  7 x $1999 + 306 x $95
     41 x $1199 + 16 x $1999 + 104 x $95
     50 x $1199 +  2 x $1999 + 285 x $95
     51 x $1199 + 11 x $1999 + 83 x $95
     61 x $1199 +  6 x $1999 + 62 x $95
     71 x $1199 +  1 x $1999 + 41 x $95

    None of which match what is shown on crowd supply 

    1. I believe you can pay any amount you want, those prices are just for the products. You can pay e.g. $1k and get nothing, or $3k and only get one Box.

    2. If you have a closer look at the list of backers you will see that Crowd Supply has actually also supported Milk-V Pioneer, probably by placing a wholesale order. So it is not a mistake and it is not fake crowdfunding.

      1. So is there a discount on  wholesale orders ? (which i would expect there to be) Because if there is not the numbers do not workout.

        1. Of course. In general the goal is to buy wholesale at a discount and then sell retail. This is how trading works. If you visit any of the large electronic components distributor like Mouser or Farnell you will notice different prices depending on the quantities for most components.

  2. 64 cores sounds impressive but isn’t the Intel/SiFive P550 coming out really soon and cover most of what this board promises? It looks like the P550 caps at 8 cores but RISC-V is such a young platform most people are really just trying to get things to work and targeting the board that’s backed by two very prominent companies supporting RISC-V sounds like a safer bet.

    1. For native development, you’ll want a fast machine with many cores as you don’t want to wait for one hour each time you need to compile the kernel or other software components that take a lot of time to build.

      1. > For native development, you’ll want a fast machine with many cores

        For a 64 core machine the multi-threaded results are a bit disappointing but I hope that it’s related to memory access being a severe bottleneck right now which hopefully can be resolved by better RAM timings/tuning over time…

        1. maybe it’s obvious to You, but me did not find (without following all links on page, now found: Milk-V Pioneer ‘https://github.com/milkv-pioneer/hardware/blob/main/pioneer_ddr_list.pdf’) C920 RiscV cpu board for 7-zip (multi-threaded) results, maybe table could include column with cpu for each board type, that could help with recognizing board&cpu similarities, also? (Thx)

          1. [listed with TDP ~120W/64cores_2.0GHz for SOPHON SG2042 ‘https://milkv.io/docs/pioneer/getting-started/PowerSupply#tdp-reference-table’ and it’s mentioned in article also ‘Milk-V Pioneer microATX’, readable on mainbord picture and on video start picture, sorry ]

          2. > maybe table could include column with cpu for each board type

            Difficult, I tried to fix this by adding SoC name in brackets where applicable…

            BTW: the Milk-V guys seem to also work an something based on T-Head TH1520

          1. OOC…did you mean make/gmake (where -j 64 would mean doing 64 things at a time), or does gcc really have a -j option?
            (I can’t find one, googling, possibly because of his for “make”)

          2. Ah yes, you’re right it’s an option for make, not gcc. But when it’s running you’ll see plenty of GCC instances.

  3. Hello everyone, I am a member of the SG2042 Open Source Community. We are eager to hear your feedback and assist you in resolving any issues. Our goal is to contribute to the growth of the RISC-V ecosystem and the development of SG2042 server CPUs. You are welcome to join our mailing list. Various events and special offers for trial usage of our boards will be promptly announced.


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