Lichee Console 4A RISC-V devkit testing – Part 2: benchmarks and features in Debian 12

When checking out the hardware of the Lichee Console 4A portable RISC-V development terminal in the first part of the review, I noted that I had some troubles with the display that did not work properly. I did a little massage to “fix” the display, but unsurprisingly it ended up not being a long-term solution.

So I had to open a case a few times and ended up breaking the wires to the fan…

Broken fan wire

Each time I reassembled the device, the display only worked for a few seconds or minutes if at all. So I decided to test the system by keeping it open, as the display is working reliably that way. So I won’t be able to do a proper review testing the device on the go, but I still tested all features and benchmarked the T-Head TH1520 mini laptop with Debian 12, and will report my findings in this post.

Sipeed Lichee Console 4A RISC-V devkit review

Note the display issue appears to be specific to my sample and others don’t seem to have the same issue. It looks to be a manufacturing defect or the device got damaged during transport.

Lichee Console 4A benchmarks

We had already checked system information in the first part of the review, so let’s now run some benchmarks on the Lichee Console 4A starting with the sbc-bench script:


While the fan is broken, the Console 4A did not experience throttling with the CPU temperature staying within a 67.5°C to 80.9°C range and the frequency at 1.5 GHz during the full duration of the test.

Let’s compare memset, memcpy, and 7-zip benchmarks by pitting the Lichee Console 4A against other recent Arm SBCs.

LIchee Console 4A RISC-V devkit vs Arm SBC benchmarks
Higher is better

Memory bandwidth is comparable to several other Arm boards, but the Lichee Console 4A (and TH1520 quad-core RISC-V CPU) is the weakest of the lot in 7-zip and the closest competitor is the Raspberry Pi 4. But that’s still 40% faster.

AES-256 benchmarks TH1520 RISC-V vs Arm

Another thing the Raspberry Pi 4 and Lichee Console 4A have in common is the lack of hardware AES crypto support. One difference though is that the TH1520 block diagram shows a security block with AES support so it might just be a lack of software support unless that block (Arm SC300) is only used for secure boot.

Speedometer 2.0 benchmark was used to evaluate web browsing performance.

Lichee Console 4A Speedometer 2.0

9.35 runs/minute in Chromium is fairly weak for a recent system but Tom’s Hardware measured only 16.91 runs/minute for the Raspberry Pi 4 @ 1.5 GHz in 2020. For reference, the Raspberry Pi 5 achieved 63.5 runs/minute with a recent version of Chromium.

T-Head TH1520 Speedometer 2.0 Chromium

There was some variability too during the test with results ranging from 8.0 to 10.04 runs per minute.

The good news is that 3D graphics acceleration is working as confirmed with glmark2-es2.

Lichee Console 4A glmark2-es2

Terminal output:


Note that glmark2-es2-wayland benchmarks won’t work here as the Debian image is not using Wayland.


What’s more surprising is that WebGL works fine in Chromium too at 21 FPS with 500 fish.

Lichee Console 4A WebGL Aquarium

Storage and USB performance

I then tested the eMMC flash performance with iozone


Results are pretty good for an eMMC flash with 236 MB/s sequential read speed and 208 MB/s sequential write speed, and random I/Os look fine too.

The Lichee Console 4A comes with a microSD card slot which I tested with a 32GB Class A1 card:


About 15MB/s reads and 14MB/s writes look slow. The exact microSD card I used is the Cytron MAKERDISK with a sequential write speed of at least 28MB/S, random IOPS writes over 800 IOPS, and reads over 2800 IOPS. I skipped the NVMe SSD test because I don’t have a small NVMe SSD with me right now. I’ll update this part in a week or so.

I also tested the USB 3.0 port on the rear panel with an ORICO enclosure fitted with an Apacer NVMe SSD formatted with EXT-4.


The port is rated 5 Gbps, but the read speed is only 268 MB/s (or about 2,144 Mbps) possibly because UAS is not enabled by default.

The USB port on the side is blue, but it’s actually a USB 2.0 port as per the specs, so I switched to a USB HDD drive since the ORICO enclosure is not backward compatible:

Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi, and Bluetooth

I was not able to access my usual testbed with a Xiaomi AX6000 router and UP Xtreme i11 mini PC, and instead, I used GL.iNet Flint 2 WiFi 6 router to test both gigabit Ethernet and WiFi 6 connectivity between the Console Pi 4A and my Ubuntu laptop connected to the router via a gigabit Ethernet on a USB-C dock.

Let’s start with gigabit Ethernet

  • Upload:

  • Download:

  • Full duplex:


Performance was not optimal although still acceptable until we tested bidirectional transfers and performance collapsed. The latter is probably only relevant if you are running a server out of the Lichee Console 4A though.

Let’s move to WiFi 6.

  • Upload:

  • Download:


That’s quite disappointing. The router is about one meter from the Lichee Console 4A RISC-V devkit, and I previously tested this router with a high-end mini PC with transfer rates around 900 Mbps. I clearly did not expect this kind of performance here, but at least around 200 Mbps would have been nice.

Bluetooth did not work at all for me. First, I have no Bluetooth icon in the tray. The menu in the desktop environment wouldn’t load.

I checked in the command line:


I also installed a few packages as recommended in the wiki:


But each time I tried to access Bluetooth the system would power off automatically.


Even the command inxi -Fc0 won’t work anymore and lead the system to power off.

HDMI output, audio testing, and video playback

The Lichee Console 4A comes with a micro HDMI port, so I connected it to a 4K television. Please ignore the vertical lines on my 4K LG TV as that’s a known issue…

I first went with Full HD (1080p60) and it worked just fine using the “extended display” configuration. I could move windows from one screen to the other.

Lichee Console 4A HDMI oputput 1080p extended display

But then I noticed the Lichee Console 4A also supports video output up to 4K at 30 Hz. So I changed to that mode and it looks to be working as shown in the photo below.

Lichee Console 4A 4K 30Hz HDMI video output

But while 4K (3840×2160) video output works fine at 30 Hz, the system is really sluggish probably because of memory bandwidth limitation. The extended display function does not work properly either. By default, the 800×600 display will be placed behind the 4K display and mirror that part, or if I move it to the right as above, the display is unreachable with the mouse, and it’s unclear what it is showing…

I removed the HDMI cable and tested audio playing a “4K” YouTube video. The resolution varied between 144p and 240p with many frames dropped but audio output worked (through the speakers) although there were crackling noises (not audio cuts) accompanying the soundtrack from the video. I connected headphones to the 3.5mm audio and it “worked” but with the same audio distortions. I reconned the HDMI cable and tried to play the video, but I had no audio. The system had a CPU load of 8 and was hardly responsive.

The Debian 12 image comes with a 4K_example.mp4 file that will play somewhat smoothly and with good audio in the Parole media player, so hardware video decoding and audio are working with that specific program. Here are the technical details for the video for reference:

Misc

I haven’t spent a lot of time using the touchscreen display and built-in keyboard and mouse with a “RedPoint” pointing stick and two mouse buttons, but they all worked fine when I tried them. Battery life was about three hours as listed in the specifications.

Conclusion

Sipeed Lichee Console 4A RISC-V development terminal is certainly not designed for the typical end user as there are still many issues with the software, and in my case, I had a hardware issue with the display which should not impact most people. Performance-wise, benchmarks reveal that the Lichee Console 4A is fairly slower than a Raspberry Pi 4. Normally usage like browsing will feel sluggish most of the time.

But it can be a useful RISC-V development platform with a wide range of features (many needed improvements), and it’s the first RISC-V hardware I have tested with working 3D graphics acceleration (glmark2-es2 and WebGL) and hardware video decoding. The latter only works in the Parole media player, not in YouTube where the video did not play smoothly at 240p using Chromium.

I’d like to thank Sipeed for sending a sample of the Lichee Console 4A for review and evaluation. If you are a developer interested in contributing to the RISC-V ecosystem, you can purchase the system reviewed here with 16GB RAM and a 128GB eMMC flash for $429 plus shipping (and taxes if you are based in Europe)

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7 Comments
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jack
jack
3 months ago

the gpu works, with the closed drivers ?

LivingLinux
3 months ago

Good thing I didn’t open mine. My red track pointer was a bit stiff at first, but it feels a lot smoother now. Mine stopped booting properly (perhaps it ran out of disk space?), so I went through the process of writing the factory image on it. Unfortunately they didn’t include the fix for rotating the touch screen on the current image (december 2023). You can rotate the display in the Settings, but for now I had to rotate the touch screen with a shell script. Can anyone confirm the contents of the shell script (touch.sh?) on the Lichee Console?… Read more »

Vall
Vall
3 months ago

What?! No power usage measurements?!

I hope this oversight is corrected soon, that’s what I’m most curious about.

rm rm
rm rm
16 days ago

Very quality device for $400, I see… Read elsewhere there’s not even a lid close sensor, or it’s not wired into the software.

Khadas VIM4 SBC