LeapFive launches NB2 RISC-V flagship SoC in China
China’s continuous endeavors to promote domestic technology and reduce reliance on foreign players has spawned quite a few promising CPU and GPU projects over the past few years. As far as the processor side goes, some models have tried to copy existing x86 implementations from Intel or AMD, but there is a performance gap of at least 5 years for consumer solutions. Other projects tapped into alternative architectures such as ARM’s core technology, and, more recently, RISC-V, showing a greater potential to match what the U.S. giants are offering. A new Chinese chipmaker called LeapFive recently introduced its own take on RISC-V tech, which apparently also helps with the efforts to reduce climate change and ensure a carbon neutral future.
LeapFive touts the NB2 RISC-V-based processor as a flagship solution for edge computing and “Intelligent” Internet of Things (IIoT). The chip can scale to multiple CPU cores, but the model showcased on August 16 only featured 4x RISC-V cores produced by SiFive and clocked at 1.8 GHz. This can provide 32,000 DMIPS (Dhrystone million instructions per second), which is similar to what 4x ARM Cortex-A55 cores can muster. Apart from the CPU cores, the NB2 SoC also integrates a GPU clocked at 850 Mhz, an NPU clocked at 1.4 GHz with 4 TOPS processing power, plus a VPU that can encode / decode 4K@60 H.264 / H.265 videos.
Even though the 12 nm production nodes used by LeapFive to manufacture the NB2 chips are not exactly the current bleeding edge, the Chinese company is actually focusing on the energy efficiency balance between low power consumption and high-speed data processing in order to shift towards a green industry.
Along with the NB2 SoC, LeapFive also introduced a motherboard that expands the capabilities of the chip. The exact specs for the mobo have not been completely detailed, but from the pictures provided from the launch event, we can see that the port selection includes 2x GbE jacks and up to 6x USB connectors (2x USB 3.2 and 4x USB 2.0). According to the spec sheet, the mobo would also feature an HDMI video output, M.2 slot, UART connector for serial devices, Wi-Fi and BT compatibility, audio jack with integrated DAC, and DDR4 / LPDDR4 RAM support.