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RISC-V Enterprise: Testing StarFive’s VisionFive 2 SBC

RISC-V Enterprise: Testing StarFive’s VisionFive 2 SBC

2023-03-03 10:16:29

It is dangerous enterprise preventing Intel, AMD, and Arm, and that is precisely what Star 5 is attempting to do with this:

StarFive VisionFive 2 Black Background

The chip on this new single board pc might be the beginning of a computing revolution—not less than that is what some individuals suppose!

The VisionFive 2 has a JH7110 SoC on it, sporting a brand new Instruction Set Structure (ISA) referred to as RISC-V.

StarFive VisionFive 2 - Focus Stacked

On board are 4 1.5 GHz CPU cores, so it is no slouch. And the one I am testing is the high-end configuration, with 8 gigs of RAM, an M.2 slot, USB 3.0, and two Gigabit Ethernet ports.

On paper, this board appears to be like like it might compete with one thing like a Raspberry Pi. Can it?

Sure and no.

RISC-V is the brand new child on the block. It is so new software program is not actually optimized for it but. And a few software program will not run at all.

However loads will. Particularly if we’re speaking about Linux.


This weblog put up is a lightly-edited transcript of the next video—be at liberty to both watch the video or learn the remainder of the weblog put up:

StarFive despatched me the board I examined on this assessment, however I even have an order in for an additional one. I welcome one other competitor within the chip area, particularly when there is a extra open neighborhood round it.

Intel’s X86 structure and ARM’s instruction units are tightly managed and licensed. RISC-V has an ‘open’ structure—although particular person designs (just like the cores used within the JH7110) are sometimes proprietary and licensed, since that is how chip producers earn cash.

StarFive JH7110 SoC Closeup

A couple of years in the past I’d’ve stated RISC-V had an enormous hurdle for adoption. However now, with a brand new geopolitical panorama, commerce wars, and the lawsuit between Qualcomm and Arm… eh… perhaps it isn’t so dangerous in any case!

However again to this board. That is the primary mass market RISC-V board with compelling {hardware} specs. So what must you anticipate if you happen to choose one up?

Initially, not a lot.


Like many different boards that I’ve examined from Chinese language producers, the preliminary expertise is a bit jarring, particularly if you happen to’re new to SBCs.

However contemplating all the structure’s new, I am prepared to chop it some slack. It is nonetheless higher than a lot of the Pi clones—however that is not saying a lot.

The board was laborious to deliver up. I needed to dig into some discussion board threads and finally this blog post to determine how one can improve the firmware, simply so I might set up the most recent OS.

Upgrading the firmware concerned operating a particular buildroot picture and logging in with SSH, so already, simply to start out utilizing the board, it isn’t easy.

After which I had bother with HDMI! The GPU supposedly handles 4K, however I could not even get it working with my outdated HD monitor. I attempted debugging it with modesed and tried completely different cables, however I simply could not get it working. Finally I used to be capable of get my Atomos Ninja V working, not less than, nevertheless it looks as if HDMI is just a little buggy proper now.

So as to add insult to damage, after I went to log in over SSH I attempted following the getting started guide. However I found out it had the incorrect login consumer. It needs to be ‘consumer’ however the information stated ‘root.’ (Notice: Default SSH habits has modified in the latest picture.)

Realizing it isn’t a real plug-and-play expertise, how does this factor carry out?

Effectively, proper now, not that nicely.


Earlier than I present you any check outcomes, I’ve to warn to you’re taking them with a grain of salt. My outcomes immediately could be completely different than somebody re-testing every thing in a month, or perhaps a 12 months from now.

And that is as a result of RISC-V and the processor on this board are so new that there are literally thousands of little optimizations that are not even made but. Most builders who might make these optimizations do not even have RISC-V {hardware} to check ’em.

Particularly for issues like fundamental math operations or cryptography, this chip appears to be like glacial. In some methods it is not, nevertheless it’s not all the time clear if that is a {hardware} subject or software program.

I would like evaluate the VisionFive 2 to 2 boards you could be extra acquainted with: the Raspberry Pi 3 B+, and the Raspberry Pi 4.

VisionFive 2 Raspberry Pi 3 and 4

Placing apart availability, the VisionFive 2 is marketed as one thing between these two boards, however not fairly pretty much as good as a Pi 4.

So how is it?

Effectively, simply operating a fundamental benchmark like Geekbench, the VisionFive 2 scored 78 single core and 276 multicore.

VisionFive 2 Geekbench benchmarks

It is a LOT slower than a Pi 4. And it is even noticeably slower than a Pi 3 B+.

However wanting deeper on the individual test results, it appears the VisionFive 2 scores particularly dangerous in image-related exams (like Digicam, Gaussian Blur, and Construction from Movement). And for Machine Studying, it is solely getting 2-4% of the efficiency of the Pi. What provides?

Studying Geekbench’s documentation, it says the Machine Studying workload “performs a picture classification job” with a small picture. So, one other image-based check.

It makes use of MobileNet v1, an older machine studying mannequin that is most likely not optimized for the chip on this board. However it’s not like Geekbench’s outcomes are ineffective—if you happen to purchase this board immediately, then for some issues it truly is that a lot slower.

Like after I logged in over SSH, the preliminary login is noticeably slower than the Pi. And picture processing and cryptography might be loads slower on this board.

The lag is dangerous sufficient it appears like I am engaged on an authentic Raspberry Pi generally.

I additionally wished to run linpack to check floating level efficiency, however I had bother compiling the Python cryptography library, so I put that on maintain.

Earlier than the RISC-V apologists crucify me, I will add that the JH7110 is not the one RISC-V chip available on the market. And this 12 months different chips which can do higher on picture processing, neural nets, and encryption are coming.

It is a assessment of 1 explicit board that occurs to be RISC-V. Not all the RISC-V ecosystem—preserve that in thoughts.

IO Efficiency

Shifting on to IO efficiency, I examined each gigabit Ethernet ports, and so they each pumped by means of a full gigabit on their little Motorcomm NICs, so no complaints there.

However what I actually wished to check is the M.2 slot on the underside. It is acquired one lane of PCI categorical Gen 2, similar to the Pi 4. On a Compute Module 4, I can get 350-400 MB/sec with a great NVMe SSD.

Kioxia XG6 NVMe SSD on bottom of VisionFive 2

Testing the VisionFive 2 I solely get about 250 MB/sec. The drive confirmed up on the appropriate pace however the board simply could not put by means of as a lot knowledge.

And the inbuilt microSD card slot is not that quick, both—I solely acquired about 24 MB/sec. The Pi 4 gets double that, so once more, this board is extra consistent with a Pi 3. Extra of my check outcomes will be discovered here.

Built-in GPU

Subsequent, what in regards to the GPU? One massive advertising and marketing level is the VisionFive 2 is the world’s first high-performance RISC-V computer with an integrated GPU!

The {hardware} helps HDMI 2, with H.264 and 265 decoding at 4K courtesy of an Creativeness BXE GPU.

However can we even use it? One of many curses of Single Board Computer systems is how laborious it’s to get the GPU to do something in Linux. Watching 1080p video on YouTube is a typical use case, and on this board, it is excruciating.

Simply opening YouTube is painful sufficient—it took 30 seconds simply to get to the house web page! And when you get a video to load, playback is glacial. At HD decision, nearly all of the frames have been dropped.

See Also

It is early days, so the expertise ought to get higher. So much is being labored on proper now, like this pull request that gets hardware acceleration off the ground.

However neglect all that. This factor has an M.2 slot, which suggests I can take my M.2 to PCIe x16 adapter and plug in something I would like!

PCI Specific Shenanigans

I discovered this forum post about another person already having some success getting an AMD graphics card working, so I pulled out my outdated Radeon HD 7470, grabbed a replica of Linux, and compiled my very own customized kernel.

Surprisingly, compiling Linux for RISC-V utilizing StarFive’s Linux fork was simple. I enabled the radeon kernel module, then compiled it on the board. It took about an hour.

As soon as I copied the brand new kernel in place and rebooted, the GPU labored!

AMD Radeon HD 7470 on VisionFive 2 SBC

On the Raspberry Pi, I bumped into reminiscence entry bugs, and we needed to write a bunch of ugly hacky patches. I used to be anticipating it to be even worse on a wholly new structure, nevertheless it wasn’t!

VisionFive 2 Console Output from AMD Radeon HD 7470

I did run into this bizarre subject the place the display screen flashes for some time and all these “PVR_K” errors popped up on the display screen. So it isn’t fully usable but, however I feel there’s positively extra enjoyable available right here.

Making an attempt an Nvidia GTX 750 Ti, the open supply nouveau driver made the system freeze up, so I put that on maintain—it is probably I bumped into an influence subject and I will must revisit it later.

René Rebe additionally get a newer AMD card working on another RISC-V board, so perhaps RISC-V has a leg up on Arm—not less than for these tiny SBCs. Getting graphics playing cards operating on low finish Arm is painful.

I additionally checked into {hardware} video transcoding, however like I stated earlier, that is nonetheless being labored on. The VisionFive 2 might be helpful for issues like Plex or Jellyfin—sometime.

Energy Consumption / Effectivity

All that may be for naught, although, if this factor is not additionally environment friendly. And it isn’t gonna take the crown, nevertheless it’s first rate, utilizing 3W at idle, and just a little over 5W absolutely harassed.

Power Consumption VisionFive 2 SBC

This board might be an environment friendly homelab companion, so long as the software program you want can run on it. I have not had an opportunity to check different issues like House Assistant or Docker, however I do know for a lot of issues, simply getting the software program operating proper now will be painful.


However Arm boards—even the darling little one Raspberry Pi—have been in an identical state a decade in the past. StarFive is coming into an already-crowded market and already making a lotta buzz.

Proper now between the Raspberry Pi scarcity and the clone producers dropping the ball on software program and help, RISC-V SBCs have a major alternative.

My greatest query—and I am unsure if that is reward of the RISC-V neighborhood or condemnation of the Arm established order—is that this: How is it that this fledgling RISC-V board, barely off the bottom, already has documentation and help that is miles forward of most different SBCs?

Moreover a couple of small warts within the getting began information, the documentation is fairly good. The forums are energetic, and I did not must lurk on Discord simply to get assist.

And in comparison with the Raspberry Pi, nicely, the Pi is not unimpeachable, however the VisionFive 2 positively is not the board to remove its crown.

What it is, is an early warning shot throughout Arm’s bow. If every RISC-V board improves on the tempo the Pi has through the years, we might see a extra aggressive panorama, in relation to vitality environment friendly Linux SoCs.

The JH7110 is not wonderful. However it’s not dangerous, both.

I nonetheless would not advocate most individuals purchase this board, except you already know loads about Linux and SBCs basically. Which will change a 12 months from now, however proper now, this board is not focused on the similar market as a Raspberry Pi.

At around $100, and never being fairly production-ready, I am solely recommending this board to individuals fascinated with exploring RISC-V for now.

However that is the ‘dangerous’ enterprise StarFive finds themselves in immediately.

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