A RISC-V option for your Framework laptop (how about POWER next?)

Many of you have heard of the Framework laptop, a modular system that you can DIY from a mainboard and parts or purchase fully assembled. The designs are open-sourced on Github and Framework has actively been trying to develop an ecosystem around the product.

The part that's potentially most interesting is the mainboard. Framework actively advertises the notion that you can just replace components piecemeal to upgrade, including the logic board, yet keep the same display, port loadout, keyboard, battery and so on if they still work. You can even stick the old one in a case and use it for something else, which is not only environmentally conscious but very customer-friendly.

Now the first third-party Framework mainboard is coming, and it's not x86: it's RISC-V, and it fits in their 13" chassis. A RISC-V option is of course not new in portable computers; I reviewed the ClockworkPi RISC-V DevTerm a couple years ago, which can take either an RPi ARM compute module or an Allwinner D1 based on the 1GHz RV64IMAFDCVU XuanTie C906. However, the CPU is more powerful than that, a quad-core StarFive JH7110 with four SiFive U74 cores. The new Framework mainboard is based on an existing DeepComputing laptop product called "Roma;" DeepComputing now sells a more advanced version in a laptop of their own based on the octocore SpacemiT K1. Combined with the generally well-regarded Framework loadout and creature comforts, this could definitely be a product to watch.

That said, much as I was disappointed with the performance of the RISC-V DevTerm, most people are going to be similarly unimpressed with the performance of this one. Phoronix's benchmarks placed it well below the Raspberry Pi 4 (and the Orange Pi 5 crushed it), and Framework is trying to set expectations low by saying, "The peripheral set and performance aren’t yet competitive with our Intel and AMD-powered Framework Laptop Mainboards." That would certainly be an understatement, and is yet another example of the self-licking RISC-V ice cream cone getting ahead of its skis on real-world throughput. Framework also apologetically notes that the board "has soldered memory and uses MicroSD cards and eMMC for storage, both of which are limitations of the processor." Still, it's (soon to be) available and functional, and it could be mounted in one of those small desktop cases, so if you want a sidecar RISC-V machine to play with you've got another option better than yet another SBC.

But more important than that: it proves that you can put really any architecture on such a board and take advantage of the Framework, uh, framework instead of reinventing the wheel completely. So, instead of these various attempts at building a PowerPC laptop, why isn't there a Power ISA Framework mainboard? Wouldn't that approach just make more sense?


  1. Do we know wether this CPU needs proprietary firmware? But many people(Risc-V fans) seem to confuse the ISA being free with the chip that implements it, so it will probably sell decent regardless. I agree that a Power ISA Notebook would be nice, but I don't think there currently is a suitable SOC for the Job. THE S1/Power10 obviously is focused on Desktops and Servers while the PowerPC Notebook Project uses an old embedded chip.

  2. So basically, instead of https://www.powerpc-notebook.org/faq/ , make a SoM representing the work already done here in the Framework form-factor?

    I was looking at the RISC-V stuff, and wanted to see what throwing together a desktop out of the framework parts was. Without the motherboard the kit for the DIY rehoming your old motherboard is a bit under $150. So you could get all the laptop stuff or that kit and build a PPC computer with a Framework-compatible motherboard either way.

    It does look like getting MxM on there would be quite a squeeze though, even if you ditched a SODIMM socket. Would probably have to do a surface mounted GPU and have it stuck with the CPU to make it work.

  3. I will never buy Framework computer nor if i got one for free or gift.
    As far i now power10 it is suitable for laptop.

    I would like that Talospace get more news/blog for power9 things.

  4. The motherboard and power management are 99% of the problem with Power laptop project(s) so not having to worry about chassis will save some work, but realistically it won't really further the project where it counts. The main hurdles remain the same.


Post a Comment

Comments are subject to moderation. Be nice.