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Allwinner Creates First RISC-V AP

May 18, 2021

Author: Aakash Jani

China first began consolidating its data-center supply chain by employing custom processors, such as Alibaba’s Xuantie 910, Baidu’s Kunlun K200, and Jiangnan’s Sunway. Now another Chinese company, Allwinner Technology, is delivering the first RISC-V-powered application processor (AP). The new D1 AP deviates from that vendor’s longstanding Arm strategy, implementing a RISC-V-compatible design with a custom graphics accelerator. Allwinner licenses the chip’s Xuantie c906 CPU from T-Head, an Alibaba subsidiary.

The D1 can power low-end single-board Linux computers that, for example, control digital advertising boards in mall kiosks. It also enables hearable, smart meters, and other simple IoT devices. The chip integrates a single c906 CPU, a custom GPU, a Cadence Tensilica DSP to process digital audio, and a suite of external interfaces. Manufactured in 22nm technology, it sells on a development board and as a standalone product.

Headquartered in Guangdong, China, Allwinner designs mixed-signal systems-on-a-chip (SoCs). It originally focused on Android tablet processors and later pivoted to Arm-based single-board computers (SBCs) as well as other application processors. By producing the D1, the company is continuing its move away from tablets and into the IoT segment. But it faces steep overseas competition from established companies such as NXP’s i.MX 8ULP.

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