Chinese company Milk-V has introduced the Pioneer, a RISC-V computer that features a fast Sophon SG2042 processor instead of a slow mini-processor. The computer integrates 64 T-Head or XuanTie C920 CPU cores, including 128-bit vector units and 64 MB level 3 cache. The pre-orders for the Pioneer, which is available for purchase outside of China, can be made through the crowdfunding platform Crowdsupply. Milk-V offers two versions: the Micro-ATX mainboard with a soldered SG2042 processor, and a complete desktop PC that includes a CPU cooler, housing, power supply, and expansion cards.
The mainboard of the Pioneer can accommodate up to 128 GB DDR4-3200 RAM with ECC support in four UDIMM slots. However, the PCI Express and M.2 slots only support PCIe 3.0, despite the processor being capable of PCIe 4.0 on 32 lanes according to Sophon’s data sheet. The x16 slots are connected with eight lanes each, while the M.2 slots have four lanes each. In addition, the third M.2 connection uses the E-Key format and can house a WLAN module.
On the back of the Pioneer, there are limited connectivity options which include eight USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type A ports (10 Gbit/s), two 2.5 Gbit/s Ethernet ports, and one micro SD slot. Additional expansion cards would be needed for other types of connections, such as sound output. Sophon, the manufacturer of the processor used in the Pioneer, is a subsidiary of Bitmain, a company that specializes in developing ASIC miners for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
The pricing for the Pioneer is relatively high, with the individual mainboard costing $1199, and the complete PC priced at $1999. The complete PC comes with a 1 TB NVMe SSD, 128 GB DDR4-3200 RAM, MSI’s A350 power supply with an output power of 350 watts, Intel’s X520-T2 network card with two 10 Gbit/s Ethernet ports, and an old Radeon R5 230 graphics card. The inclusion of a separate graphics card is necessary as the RISC-V processor used in the Pioneer does not have its own graphics unit. Delivery of the mainboards and PCs is expected to begin in December 2023, with import sales tax, customs duties, and shipping costs being added to the prices. The crowdfunding target for financing has already been reached.