The rise of RISC-V: Modular laptop vendor releases RISC-V motherboard as competition heats up for x86 — Framework eschews Qualcomm and Arm for now as it bets on growing interest for third force

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Framework, best known for its modular laptops, has certainly been busy lately. The firm recently unveiled a new version of its Framework Laptop 13 with Intel Core Ultra processors, 9.2-megapixel webcam, and support for 96GB of DDR5 RAM. 

It followed that up by releasing 3D CAD files of the Framework Laptop 16 so enterprising users could 3D print their own skins, cases, and accessories, and it has just added Laptop 13 CAD files to its repository on GitHub.

Now, Framework announces it has partnered with DeepComputing to offer a motherboard featuring a RISC-V processor for the first time. Targeted at developers, hobbyists, and tech enthusiasts, the new motherboard has been designed for experimentation and development rather than performance. Framework buyers still have the choice of Intel and AMD processors for that.

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Four RISC-V cores

The heart of the new motherboard is the JH7110 processor from StarFive, containing four U74 RISC-V cores by SiFive. This marks one of the first uses of RISC-V technology in a consumer-focused product outside of embedded applications.

As a fully open Instruction Set Architecture (ISA), RISC-V acts as an interface between software and hardware, akin to the proprietary x86 used in today’s PCs. This architecture allows any developer to build their own processors without the costly licensing fees associated with other more popular ISAs, such as Qualcomm and Arm. Framework prides itself on reducing component costs, so this is natural fit.

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Patel says Framework will offer solid Linux support for the new hardware through a collaboration with Canonical and the Fedora Community.

Further details on functionality, compatibility, and availability of the motherboard, which will be compatible with Framework Laptop 13 and the Cooler Master Mainboard Case, will be revealed in due course. There already a product page available for it and DeepComputing will demo an early version of the motherboard in a Laptop 13 at the forthcoming RISC-V Summit Europe.

Nirav Patel, Framework’s CEO says, “This is a huge milestone both for expanding the breadth of the Framework ecosystem and for making RISC-V more accessible than ever. We designed the Framework Laptop to enable deep flexibility and personalization, and now that extends all the way to processor architecture selection.”

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