What is wrong with all those AArch64 desktops?

I have decided to finally upgrade my eight years old x86-64 desktop. Will stay with same architecture, just change CPU vendor from Intel to AMD.

This move was delayed few times with “who knows, maybe finally there will be some affordable AArch64 desktop systems”. But time to say the ugly truth:

There have never been, nor will be AArch64 desktop systems

No one makes them because no one buys them. No one buys because there is no hardware to buy.

Or we got to the point where most of people just need a phone? And developers are expected to use remote machines for everything?

What is desktop system?

For me desktop system is a computer in a box somewhere under desk. With some features:

For example my eight years old x86-64 desktop has 256GB NVME in m.2 adapter (occupying PCIe x4 slot), 32GB of memory, additional USB 3.0 controller in the other PCI Express slot (as onboard Etron EJ168 one has issues with some devices). And SoundBlaster Live audio card in PCI slot. And some 1GbE port onboard (BCM57781 this time). And some SSDs attached.

But those Avantek systems???

Someone can say that there are AArch64 desktop systems on market. Avantek sells them. But are those machines desktop class systems?

NO. Those are server mainboards in tower cases. And you basically have no idea what exactly you are going to buy as there is only graphics of case. No internal photos, no back photo, no user manual to download.

Avantek 32 core Cavium ThunderX ARM Desktop

No onboard audio. No mention about USB ports, two PCI Express slots (x16 + x8), no 1GbE network port. No mention about m.2 slot for NVME storage.

Ampere eMAG 64bit Arm Workstation

Specification may change without notice.
Product may differ from images shown.

In other words: “we have no idea what we sell”. Features listed put system a bit closer to desktop class as there are USB ports (just two), there is 1GbE network port. Just one PCI Express port (x8).

Avantek ThunderX2 ARM Workstation - ThunderXStation

4U rack/tower case sounds clearly like “we know it is server but will try to sell it as a desktop”. No m.2, no audio, no mention about USB ports, no 1GbE network.

Other vendors

So maybe there are other vendors? Depends on how much you are on “has to be SBBR compliant” side.

Windows on Snapdragon

Yay! Mobile chips based laptops! Sure, they have their niche. I know people who use them as daily laptops. For normal use and for development.

But my work requires 16GB+ of RAM and working virtualization.

Linaro Synquacker

Or Synquacer or Linaro DeveloperBox or whatever you call that box filled with Cortex-A53 cpu cores. Where you have to choose “working graphics or working virtualization”.

Macchiatobin

There are people using it as a desktop. 16GB ram is the limit. One PCIe slot. Lot of network interfaces would make it nice router probably.

HoneyComb LX2K

Looks interesting. Will see how it ends once get on market (preliminary version on sale now). Still requires USB audio dongle.

Friend suggested that as CPU is on SoM card then other carrierboard can be designed. Sure, but not gonna happen probably.

I have seen it already

About four years ago I had that funny project: APM Mustang as a desktop (day 1, day 2, day 3). That system was kind of Frankenstein’s monster. Audio over some USB stereo-only dongle, all USB devices plugged into hubs due to only two ports on mainboard I/O panel.

Looks like nothing changed…

aarch64 mustang desktop