Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Find: mips is back competing with arm

Doesn't look good yet though. 

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MIPS Creator CI20 released: Interesting, though not very useful
// Ars Technica

Imagination Technologies, best known for providing the PowerVR GPUs that power most of Apple's mobile devices, has started selling the Creator CI20 single-board computer in Europe and North America. The CI20, priced at a rather exorbitant $65, comes at an odd time: The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, which costs just $35, has a similar hardware spec, and has a better developer ecosystem, was released yesterday. There is one aspect of the CI20 that you might find intriguing, however: It has a MIPS CPU.

The Creator CI20 is being pitched by Imagination Technologies as a low-power Android/Linux development board, much like the Raspberry Pi. There are builds of Debian, Android 4.4, OpenWRT, and a few other distros that should work on the CI20 out of the box. Hardware-wise, the heart of the beast is an SoC—produced by Ingenic, a fabless Chinese semiconductor company—with a dual-core MIPS32 CPU and last-last-generation PowerVR SGX 540 GPU (the iPhone 4 had a very similar GPU). Rounding out the specs, there's 1GB of RAM, 8GB of on-board NAND storage, a full-size SD card slot, and lots of connectivity (HDMI 1.4, 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth, and a couple of USB ports). For makers/developers, there are also a bunch of GPIO (general-purpose input/output) pins for interfacing with motors, cameras, etc.

Overall, the CI20 is generally comparable to the Raspberry Pi—except on price and CPU architecture. MIPS has a bit of cachet from the '80s and '90s, when it was used in some high-profile applications (SGI's workstations, the Nintendo 64)—but since the late '90s, the architecture has languished. Imagination Technologies, probably seeing an opportunity to compete against ARM and x86 in the mobile and embedded spaces, acquired MIPS Technologies in early 2013 and announced a new MIPS-based architecture called Warrior soon after. Sadly, the CI20 doesn't use a new Warrior-based CPU, instead opting for a pretty old MIPS32 release 2 architecture.

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