UK chip firm Imagination Technologies has announced a challenger for ARM and Intel in the shape of the MIPS I6400. This is a 64-bit version of the venerable MIPS processor architecture designed to deliver energy-efficient performance in applications from mobile devices up to data centre servers, according to the firm.
Announced this week, the MIPS I6400 is intended to deliver multi-core system on a chip (SoC) processors featuring integrated graphics and other functions. Notably, the MIPS64 architecture is one of the three supported by Google's upcoming Android L mobile operating system, alongside ARM and x86.
Like ARM, Imagination Technologies is chiefly a chip-design firm that licenses its intellectual property (IP) to other silicon vendors. It is best known for its PowerVR GPU technology, which is used in many SoCs found in smartphones and tablets, but acquired MIPS at the end of 2012.
The firm is making bold claims for the new MIPS I6400 design, saying it sets new standards for mainstream 64-bit processing in applications including embedded, mobile, digital consumer, advanced communications, networking and storage.
Imagination's executive vice president of marketing Tony King-Smith said: "The I6400 is more efficient, flexible and scalable than the competition, and its feature set clearly lends itself to the needs of a wide range of next-generation applications including smartphones and tablets.
"We know that unique features like multi-threading provide significant advantages for many applications, and customers already using this technology agree. Unsurprisingly, we've already secured licensees for the I6400 across multiple markets."
However, the firm was not willing to disclose licensees developing MIPS I6400 chips, and would not say when it expected the first products featuring the new architecture are likely to come to market.
The MIPS I6400 can process up to four threads per core simultaneously, and can be integrated in clusters of up to six cores alongside PowerVR GPUs and other IP blocks such as WiFi, Bluetooth and sensors. The design allows for each core in a cluster to have a separate clock speed and voltage level for fine-grained power management, according to the firm.
In terms of performance, Imagination claims that the design can achieve 50 percent higher scores in the CoreMark benchmark, and 30 percent higher DMIPS Dhrystone benchmark scores compared with "leading competitors in its class", although the firm did not give specific details of the configurations used for these tests.
Imagination also claims it has a broad ecosystem of support for the MIPS I6400 from a broad range of partners, including Broadcom, Qualcomm Cavium, PMC and others, especially through a newly formed prpl foundation backing the MIPS architecture.
The MIPS architecture itself was first created more than three decades ago, and once featured in workstation processors supported by a version of the Windows NT operating system from Microsoft, as well as mobile chips found in PDAs and other devices.
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