Summary: Two weeks ago we announced the brand new 64-bit MIPS I6400 CPU. Here’s what you need to know, as well as a roundup of media coverage.

On September 2nd, Imagination revealed to the world the latest member of the Warrior family: the 64-bit MIPS I6400 CPU IP core.

In case you missed any of the coverage, MIPS I6400 has quite a lot of aces up its sleeve. It represents the next era of mainstream computing and the new 64-bit CPU that everyone will be measuring against, setting a standard for performance, power and area efficiency.

MIPS I6400 by the numbers

MIPS I6400 is a highly scalable CPU that addresses a wide range of markets – everything from mobile devices and smart TVs to automotive and datacenter servers. Devices integrating this CPU will be getting a next-generation 64-bit processor that delivers superior performance and does not suffer from power throttling. Even better, the I6400 base core fits within 1mm2 of silicon* – the sweet spot for many consumer and enterprise markets.

MIPS I6400 - CPU-block_diagram_fA block diagram of the new I-class MIPS I6400 CPU

MIPS I6400 implements a broad feature set:

  • Simultaneous multi-threading (SMT): this is a unique feature which offers a significant boost for CPU performance. For example, a dual-threaded MIPS I6400 CPU delivers up to 30%-50% more performance vs. a single threaded configuration in benchmarks such as SPECint and CoreMark.
  • Multicore, multi-cluster support: MIPS I6400 scales from dual-core to hexa-core configurations to provide the performance required for mobile and consumer electronics markets. Furthermore, companies can build many-cluster configurations (up to 64 clusters) for enterprise applications (networking, storage, security etc.)
  • SIMD (short for Single Instruction, Multiple Data): if a System on Chip does not have dedicated video hardware, then it can handle video codecs using the MIPS SIMD engine. Since MIPS I6400 features an efficient, 128-bit SIMD architecture, it is possible to achieve a significant reduction in mathematical and data operations leading to faster and more power-efficient decoding.
  • Microarchitectural optimizations: I6400 is based on the latest version of the MIPS64 architecture and has instructions that accelerate performance in several key areas and workloads related to Android such as JIT compilation, Javascript, web browsing, PIC (Position-Independent Code – the result of Android compilation)
  • Hardware virtualization: platforms using I6400 CPUs are more secure and software-friendly, which can shorten development time and lower production costs (better and cheaper devices for everyone!). Today, consumer devices are split in two categories: some are for business use and some are for personal use. Since MIPS I6400 can run multiple operating systems on the same hardware, this means that the IT department can securely manage their enterprise domain (your work email and secure connections sit in one virtual machine) while the mobile operator can separately manage the other domain (your personal content and activity are safely kept in another virtual machine). But wait, there’s more! With the I6400, you can not only create two secure domains (as you may have seen in competitive systems) – you can actually create up 15 separate secure domains!

Think that’s all you need to know?

The section below includes a small selection of the extensive press coverage from the launch; you can also find the full version on Storify:

Imagination’s Warrior CPU breathes new life into MIPS, will attack ARM on multiple fronts – Joel Hruska, ExtremeTech: “There are two reasons to think Imagination Technologies might be able to mount a successful challenge at the low end of the market. First, the company has a robust and widely licensed set of GPU IP that it could potentially use to sweeten the deal with prospective licensees. […] PowerVR remains one of the largest GPU vendors by market share. Second, we’ve already seen multiple manufacturers vying for space in entry-level markets. Just as Rockchip and MediaTek have emerged to challenge Qualcomm, other companies could emerge to challenge them — and MIPS might be useful as a means of differentiation.”

Imagination’s MIPS64-Based I6400 CPU Takes On The 64-Bit CompetitionLucian Armasu, Tom’s Hardware: “Despite being a mid-range chip, the I6400 should give its competitors a run for their money. The chip has MIPS’ natural efficiency advantage over ARM, which allows the chip to have higher performance at the same area or the same performance on a smaller area (with smaller costs).”

The Overachieving Middle Child: MIPS I6400 Introduces 64-bit to the MidrangeJim Turley, EE Journal: “The I6400 sets a new high point in the MIPS tower of CPU designs. It’s a rational 64-bit design with floating-point, SIMD, power management, and multithreading, and it will be the genesis for a range of spinoff implementations. The multithreading, in particular, sets it apart from its rivals from Cambridge. Depending on the benchmark you use, enabling two-way multithreading improves performance by 30% to 50% over the same code in single-threaded mode. Turn on four-way multithreading, and performance may improve even more. It’s the classic performance-versus-area tradeoff that all chip designers face, and it’s a knob that MIPS lets you control but that ARM doesn’t offer. For now, it’s enough to set MIPS apart from ARM. A bifurcation, you might say.”

New MIPS I6400 brings another 64-bit architecture to AndroidGary Sims, Android Authority: “Android currently supports three processor architectures: ARM, Intel and MIPS. ARM is currently the leader, but Intel and Imagination Technologies (who design the MIPS processors) are viable alternatives. The next big area where these three chip designers will fight for a slice of the mobile computing pie is 64-bit computing.”

Imagination Technologies to ARM: anything you can do, our new chips can do betterDaniel Cooper, Engadget: “Since Android L will support silicon of this kind, Imagination is hoping that smartphone manufacturers will consider ditching ARM chips in favor of the plucky challenger. What does this mean for the consumer? Hopefully, faster devices, less power drain and a whole new topic where people can argue the merits of one architecture against the other.”

Is it my Imagination, or is that a 64-bit ARM Warrior in your pocket? Nope, it’s MIPS64Chris Williams, The Register: “It’s [MIPS I6400] an ambitious blueprint, aimed at car dashboards, digital TVs and tablets – the usual space for Imagination – all the way up to data center-grade compute, storage and networking kit. In other words, wherever arch-rival ARM is attempting to spread its limbs.”

MIPS’ Warrior core opens up a new front in the 64-bit server processor warDean Takahashi, VentureBeat: “While ARM has dominated smartphones and tablets and Intel’s x86 has occupied the PC market, MIPS has been in a middle ground in devices like smart TVs and consumer electronics. With the new Warrior cores (which can be taken by Imagination’s licensees and designed into working chips), Imagination will try to break into new markets: Chips that use the core will be used in the embedded, mobile, digital consumer, advanced communications, networking, and storage markets.”

Imagination makes ARM’s high end CPU goals less of a sure thingBernard Cole, Embedded: “This week Imagination released a new version of the MIPS architecture that should make ARM’s goals of competing with Intel in high end heterogeneous computing applications beyond mobile phones a bit more difficult. Nor will ARM have an easy time of it in many high end consumer and mobile apps as well, if Imagination has anything to do with it.”

Imagination takes on ARM and Intel with MIPS chip redesignDaniel Robinson, The Inquirer: “The firm said this 64-bit version of the venerable MIPS processor architecture is designed to deliver energy-efficient performance all the way from mobile devices up to data centre servers… Notably, the MIPS64 architecture is one of the three supported by Google’s upcoming Android L mobile operating system, along with ARM and x86.”

MIPS Moves Multicore Battle to ClusteringNick Flaherty, EE Times: “A key element in the battle with ARM is the hardware multithreading option of up to four hardware threads per core. The I6400’s simultaneous multithreading (SMT) technology makes it possible to execute multiple instructions from multiple threads every clock cycle.”

Imagination adds new 64-bit MIPS CPU to line upDesire Athow, TechRadar: “ARM and Intel now count a new 64-bit competitor, Imagination’s new MIPS I6400 processor, part of the company’s Warrior family, one that is based on the MIPS64 architecture that’s supported by Android’s forthcoming iteration, Android L. And that third player looks promising.”

What are your first impressions of the new MIPS I6400 CPU? Leave us a comment in the box below and follow us on Twitter (@ImaginationPR, @MIPSGuru) for the latest news and announcements.

Editor’s note

When manufactured in a 28nm HPM process node at 1 GHz.

Comments

  • db

    any idea on when a workstation mini-board could be ready ?

    • It usually takes about 18-24 months (although it can be faster for aggressive implementations) for a customer to build a chipset and an OEM to release a product using that SoC in the market.

      Regards,
      Alex.

  • Guaire

    Hi Alex,

    I’m not sure whether or not thats will make sense, but I
    have some questions. Some answers could be obvious and some questions
    could be ridiculous, I don’t know. If that’s the case forgive my
    ignorance, I’m not an engineer.

    You presented I6400 as it can achieves 1GHz in the worst conditions and could approach 2GHz with aggressive implementations.

    As
    I understand there will be always a limit for a specific architecture,
    is 2GHz absolute maximum for I6400? Doesn’t you gave permission for
    faster than that or doesn’t advise it just because gains doesn’t worth
    the trouble after that limit or it’s just architecturally impossible?
    Whatever the reason that limitation only cover for 28nm manufacturing process or independent from that?

    As
    well I understand I6400 for mid-range/cost effective category. If I’m not wrong
    28nm process cheaper, consequently could be more cost effective if I6400
    implemented with that a while more.

    But I’m curious is it
    possible to -if a hypothetical vendor willing to paying costs-
    manufacturing it 20nm or even 14/16nm FinFET? Is it completely up to
    them or you? Can you give some hints how could these impacts it’s
    performance and power consumption?

    Furthermore is it possible to
    implement it with FD-SOI nodes too? I read multiple times it offers better
    performance and less power consumption.

    Is this possible to
    coupled just 1 core I6400 (you did write it scaled from dual core) with
    your 7XT family GPU lets say just 1 cluster or even half a cluster
    (again you did write scaled from 2 cluster)? I admit this could be seems
    somehow a bit weird, cost effective I6400 and your best performer GPU
    instead of 7XE family.

    If it’s possible to pack just 1 core I6400 with 4
    thread, just 1 cluster or half a cluster 7XT GPU, both clocked as viable
    as fast and manufactured without considering costs wouldn’t be
    surprisingly fast considering it’s size?

    • Hi,

      I am always happy to answer any questions.

      1 GHz provides a data point that most people can relate to – it does not suggest a worst-case scenario. Generally speaking, the deeper the pipeline (i.e. the more stages it has), the higher you can go in frequency. We’ve chosen to quote our stats at 1 GHz+ because that is what a typical implementation could target at. We’ve also chosen 28 nm since it is a process node that will stay around for many years to come: it is affordable, proven and delivers very good performance per mm2 and mW.

      This does not mean that I6400 can’t be manufactured in lower process nodes. These however will be more expensive so it is up to the sillicon vendor’s choice. You can find a lot of information on how newer process nodes scale directly from foundries.

      http://www.tsmc.com/english/dedicatedFoundry/technology/16nm.htm
      TSMC’s 16FF+ (FinFET Plus) technology can provide above 65 percent
      higher speed, around 2 times the density, or 70 percent less power than
      its 28HPM technology. Comparing with 20SoC technology, 16FF+ provides
      extra 40% higher speed and 60% power saving. By leveraging the
      experience of 20SoC technology, TSMC 16FF+ shares the same metal backend
      process in order to quickly improve yield and demonstrate process
      maturity for time-to-market value.

      All of our processors are designed to be compatible with any manufacturing technology, including FD-SOI.

      PowerVR Series7XT GPUs start at two clusters and go up to 16 while PowerVR Series7XE GPUs scale from half-cluster to one cluster configurations.

      We can help our partners build any particular configuration of I6400 (threads, cores, clusters) they wish and pair it with any PowerVR Rogue GPU they want.

      I hope this answers all your questions.

      Regards,
      Alex.

      • Guaire

        Yes, thanks for your answers.