Features a 1.2GHz MIPS-based, dual-core Ingenic apps processor that runs Debian 7 and Android 4.4 KitKat

UPDATE1: We are now accepting orders for Creator Ci20 dev boards from users. If you are interested in buying one, please go to our store.

A few weeks ago, when I first published an article titled MIPS CPUs, the perfect Linux machines, the first question I got from a lot of developers from the Linux community was:

When can I get access to a MIPS-based development board capable of running Linux and equipped with <enter-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-list-of-peripherals-here>?

Today I am able to answer that question: for developers looking to run Linux on a MIPS CPU, we are introducing MIPS Creator Ci20, a platform running Debian 7 and (soon) Android 4.4 KitKat.

What is MIPS Creator Ci20?

Creator is a new programme from Imagination which will provide low cost development systems for use by the open source community, enthusiast, hobbyist, cross platform developers (i.e. Arduino), and partners looking to create applications using our IP technologies. It covers all our SoC IP processors: MIPS, PowerVR and Ensigma.

MIPS Creator Ci20 is the first project – with more to follow, aiming to proliferate the use and visibility of MIPS CPUs in the Linux and Android developer space. It is also a great resource for universities, schools and other academic institutions; in fact, we have several universities already lined up to receive a few hundreds of these boards.

MIPS-Creator-C120_Close-up3_RGBThe new MIPS Creator Ci20 development board

MIPS Creator Ci20 measures 90.2 mm x 95.3 mm and includes an Ingenic JZ4780 apps processor which is able to support Linux-based operating systems, including Android. Ingenic JZ4780 is a high performance, ultra-low power SoC using a MIPS32-based dual-core CPU clocked at 1.2GHz+ and a PowerVR SGX540 GPU. The Ingenic XBurst architecture features both SIMD and FPU instruction sets; the FPU supports both single and double floating point, IEEE 754 compatible formats.

MIPS Creator CI20 - Ingenic JZ4780 - MIPS Xburst Ingenic JZ4780 is a 1.2GHz+ MIPS-based dual-core apps processor that also includes a PowerVR SGX540 GPU

MIPS Creator Ci20 has a rich complement of communications and multimedia capabilities. On top of a fast Ethernet connection, Ci20 is one of the few development boards on the market to offer both high-speed Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n) and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.

Additionally, the Creator Ci20 dev board is a multimedia powerhouse that has a OpenGL ES 2.0-capable PowerVR SGX540 GPU and dedicated video hardware for a suite of video codecs, including MPEG-4, H.264, VP8, MPEG-2, RV9 and others, making it ideal for HTPC enthusiasts.

You also get two USB ports (EHCI and OTG) and many more peripheral I/Os (GPIO, SPI, I2C, infrared, JTAG, etc.). An HDMI connector is included for connection to a monitor screen and the board comes with an external 5V power supply.

MIPS-Creator-CI20-Raspberry-Pi-BeagleBone-Black_nThe board features numerous multimedia and connectivity options

The board can boot operating systems directly from flash memory or from an SD card. OS images are available for Debian 7, Gentoo, Yocto, Arch, and other Linux distros – with Android v4.4 soon to arrive too. The Linux kernel BSP (currently for 3.0.8 and 3.16) is open on github and up-streamed imminently; graphics support includes Xorg-compliant OpenGL 2.1 and OpenGL ES 1.1/2.0 drivers.

MIPS Creator CI20 - Running Debian-7MIPS Creator I20 running Debian 7 in our demo room

MIPS Creator Ci20 is one of the development boards that will work with many of the software projects hosted by the recently-launched prpl foundation. prpl (pronounced “purple”) is an open-source, non-profit foundation that encourages collaboration among the Linux community. The group is targeting and supporting the MIPS architecture – while being open to others too – so that developers can create portable software for next-generation devices.

How can I get one?

UPDATE:  A big thank you to everyone out there who applied for a MIPS Creator Ci20 dev board, it’s been quite a ride! We have received an overwhelming number of project proposals that have exceeded our expectations and filled our engineering hearts with joy. Since we have a limited number of boards available for free, we will temporarily stop taking further requests until we can deal with the current demand.

We are hosting the latest documentation and software downloads on a dedicated page at eLinux.org. You can use the dev zone community page for technical support.

For more MIPS-related news and announcements from Imagination, follow us on Twitter (@ImaginationPR, @MIPSGuru).


About the author Alex Voica

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Before deciding to pursue his dream of working in technology marketing, Alexandru held various engineering roles at leading semiconductor companies in Europe. His background also includes research in computer graphics and VR at the School of Advanced Studies Sant'Anna in Pisa. You can follow him on Twitter @alexvoica.

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