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.

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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