Meet MIPS I6400, the CPU of choice for the 64-bit computing revolution

When we first introduced the breakthrough MIPS Warrior family, we promised to deliver a disruptive and comprehensive roadmap of 32 and 64-bit CPUs that incorporate new, innovative architectural features and provide best-in-class performance and efficiency for a wide range of applications.

The first CPU we launched was MIPS P5600, a high-end 32-bit processor targeting ultimate performance in apps processors for mobile, home entertainment, home networking, automotive and many other markets. You can read more about how this powerful CPU can be integrated in a high-end mobile SoC in this blog article.

Today however we are focusing on 64-bit computing, a segment that has been again buzzing with excitement ever since Dave Burke from Google introduced Android L at Google I/O 2014. Android L is the latest iteration of the well-known operating system designed to support three main 64-bit CPU architectures, including MIPS64.

The CPU we are introducing today is MIPS I6400, a brand new design that is the embodiment of the performance efficiency principles that have defined the MIPS architecture. Read on for more on how this CPU outperforms the competition, what new and unique features we’ve implemented and where it fits in the larger Imagination story.

MIPS I6400 at a glance: MIPS64, simultaneous multithreading and hardware virtualization

MIPS I6400 is the industry’s first 64-bit CPU IP core to combine several innovative technologies in a compact yet very powerful processor. It is a dual-issue, in-order design that features simultaneous multithreading (SMT) and a state-of-the-art microarchitecture based on MIPS64 Release 6, the latest version of the highly successful MIPS64 architecture. This new 64-bit MIPS CPU comes packed with high-end features such as advanced hardware virtualization capabilities and a fast SIMD engine based on our MIPS SIMD Architecture (MSA).

 MIPS I6400 - CPU-block_diagram_fThe new I-class MIPS I6400 CPU features a number of microarchitectural improvements

MIPS I6400 represents a new generation of multi-threaded CPUs. L2 cache and system memory performance see a dramatic increase thanks to lower latency, wider buses and improved pre-fetch techniques. We’ve also made enhancements to our branch prediction, implemented advanced load/store bonding and included a high-performance, IEEE 754-2008 compliant, 128-bit SIMD engine.

Leading performance in smaller area and at lower power

MIPS I6400 is a highly efficient CPU that scales very well across many markets, offering high-end performance in a small area footprint (1 mm2 of silicon, when implemented in 28nm) and at lower power consumption versus the competition.

Thanks to an advanced feature set, MIPS I6400 is an absolute performance leader in its class; it offers up to 70% higher performance than competing cores. For example, a single core, dual-threaded MIPS I6400 CPU is more than 30 to 50% faster (DMIPS per MHz or CoreMark) than a competing 64-bit CPU, while occupying a similar area.

MIPS-I6400-benchmark-performance-CoreMark-DMIPS-relativeMIPS I6400 CPU is an absolute leader in performance, power and area for its class

These ground-breaking results are achieved for both CPU-specific and general system workloads across many benchmarks. It is well known that many companies deliver real world performance notably below what they claim in benchmarks. We pride ourselves in creating processor IP that has been designed for superior real world performance and we always offer credible benchmarking data.

MIPS I6400 includes state of the art technologies like SIMD and multi-threading that make a big difference for Linux-based operating systems (Android, Firefox OS, Tizen, etc.) and the most widely used applications in mobile such as web browsing and multimedia processing.

Preliminary results for I6400 show that adding a second thread leads to performance increases of 40-50% on SPECint or CoreMark, with less than 10% cluster area increase.

Building a complete next-generation platform for 64-bit computing

Imagination understands the complexities of designing and scaling CPUs for a range of applications, from multi-threading to multicore to multi-cluster. Our new MIPS I6400 CPU includes up to four threads per core and can be integrated in clusters that feature up to six cores. These threads enable the execution of multiple instructions from multiple threads for every clock cycle.

The diagram below shows an example of a high performance, low power configuration where four MIPS I6400 CPUs are configured to run at top frequencies for demanding workloads while the other two are clocked significantly lower to save power and handle less taxing tasks.

MIPS I6400 - coherent multicore cluster_fA cluster containing several MIPS I6400 CPUs, a coherence manager and additional controllers or registers

This configuration creates the basis of a true heterogeneous design. System architects can build next generation SoCs that include several MIPS processor clusters, PowerVR multimedia processors (graphics, video, vision) and an Ensigma connectivity engine. The figure below shows how companies can combine our hardware IP to devise an apps processor for mobile and consumer applications.

 MIPS I6400 CPU - SoC using Imagination_IP_finalWe have a rich portfolio of silicon IP for next-generation 64-bit processors

We’ve dedicated a lot of time and effort optimizing our IP for a range of operating systems. For example, we have been working closely with Google to make sure that every iteration of Android (including the forthcoming Android L) runs optimally on our MIPS architectures.

The MIPS Release 6 architecture sees the introduction of new instructions that accelerate performance in several key areas and workloads related to Android: JIT compilation, Javascript, web browsing, PIC (Position-Independent Code – the result of Android compilation).

32- and 64-bit application binaries run perfectly on MIPS64 CPUs, without the need for separate ISAs or any mode switching. Furthermore, the newly-formed prpl foundation is also helping to drive ecosystem initiatives and developments for MIPS 32 and 64-bit cores, leveraging the developer community to drive MIPS forward into next generation devices and markets.

Final words

Based on the proven and high performance MIPS64 architecture, the MIPS I6400 CPU is designed to address the migration to 64-bit computing across a range of applications, including mobile, home entertainment, automotive, networking, storage and many more.

There are already multiple licensees across multiple markets for this processor and many others actively engaged, being drawn in by the numerous technical advantages and the benefit of a broad, well-established 64-bit software and tools ecosystem that already exists around MIPS.

64-bit MIPS CPUs have been in use for over 20 years in everything from game consoles to ultra-high performance networking equipment. For two decades, we have been innovating in 64-bit CPU technology, all leading up to the launch of this new I-class MIPS design.

Finally, we’re keeping to our tradition of celebrating MIPS announcements with a different take on the Android robot. If last time we gave it a taste of our ray tracing technology, now we’re staying true to the classical version while adding a few Warrior-esque elements.

MIPS I6400 - Android robotThe custom Android robot* is back!

What do you think of our new MIPS I6400 CPU? What are the areas where you think multi-threading and multicore will be used? Leave us a comment in the box below.

Editor’s note

  • SPECint is a benchmark maintained by the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) and tests CPU integer performance.
  • CoreMark is a simple, yet sophisticated benchmark developed by EEMBC and designed specifically to test the functionality of a CPU.
  • DMIPS is a common representation of the Dhrystone benchmark obtained when the Dhrystone score is divided by 1757.

* The custom Android robot is based on an original design by deviantART artist Irskaad

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  • wat

    It’s all words on paper til we see benchmarks, then it’s numbers on paper. Compete with Qualcomm not only on CPU/GPU power and speed but also modem access etc, AT A LOWER PRICE, then and only then will people care.

  • I get your point but this is the case with any IP offering, including CPUs and GPUs. We – and our competition – offer these benchmarks to tell consumers and customers what to expect in next generation devices.

    Would you prefer if we keep them hidden?

    Additionally, our competition is not necessarily Qualcomm – they are a semiconductor manufacturer – but other silicon IP vendors.

    Regards,
    Alex.

  • NeverAgain

    From the history of Imagination Technologies it’s hard to expect much in the way of openness. It only took AnandTech’s pressing to get basic architecture details from ARM wrt Mali for you guys to even consider saying anything about PowerVR, lest you be drowned out by enthusiast mindshare. And let’s not forget about your driver situation. Sure, you’ll provide SoC makers with a Android L sources carefully developed in-house and promise them cost, performance, and time-to-market advantages and what users well end up with is a device that, although great-looking and perhaps performant, will be stuck with a years worth of “updates” which end before their carriers term is done, if only because you’ll have moved on to your next core/video IP and the SoC/handset maker will be clueless as to what to do with integrating upstream Android code from Google.

    No thanks Imagination. You guys don’t deserve my hard earned money.

  • NeverAgain

    Sorry, I feel a little bad for being so harsh. It’s not like Arm, and definitely not Qualcomm, are any better in this regard. But definitely Intel and AMD are, of only because of years of competition in the x86 space. Their lagging in the mobile space is only due to begin slow second-movers, and you feel that IoT will be won by closedness then you are certainly fools. Security, SSL heartbleed for example, shows how crucial on going support and field-updates will be. Is Imagination poised for that?

    Good luck, the industry definitely deserves to give Arm competition, but with Moore’s Law slowing down, the economics of SoC manufacture are going to change and I truly wonder if you have the imagination to position yourself well for that eventuality.

  • wat

    These aren’t benchmarks, these are stats 99.99% of humanity do not understand. Show us benchmarks of FPS in games vs other SoC, for example, and the rest of us will understand. So you are implying you intend to rent out access to your IP, ALA ARM, and not produce chips yourself?

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  • We do not make chips, we license and design IP. The diagram below shows you an overview of our business model.

    http://blog.imgtec.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Mobile-computing-Imagination-IP-licensing-business-model.png

    Therefore for SoC benchmarks, you will have to wait until a silicon vendors includes our CPU into a design.

    Thanks,
    Alex.

  • wat

    So this post is only to compel semiconductors to buy into your system and not for consumers at all? How will you convince the consumers first, which are what compel semiconductor fabricators to use your chips in the first place?

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  • Javier

    Very interesting product! Sounds like vertical integration of CPU (MIPS) and GPU (PowerVR) designers. Are these clusters going to be coherent with respect to each other?

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  • First of all, let me quote from his article

    This year then has been especially productive in that regard, and as of
    today it’s going to get even better. After we took a look at Imagination’s PowerVR Rogue architecture
    earlier this year, ARM contacted us and indicated that they would like
    to do the same; that they would like to take a seat at the “open
    architecture” table. To give us the access we need to discover how their
    GPUs work, and in turn tell you what we’ve learned.

    I understand where you are coming from but we contribute a lot to the Linux kernel and make these contributions available to everyone.
    http://www.remword.com/kps_result/3.15_whole.html

    We’ve also launched the open-source prpl foundation so things will improve.

  • Yes, MIPS I6400 are fully coherent. We’ve also moved to a directory-based cluster architecture which means we can improve throughput but also support up to 64 of them.

  • I think it is actually the other way around, in my opinion. For example, the emergence of the first 64-bit chip for mobile made consumers buy those devices and created demand and increased competition among semiconductor vendors. So I think this is relevant for both companies and end-users.

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  • wat

    Are you talking Apple? I don’t think Apple really sold a surge of iPhones after the A7, no more than they would have sold from releasing a new model anyway. It also never drove people to iPhones over Android which is what you intend to imply. Have you any partnerships lined up with any big players (i.e. Samsung, Global Foundries, TMSC, Intel)?

  • NeverAgain

    Mea culpa wrt to AnandTech. I had it totally backwards. What I remembered, however, was two weeks after that article appeared (July 3), Imagination announced committing to providing a updated PowerVR “specification summary” on its website for end users (July 17).

    Look, I want you guys to succeed, I really do. When everything is one-size-fits-all like Apple, it doesn’t matter what’s under the hood/bonnet (or is that dickey?), but with Android you know that users care, and mindshare/word-of-mouth is important. But stopping your thinking at Android is committing a sin. For example there is Chrome OS. You may say that both of these are from Google, but that’s ignoring that it could have been created by anyone. STBs, a traditional MIPS stronghold, are ripe for innovation, yet they’re stuck in the dark ages, which is why Chromecast, an ARM device, became successful. Anyway, what I’m trying to stress that by packaging your IP with software, Imagination thinks that it is providing a complete solution for its customers, but these customers lack the creativity and guile to make anything new, they only compete in markets that themselves are already competing on price, and often price alone. But instead by performing a little more work, co-ordinating with the open-source world, you enable your IP to be part of something totally unforeseen. That is real power.

  • That was another article, this is what Ryan published in February initially:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7793/imaginations-powervr-rogue-architecture-exposed

    We could talk for hours about this topic but I thin this post summarizes my opinion on the matter of open sourcing our drivers (in case you aren’t one of the guys posting there too).

    http://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/2auxyg/weve_released_the_smallest_gpu_capable_of_running/cizqgmv

    Thanks,
    Alex.

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  • NeverAgain

    Thanks for posting your thoughts, Alex.

    I guess the market will decide.

  • Virat Kohli

    Great announcement. How is the 32 bit P class more powerful than the 64 bit I class. Will there be a 64bit P class?

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  • P-class processors typically have a deeper pipeline which means you can clock them higher. We’ve brought a lot of features from the high-end to I-class too, including instruction bonding and SIMD but we’ve focused on ultimate efficiency (the best possible performance at the lowest area and reduced power). P-class deliver ultimate performance (best-in-class performance at reduced power and incremental area increase).

    When we introduced the Warrior family, we have announced that we were developing a full roadmap of 32- an 64-bit MIPS CPUs; beyond that, I can’t really make any comments at this point.

    Regards,
    Alex.

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  • Luca

    It sounds like a great and revolutionary CPU. I can’t wait to see some final product in the market. Good luck with the competitors out there…and the all the comments in the Anandtech article…;)!!

  • Luca

    But can we all understand what are you really talking about? Are you giving a lesson how to sell licenses to one of the biggest IP designer in the market? Did you realise Imag sells IP design world-wide to so many semiconductors you might not even have the clue? Apple is the biggest, by all means, but the others you mentioned have been partner with Imagination by ages!! Alex is describing a new product which you may see in some devices soon, I can’t see anything wrong in that. What do you expect that they describe their product as crap with low benchmark/performance?!! I am not sure in which part of the reality you belong to…

  • Luca

    They are advertising a CPU, not GPU. So FPS of games don’t make any sense, get it?

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  • Luca

    How does ARM convince semiconductors to implement their products? Showing diagrams, performances and this sort of things. And so does Imagination!! There is not rocket science in that!!

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  • Eponymos

    What is ALU’s latency?For example how many clock cycles need
    add r1,r2,r3
    addi r4,r1,1
    to complete?

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  • wat

    Wow, what a fucking spastic. As if CPU power does not effect graphics performance.

  • wat

    Big? If Qualcomm, Samsung, MediaTek, Intel, etc are not interested in producing chips then I’m sorry but in no way are MIPS CPUs big in the market (we are talking smartphones and tablets here, afterall). If they were so obviously good they would be in the smartphone and tablet market already, not trying to convince people they should join them. Apple don’t produce any chips and by far they are not the biggest, you clearly know jack shit about the market.

  • wat

    By the way, this is a SoC too, System.. on… a… chip for the noob who doesn’t know what it means. The CPU and GPU are specced and locked here and therefore an FPS value for [insert] game is perfectly logical in comparison to X SOC which has Y CPU and Z GPU. Get a clue idiot.

  • Clemens Eisserer

    I would prefer absolute numbers of real-world benchmarks, instead of rather syntehtic and abstract benchmarks like Coremark (or an absolutly useless DMIPS rating).

    By the way, hopefully there’s be soon open-source drivers when combined with PowerVR graphics.

  • TimBob

    This is great news and very welcome to see Imagination gradually turning up the heat on the ‘other 2’ cpu vendors in the mobile space. Just one question Alex, why did IMG release a 32Bit P5600? I mean one of the advantages of MIPS is it’s seamless approach to 32/64Bit compatibility, so why not simply release 32/64Bit capable CPU designs? I can understand why you would release 32Bit only designs for the ‘M’ level but why for the mid and performance levels?

  • Things got a little heated and I had to remove certain comments. Please debate in a civilized manner and try to avoid using inappropriate language.

  • CoreMark has been created to avoid some of the issues with DMIPS so it is a modern benchmark that reflects real world performance. SPECint is an useful benchmark too.

    The problem you have with any CPU launch is the only way to show performance in complicated scenarios is using a system. We do not manufacture chips but instead license and design IP therefore (this is valid for direct competitors too) we can only offer guidance on certain workloads in public-facing materials.

    Regards,
    Alex.

  • Thanks, I think we have to keep providing more materials for readers who might not be familar with MIPS so they have a more informed vision of the CPU IP landscape

  • There is still demand for 32-bit at the high-end and mid-range. Moving to a 64-bit architecture has a lot of advantages but it might also involve power and area sacrifices. For some, those sacrifices don’t really make sense so they are very happy with a very fast yet compact and power efficient 32-bit CPU.

    This is even more relevant for silicon vendors who are not yet prepared to move down to sub-20 nm process nodes since 28 nm still offers an extremely competitive performance/dollar ratio.

    Regards,
    Alex.

  • I think you are confusing things a bit. It is true that a lot of the focus in chip design today (certainly in terms of media coverage) is being placed on mobile. But mobile is only a piece of a big pizza that includes embedded, networking, consumer electronics, and others.

    In those markets, MIPS has a strong presence (in some cases it is a market leader). Therefore, this CPU is relevant for a lot of things that you also use every day like digital TVs, broadband routers etc.

    Additionally, you also seem to not be aware of the fact that several companies (Apple, LG, Samsung) are OEMs (i.e. make consumer products) and silicon manufacturers (i.e. make chips) at the same time. Some have their own fabs (Samsung) others send their ICs to foundries like TSMC, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, UMC etc.

  • wat

    This is retarded, good luck when the only people rooting for you are idiots like Luca below who thinks CPU and a SoC overall cannot change FPS in a game.

  • Zhengchun Liu

    I agree with you. especially the developers and students. What are the advantage and disadvantage of a MIPS architecture…….

  • Zhengchun Liu

    similar as ARM(who does not make chips)?

  • TimBob

    Ok thanks for the reply Alex. Looking forward to seeing the 64Bit P-Class variant soon. Also hopefully we’ll get to see a full IMG’d based tablet/smartphone in the not too distant future that features IMG CPU and GPU IP along with perhaps a smattering of vision/video/communication IP thrown in there for good measure… Only a matter of time now me thinks!

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  • randhome

    Would be interesting to see a Parallella board with i6400 cores instead of ARM v7. The future looks awesome.

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  • Marcos Mora

    Do you plan to support HSA on your SoC MIPS+PowerVR? this is a move pushed by AMD on its APU with GCN GPU architecture. Does i6400 have the hardware to implement it? how about the other IP cores you have? the future?

  • Hi,

    We don’t manufacture SoCs, we design and license processor IP – the main building blocks of any chipset.

    As a founding member of the HSA Foundation, we have been collaborating with our peers to finalize and ratify the specifications.
    http://www.hsafoundation.com/three-core-hsa-foundation-specification-are-available/

    The next step is to bring these features to mobile and embedded devices. Unfortunately, I can’t share any more with you at this stage since this work is currently in progress.

    Regards,
    Alex.

  • deathmaster

    So will this Run Linux with FULL H/W Acceleration and 3D?

  • deathmaster

    What about their Single Core performance or IPC? I run programs like Dosbox and Qemu how well will this MIPS run these APPS?

  • Yes, when paired with one of our PowerVR Rogue GPUs.

  • deathmaster

    But it takes more than just having a PowerVR Rogue GPU onboard you also need the drivers to go along with it.

  • Agreed, this is why we’re now looking at how we can better supply the developer community with what they need to get Linux ported to MIPS-based platforms using PowerVR GPUs.

    For example, the Creator CI20 has PowerVR SGX source code for the kernel side; it runs OpenGL 2.1 with full hardware acceleration.
    https://github.com/MIPS/CI20_linux
    We are exploring other options too.

  • Alex Alexandrewitsch

    I want a legendary mips product. Asap start produce smartphnoes

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  • Mehmed

    I would say PowerVR 8(XT) Series and a completely new 64 Bit High End Processor which is also efficient (better then the Cortex A72 in efficiency, power and die size) and MIPS is finally back.
    Of course there is a lot of support to do.
    Of course in 16/14nm finfet.
    I’m wishing you all the best.
    And i would like to know if PowerVR will have 32 Cores (for now it is 16 Cores, 512 Shader) Such a 1024 Shader iGPU from Imagination coupled with a new 8 Core 64 Bit CPU could easyly beat the PS4, couldn’t it?