MIPS I6400 – Just Another 64-bit Architecture for Android?
Android is probably one of the most versatile operating systems to date. It shows too as there are currently three major processing architecture that Android supports; ARM, Intel and MIPS. At this point we have to clarify a few things so that you readers will not be confused with processor manufacturers and designer. For starters if you are now thinking of why the name Qualcomm, Samsung, and NVidia did not get mentioned, it is because they are manufacturers, not designers of the processor architecture. How they construct their processors and how they clock them varies from one manufacturer to another but they al rely on processor designers to work and manufacture their processors. The manufacturers above have one thing in common though when it comes to the architecture of choice. They all fit ARM’s architecture in their construction but all tune it differently. Intel is now still trailing, but mounting sort of an attempt to catch up to ARM in the leader by promoting their own branded processors as well. The other player in the market MIPS is much less heard of but it does exist.
Imagination Technologies does sound like an imaginary name with imaginary company background. The fact is though the company behind MIPS has been established for a long long time and is a competitor to Intel when it comes to corporate IT systems. So naturally as one of the major designers it would want to compete in the next big thing; mobile computing, smartphones and the likes. More specifically though they would be competing for the 64-bit processing in the next generation Android L. 64-bit computing is not particularly new as we know it. It has been a standard in the PC industry for some time now and as for Imagination Technologies, they had the technology for 20 years already so it is not like they come into the business unprepared.
Hardware wise the I6400 can offer manufacturers to set it up with the standard run of the mill multiple core construction. But this processor is more advanced, sophisticated, and flexible than that. What manufacturers can do is to build it in cluster formats instead of putting together cores as its construction. In multiple cluster configuration the I6400 can fit up to 64 clusters in one chip. If that sounds plenty enough already, each cluster can fit up to 6 cores. Say hello to 384 cores in your new processor. It is possible, but we do not think that they will go with that many cores due to cost. But that being said the I6400 is a brand new super flexible platform for manufacturers in the very near future with almost limitless potential. For all we know the next Samsung or HTC flagship could come with 24 cores available. What’s more about the cores of the I6400 is that they are built with up to four threading on each core. Known as the Simultaneous Multi-Threading, it allows each core to perform multiple tasks at one go.
With the kind of potential this CPU possess it is hard not to think about power consumption, especially with the cluster configuration fitting in so many cores into one processor. Actually there is nothing to worry about when it comes to that with the PowerGearing. It is a power management tool built into the I6400 itself to manage activities of each core. Manufacturers can in fact program the clock and voltage of each core as they see fit allowing clusters or cores that are not needed remain asleep.
Imagination says that a few manufacturers are already developing new processors based on the I6400 architecture. They also mentioned that the earliest we will see a I6400 powered device will be at the end of this year. So it looks like there is a new player in the block and by the looks of it, it is going to be a very interesting year for Android next year on.