There are plenty of ARM based development boards running Linux and Android, but with MIPS it’s a different story. Microchip does have some affordable development board powered by their MIPS MCUs, but these don’t have the hardware specs to run Linux based operating systems, and Ingenic Newton Platform for wearables can run Android and Linux, but it appears to be reversed to companies with virtual no documentation. There are some MIPS platform running OpenWRT on hardware such as routers or Wi-Fi boards, but these can’t be considered fully supported development boards. But Imagination Technologies is trying to make MIPS more relevant, first by launching Prpl developers’ community, and MIPS Creator CI20 development board powered by Ingenic JZ4780 dual core MIPS32 (Xburst) core processor with PowerVR SGX540 GPU should soon be available with complete documentation and source code.
Let’s go through the hardware specifications first:
- SoC – Ingenic JZ4780 dual core MIPS32 processor @ 1.2 GHz with Imagination PowerVR SGX540 GPU. 32kI + 32kD per core, 512K shared L2.
- System Memory – 1GB DDR3
- Storage – 8GB NOR flash, 1x SD card slot, 1x SD card slot via expansion
- Video Output – HDMI up to 1080p
- Audio I/O – HDMI, Andio In and Out via 3.5mm jack
- Video Playback – Up to 1080p60
- Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, Wi-Fi + Bt 4.0 module (IW8103)
- USB – 1x USB OTG, 1x USB 2.0 Host.
- Expansions Headers – Access to 23x GPIOs, 2x SPI, 1x I2S, 7x ADC on header, including 5-wire touch and battery monitoring function, 1x UART, Transport Stream I/F.
- Debugging – UART, and 14-pin MIPS EJTAG header
- Misc – IR receiver, power LED, and button
- Power Supply – 5V via 4mm/1.7mm barrel connector
- Dimensions – 90x95mm
The board will come pre-loaded with Debian 7, but more operating systems will soon be available such as Android, Gentoo, Yocto Sato, Arch Linux, and Angstrom. Software and hardware documentation is available on eLinux. Hardware documentation includes components’ datasheets including JZ4780m, header pinout, and the schematics in PDF format only, so the project is not open source hardware, but it’s the case for most ARM development boards too. The source code for Linux, U-Boot, as well as various hardware libs for JZ4780 is available on Imagination Technologies MIPS github account, which instructions provided via eLinux Wiki which is still in construction, but looks promising. Software projects in the pipeline include XBMC, TSSI tuner, and a Raspberry Pi compatibility layer with the R-Pi like header, as well as support for OpenOCD.
The board has not been formally announced, so I do not know when it will become available, nor the price, but based on the Wiki’s progress, it should be very soon, and be sold on Imagination Technologies e-store for a competitive price since it’s clearly made for hobbyists / makers / individual developers.
Thanks to Frederic for the idea.
Jean-Luc started CNX Software in 2010 as a part-time endeavor, before quitting his job as a software engineering manager, and starting to write daily news, and reviews full time later in 2011.