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Imagination creates Warrior MIPS-based chips for smartphones

Imagination Technologies has lifted the curtain on its MIPS P5600 central processor core, the UK chip designer's first Warrior P-class CPU design for mobile devices, consumer electronics products, and embedded systems.

The vast majority of consumer smartphones and tablets currently use chips with CPU designs based on the ARM or x86 architectures. Chips based on the MIPS, or Microprocessor without Interlocked Pipeline Stages, instruction set architecture (ISA) are for the most part used in embedded systems like routers and Windows CE devices.

In introducing MIPS P5600, Imagination made the case for a third architecture in the mobile device market, promising "industry-leading 32-bit performance together with class-leading low-power characteristics in a silicon footprint up to 30 percent smaller than comparable CPU cores."

Companies licensing the MIPS P5600 will be able to design up to six-core CPUs with "advanced features such as support for multiple security contexts, large address spaces and advanced SIMD processing," Imagination said.

The Series 5 "Warrior P-class" CPU design supports full 128-bit SIMD processing, hardware virtualisation capabilities, advanced addressing, "next-generation security to address modern media delivery requirements," and can be implemented in CPUs clocking at up to 2GHz.

Imagination also said that its Warrior product family would grow to include 64-bit variants tailored for System-on-a-Chip (SoC) products over the course of the next year.

"We are proud to announce this first MIPS 'Warrior P-class' CPU. This is about much more than the arrival of yet another CPU IP core. This is the start of something much bigger – the rollout of a comprehensive family of next-generation CPUs that will change the CPU IP landscape forever," Tony King-Smith, Imagination's executive vice president of marketing, said in a statement.

"As we continue to roll out MIPS Series5 products to address the applications spectrum from entry-level to the high-end, we will provide levels of performance, efficiency and functionality that surpass other offerings in the market. Many more Warriors are coming."

Imagination pitched the P5600 as "ideal for SoCs" built for phones, tablets, micro-servers, home and office networking systems, and connected consumer products "such as set-top boxes, DTVs, and multiroom multi-channel audio systems."

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy, said MIPS products looked great in theory but faced an uphill struggle in the ultra-competitive consumer device market.

"The new P5600 chip offers 32-bits in a world that is aggressively moving to 64-bits. On paper, MIPS is showing it outperforms today's competitive set based on ARM and x86, but I will wait for independent benchmarks to verify those claims," Moorhead said.

"The larger question is whether there is room for a major, third ISA in the marketplace with ARM licensees and Intel competing so hard against each other and swallowing the ecosystem resources."

Imagination said it would begin licensing the P5600 design in the current quarter. Licensees will be able to design SoCs with the new MIPS-based CPU core in combination with other core designs licensable from Imagination, including PowerVR graphics and video, Ensigma radio communications, and FlowCloud platform products, the company said.

Imagination acquired fabless semiconductor design firm MIPS Technologies in February of this year.