Many Android users are so familiar with the ARM processing architecture that they do not realize that Android also supports Intel and MIPS. ARM is obviously the current leader, but many are now watching Intel starting to flex their mobile muscle a bit with their new Haswell Bay Trail chip – certainly some welcomed competition in the Android world. However, Imagination Technologies, who designs the MIPS processor, is also a very viable alternative. I was surprised how long it finally took Intel to up their mobile game, but it looks like both Intel and MIPS processors are coming along just in time to compete for the next big transition in the Android world – 64-bit processors.
It is funny that most of us that never heard of the 64-bit MIPS architecture think of it as new, when in reality, it has been around almost 20 years. Today, Imagination technologies just announced their latest design in the new MIPS l-class l6400 CPU family of processors for a wide range of applications – including mobile. With Google announcing that their new operating system, Android L, will support for all three 64-bit architectures – ARM, Intel and MIPS – l6400 brings to the table several Android specific optimizations that Imagination Technologies believes should make them an Android favorite.
Multiple cores is another hot buzzword in processors – we went to dual-core, then to quad-core, and of course we have the Octa-core. With MPIS l6400, they can build processors using multiple cores or multiple clusters of cores – each cluster can have up to six cores and they can put up to 64 clusters on one chip – 6 x 64 = 384 cores! There is a lot of flexibility built into the l6400's design. Another key area is multi-threading – you can have up to four threads per core and by using SMT (simultaneous multi-threading) it allows one core to execute multiple instructions.
Imagination Technologies has made sure that all they included their PowerGearing technology as well to make sure their processor can draw as little power from the battery as possible – this technology allows dormant clusters to remain asleep when not needed. They have ensured that "every iteration of…Android L runs optimally" on their MIPS architecture. It can handle both 32-bit and 64-bit without the need for any separate ISAs or any mode switching. They already have multiple licensees across multiple markets for this new processor, so it will be interesting to see if it shows up in any Android smartphones in 2015.