Only people with a crazy obsession for education, for prototyping, willing to share with communities their skills and knowledge, could have built development boards such as the Arduino, Raspberry Pi or BeagleBone Black.
Following a growing trend, the list of development boards is open. Even if the hobbyists and hackers are focused on the old family of tools, they might have some surprises. One surprise is the MIPS Creator CI20.
Why do we need a new development board since we have plenty of ARM boards running Linux and Android? There are different opinions, but with MIPS it’s a different story. The British company Imagination Technologies has recently designed the Creator CI20 based on MIPS (an acronym for Microprocessor without Interlocked Pipeline Stages) – a technology with primary implementations in embedded systems.
How would it be for you to go to the store to buy a milk box, but before entering store you have to withdraw money from ATM? Definitely it would be a waste of time and quite annoying. Unlike the Raspberry Pi, the MIPS Creator CI20 comes pre-loaded with Debian Linux on its 4GB of built-in memory. It’s also featured with SD card expendability, enabling comfortable space for content such as video, images and more.
Engineered to work out of the box, all you need to start the “LED project” are a USB keyboard, USB mouse and a HDMI monitor.
The 1.2 GHz processor and 1GB of RAM are impressive for a development board, but having a price of $65, buyers would prefer to have double Pi features. Also, it would be nice to compare its performance with the one of a similar clocked Arm SOC.
After the cold shower with the price, comes the real kick. I and probably many of you don’t want to use the PowerVR GPU. I really don’t prefer the PowerVR GPU because it doesn’t have open source drivers, and not because I dislike its name. Even if the GPU has been found in Apple or Samsung smartphones for years, and although it’s capable of pushing 1080p video at 60fps via the HDMI port, the pain will persist till a new offer for the MIPS-based boards appears.
Not many development boards come pre-installed with an operating system. The MIPS Creator CI20 board comes pre-loaded with Debian 7 and can run several other operating systems such as Android, Gentoo, Arch Linux and Angstrom. Most developers prefer to play with Android, and this is good because the operating system supports ARM, MIPS and Intel architectures.
The prototyping board also supports 10/100 Ethernet with 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. Even if you won’t waste USB ports by plugging in a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi dongle, the CI20 has two full-sized USB ports for additional peripherals unlike the Raspberry Pi B+ that has more USB ports.
Compatible with 5V power supply, the MIPS Creator CI20 has a Raspberry Pi compatible expansion header that allows you to port Pi projects over the new board.
Clearly designed for hobbyists, makers, and individual developers, the Creator CI20 has enough resources to keep you motivated to build new stuffs.