Last year, Imagination launched the Creator Ci20, a development board that came with a low-power dual-core 1.0 GHz MIPS processor. (You can read our extensive hands-on here.) Now the company is releasing an upgraded version that comes with support for its FlowCloud IoT platform, a square form factor, a modified layout to optimize Wi-Fi speed and stability, and updated software for Linux and Android.
Imagination changed the shape of its board to make it easier to fit inside 3D printed cases, such as the one in the rendered image below:
When I had my hands-on with the Ci20 board last year, I noticed it didn't perform nearly as well as I expected on Android, and in fact it seemed slower than an equivalent Cortex-A7-based device with Android. Going by its specs, it should have been able to keep up:
Processor: 1.2 GHz dual-core, MIPS32-based Ingenic JZ4780 SoC, 32 kB L1 I- and D-cache, 512 kB L2 cacheFPU/SIMD: IEEE754 Floating Point Unit, XBurst MXUMultimedia: PowerVR SGX540 GPU, hardware-accelerated video playback up to 1080p at 60 fpsMemory: 1 GB DDR3 SDRAM, 8 GB flash memory, 1 x SD cardAudio: AC97 audio, via 4-pin input/output jack and HDMI connectorCamera interface: ITU-R BT.645 controllerConnectivity: 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0Display: 1 x HDMI up to 2K resolutionUSB: 1 x USB host, 1 x USB OTG deviceI/O peripherals: 2 x UART, 25 x GPIO, 2 x SPI, I2C, ADC, expansion headers, 14-pin EJTAG connector
The Linux performance, on the other hand, was much more acceptable, but hopefully, Imagination has managed to make both Linux and the new Android 4.4 build (no Lollipop support for now) work well on it. Imagination said the software will work on the older Creator Ci20 boards, too, so perhaps there are some performance gains to be had there as well.
The Android updates also contain a few new features such as audio over Bluetooth and HDMI, new built-in Ethernet settings, audio jack auto-detection, audio recording and USB storage support (still in progress).
The Linux upgrade includes the new 3.18 kernel, which brings significant improvements to memory speed and graphics performance. The NAND flash driver has also been updated to load the OS and its apps up to 30 percent faster.
Developers who download the Debian 7.0 distro from Imagination's eLinux website can find the FlowCloud IoT framework already pre-packaged into the OS. The package includes things like the SDK, services, free starter app for iOS and Android, and everything else that's needed to start connecting devices to the cloud.
If you already own a Creator Ci20, you can upgrade its Android or Linux operating system from this link.
Imagination has also opened up the new Creator Ci20 platform for pre-order in the U.S. as well as for Europe and other countries. Imagination announced that it will also offer interested developers a $10 discount for the board if they visit the company's tent at the Maker Faire.