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MIPS-based Linux hacker SBC gets squared

May 12, 2015 — by Eric Brown 3,353 views

[Updated May 14] — Imagination released a new version of its MIPS-based Creator CI20 hacker board with a squared-off design, better WiFi, and a built-in FlowCloud IoT API.

Imagination Technologies, which licenses MIPS processor IP, launched the MIPS-based, Linux- and Android-ready Creator CI20 hacker SBC last December, and shipped it shortly thereafter. The company has now released an update with a redesigned PCB layout that squares off the previous indent and wing. In the process, several components have shifted position, and Imagination has added more mounting holes to make it easier to attach to different platforms, such as robots.

Updated Creator CI20 (left) and original version with wing and indent
(click images to enlarge)

There are no functional differences in the new board, which appears to have a nearly-square footprint of 93 x 94mm. However, the redesign is said to improve WiFi performance and make the board easier to mount in cases. In addition, you can now download design files to 3D print your own enclosure (see image below).

New CI20 3D case render
(click image to enlarge)

Imagination has also added built-in support for its cloud-based FlowCloud API for Internet of Things device management on the board’s Debian 7 Linux distribution. The Creator CI20 previously supported FlowCloud, but the service is now available “out of the box,” complete with an SDK, services, and free starter apps for iOS and Android, says Imagination.

FlowCloud in action coordinating CI20 and chipKIT Wi-FIRE inputs in sensor application
(click image to enlarge)

FlowCloud, which enables applications including security, personal and professional health monitoring, energy management, and cloud-based systems for content delivery, is also supported by other MIPS-based development boards, including Digilent’s non-Linux, MIPS MicroAptiv based chipKIT Wi-FIRE. The diagram above shows how FlowCloud coordinates the transmission of sensor input from the microcontroller-based chipKIT Wi-FIRE to the Creator CI20 board for processing, which then returns commands to the chipKIT Wi-FIRE device via the same cloud service.

The Android 4.4 build for the Creator CI20 has been enhanced with audio over HDMI and Bluetooth supports, as well as new built-in Ethernet settings; audio jack auto-detection, and audio recording. In addition, the board will soon support USB storage on Android devices, says Imagination.

More Creator CI20 views
(click images to enlarge)

Other software updates in the works include a Linux update to kernel 3.18, “which will offer a boost in vital performance areas such as memory speed and graphics,” says the company. For example, the NAND flash memory driver is expected to deliver 30 percent faster boot and application launch times.


As before, the Creator CI20 runs features a dual MIPS core Ingenic JZ4780 SoC, with Imagination’s own PowerVR SGX540 GPU, which supports OpenGL 2.1 and OpenGL ES 2.0. The Creator CI20 ships with 1GB of DDR3 DRAM, 4GB NAND flash, and an SD slot. The SBC communicates externally with a 10/100 Ethernet port, as well as both WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. An HDMI port supports video at up to 2K at 60fps.

Additional features include USB OTG and host ports, a CMOS camera input, and an audio in/out jack. You also get multiple analog inputs and digital I/Os, and a pair of serial UARTs. Other I/O includes a 14-pin MIPS JTAG header.

Further information

The updated, square form-factor Creator CI20 boards are available for pre-order for the same $65 (£50 in Europe) price at the Imagination Store. More information on the update may be found in this Imagination blog entry.

(advertise here)

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One response to “MIPS-based Linux hacker SBC gets squared”

  1. jezra says:

    Do the software updates include any Open Source drivers? haha just kidding, Imagination Technologies just wants to license their IP, and giving back o the community isn’t of much interest.

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