Imagination Technologies has officially launched its MIPS-based Creator CI20 single-board computer, looking to snag itself a share of the maker market while eschewing the traditional ARM architecture.

The company announced the board last month, allowing a select few early adopters to put forward a case for receiving a free unit. The oddly-shaped board, the footprint of which suggests it was originally developed with a specific application in mind before being spun into a general-purpose development board, features a dual-core 1.2GHz using the MIPS instruction set architecture - a major departure from the near-ubiquitous ARM architecture shared by the bulk of rival boards. With stock of the freebies now exhausted, the company has announced opening of pre-orders for the board at a price which it hopes will tempt the hobbyists away from the Raspberry Pi with a view to deliver units by January 2015.

As well as its dual-core 1.2GHz 32-bit MIPS central processor, the board's system-on-chip (SoC) includes PowerVR SGX540 graphics processing hardware with OpenGL 2.1 and OpenGL ES 2.0 support and a dedicated video codec offering 1080p decoding at 30 frames per second in an unspecified but 'low' power envelope. The board also includes 1GB of DDR3 memory, 8GB of NAND flash storage with SD-card expansion, on-board 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and GPIO capabilities. The system arrives pre-loaded with a customised version of Debian 7 Linux, while Android 4.4 - but not, yet at least, Android 5.0 - is available for post-purchase installation, with more distributions including Yocta and Gentoo promised in the near future.

So far, the board compares very favourably to the single-core 700MHz Raspberry Pi with its 512MB of RAM. As expected, however, the Pi has a definite edge in pricing: while the Raspberry Pi Model B variants can be picked up for as little as £25, the Creator CI20 hits the market at £50 - although with higher specifications, on-board storage with a pre-installed operating system, and a bundled international power adapter. Imagination Technologies has also announced support for FlowCloud, its in-house Internet of Things (IoT) platform.

'We are very excited to be taking part in the growing interest within the open source and maker communities for affordable, fully featured development platforms,' claimed Tony King-Smith, executive vice president of marketing for Imagination, at the launch. 'Creator CI20 has been designed for people who want high performance and advanced features for their development projects and to create access at the software and hardware level to allow creativity to come to the fore.'

Pre-orders are open now at the official webshop with a promised January 2015 delivery schedule.
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