Many embedded geeks think that what will be their future if they invest time, effort and money in PIC32 family of microcontrollers from Microchip. Will their investment be secured, for instance, those choosing ARM Cortex-M3 based MCUs like those offered from TI, NXP, ST etc. The ARM users are confident that their experience will bring fruits when they will upgrade towards Cortex-R and Cortex-A series of relatively high end processors. One thing is also being observed that after these power MCUs, one often tends to go for MPUs (application processors) rather than staying at MCUs. While MIPS M4k/14k and are designed for general purpose embedded and deep embedded applications, especially for MCUs, up above them are mostly MPU rather than MCUs.
An interesting thing to note is that Microchip has licensed MIPS M14k and M14Kc core families for their future offerings so it seems obvious that they are committed to this architecture and will bring more powerful MCUs based on it.
Anyways, here are some the vendors which offer general purpose MPUs based on MIPS processor cores.
Ingenic Semiconductor’s MIPS32 based XBurst series: From JZ4750 to JZ4770 they are offering 360MHz to 1GHz clock speeds. These chips are very power efficient with power consumption down to 0.05 mW/MHz and with performance upto 2.5 DMIPS/MHz performances; amazing! JZ series has been successfully used in many tablets including Cruz tab. Ingenic has been a very successful story for MIPS. They are offering tools for WinCE, Linux and Android.
Toshiba TX39 and TX49 Series: TX39 is MIPS32 based while TX49 is MIPS64 based product. The clock speed ranges from 200MHz to 660MHz. The products are targeted towards digital entertainment and multimedia applications.
NetLogic’s Alchemy series: The processor family is targeted towards ultra low power embedded microprocessor applications. From Au1000 to Au1380, they provide varying degree of speed vs power performance. The good thing about alchemy series is that they offer built-in MCU-like peripheral set including GPIO, 10/100 Ethernet Controllers, USB Device and Host, UARTs, IrDA Controller (SIR, MIR and FIR), AC-97 Controller, I2S Controller, SSI Controllers and LCD Controller. This chiefly brings them closer to MCU features with MPU capabilities and tool sets.
SiS’s Android-based SoCs: SiS681 integrates a 32 bit 576 MHz microprocessor with 32KB/16KB L1 I/D- cache size, 32 bit 1.3GHz DDRIII memory subsystem up to 512MB, 266MHz 2D graphic engine, x8 NAND Flash & SD/MMC interfaces, and 10/100 Ethernet Medium Access Controller.
SiS691 is featuring Open GL ES2.0/1.0 3D graphic engine, 3DStereoscopic display engine supporting 50/60Hz Pattern Retarder type of 3D LCD panels, VP6, WebM VP8 and Multi-View Coding (MVC) video format support as part of SiS Universal Video Decoder (UVD), dual channel DDR3-1333 memory controller, MIPS-based CPU as well as 400MHz audio DSP processor.
PMC-Sierra: The processor solutions are offered with Standalone processors pin-compatible and software upgradeable from250 MHz to 1 GHz, Low standby and operating power (as low as 100 mW and 1 W, respectively), Integrated processors up to 1 GHz with standard interfaces like PCI,GigE, DDR SDRAM, EJTAG, and built-in IPSEC security, Wide support from Third-Party Development Partners. PMC-Sierra’s market is networking devices.
There are, off-course, many other options but above are the most notable. There are obviously many way-outs after PIC32 but usually MCU geeks are unaware of those. I little research tells the story that there are many “brotherly” MPU vendors of them and the expertise gained after PIC32 MCU will surely bring fruits in the future. What needs to improve is, however, the MIPS marketing strategy. They need to “highlight” their architecture like ARM does; i.e., every chip that carries ARM core inside, ARM is boldly written on it. As far as the performance of cores is concerned, MIPS is not less, if not greater, than ARM rival.