Imagination Goes After Linux and Android Smart Devices with Its New Catapult APXM-6200 RISC-V CPU

Following its earlier 32-bit real-time design, Imagination is launching a "performance-dense" 64-bit RISC-V core targeting the smart home.

Imagination Technologies has announced a new entry in its Catapult range of licensable soft-core CPUs built around the free and open source RISC-V architecture: the "performance-dense" APXM-6200.

"Imagination removes the barriers for companies looking to benefit from RISC-V based designs," Imagination's Shreyas Derashri claims of the company's latest launch. "We are heavily investing in the open-source software ecosystem so that when APXM-6200 ships in silicon, the software stacks will be available and performant.

"On the hardware side, our engineering team follows a rigorous design and verification process, perfected over Imagination’s thirty years' experience of designing and supporting complex semiconductor IP, to ensure that Catapult CPUs are of the highest quality and built with customer satisfaction in mind."

Imagination has announced a new entry in its Catapult RISC-V core family, the application-class APXM-6200. (📹: Imagination Technologies)

Imagination announced the Catapult RISC-V CPU family back in December 2021, four years after it had exited the market with the sale of its MIPS division in 2017 — a spin-off that has since announced its own adoption of the RISC-V architecture, in place of the similarly-RISC but proprietary architecture which bears its name. The first commercial core in the Catapult range, the 32-bit RTXM-2200, followed in June 2022, tailored for real-time workloads.

This time, the company is focusing on performance-focused application-class workloads. The APXM-6200 is an 11-stage dual-issue pipeline design that implements the 64-bit RV64I version of the RISC-V architecture, delivering what the company claims is "a 65 per cent improvement in normalized performance and a 2.5x improvement in normalized performance density compared to equivalent CPUs already on the market."

The core will be usable in single-, dual-, and quad-core configurations, the company has confirmed, and includes the ratified version of the RISC-V vector and vector cryptographic extensions for improved performance with machine learning and artificial intelligence (ML and AI) workloads.

On the software front, Imagination has said the core is "Android and Linux ready," though has not detailed whether this represents mainstream releases of both or vendor-specific customized versions. The cores will likely find a home, the company hopes, in smart TVs, digital signage, and smart home systems — and can be paired with one of Imagination's licensable GPU designs for such tasks.

"Imagination has shown leadership both within the RISC-V community and across the industry with dedication to bringing compelling innovations to market," says RISC-V International chief executive officer Calista Redmond in support of the company's launch. "Imagination's strategic investment in RISC-V is a fantastic example of the unique design potential that only RISC-V offers through a set of modular standard specifications together with proprietary differentiation."

More information on the Catapult family is available on the RISC-V website, while the company has confirmed it will be showcasing the new core during Embedded World in Nuremberg this week in Hall 4, Booth #4-659. It has yet, however, to name any design wins or set a schedule for the core's appearance in commercial silicon.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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