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Newton Mini-Board Aims at Wearables, Embedded Devices

An infographic about the Newton CPU from Ingenic Semiconductor's website. Credit: Ingenic Semiconductor.

(Image credit: An infographic about the Newton CPU from Ingenic Semiconductor's website. Credit: Ingenic Semiconductor.)

When it comes to wearable technology, size matters. The computer at the heard of a wearable device needs to be small enough to fit onto something like a wristband or pair of glasses, but large enough to process complex calculations, connect to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and have a decent battery life.

Enter the Newton: This tiny new single-board computer is about the size of two quarters laid side-by-side, but it can run a full version of Android just like a smartphone. Developed by Beijing-based engineering firm Ingenic Semiconductor, the Newton features the first MIPS-based CPU for wearables.

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According to Ingenic's website, the Newton mini-board is 21.6mm by 38.4mm and 3.2 mm thick. It has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as an NFC chip and and an FM receiver. Onboard sensors can detect temperature, humidity, pressure and EKG (the heart's electrical activity).

It's also very low-power: In standby mode, the Newton board uses 4 milliwatts. At its lowest running power, it consumes 80 milliwatts; while playing MP3s, it consumes under 100 milliwatts; and at its highest setting, it consumes less than 260 milliwatts.

Newton's other stats include a graphics core capable of outputting 720p content at 30 frames per second and 3 GB of memory.

Ingenic says the Newton board is capable of running a full Android operating system. But Alexandru Voica, a spokesman for Imagination Technologies, which bought MIPS Technologies last year, told PC World that the Newton's CPU is not yet compatible with Android Wear, Google's wearable operating system.

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Jill Scharr is a creative writer and narrative designer in the videogame industry. She previously worked as a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide, covering video games, online security, 3D printing and tech innovation.