STILL WAITING FOR Cortex-A9 ARM based smartphones to arrive? Well, we’ve got bad news for you, ARM has announced its next generation of ARM based cores, namely the Cortex-A15 family and the company is expecting five times the performance increase compared to its current crop of Cortex cores. However, we suggest that you go out and spend your cash on whatever tickles your fancy now, as the Cortex-A15 core won’t turn up in products until 2012 at the earliest, which might be a bit too long to wait if you’ve been thinking about upgrading your handset.
Now ARM based processors are used in a lot more things than smartphones, but let’s start with a quick look at what ARM has lined up for this market segment. We won’t be seeing a huge jump in processors speed, at least not according to the official word from ARM with the new mobile processors operating at between 1-1.5GHz with either a single or dual cores. However, thanks to some changes internally we should see much higher media and floating point performance and the new processors are meant to use less power which should equate to longer battery life. Graphics performance should also be improved, although as many of the ARM licensees use graphics from other companies than ARM, this might vary depending on who the final chips come from.
ARM is also targeting the Cortex-A15 cores towards other market such as digital home entertainment, web 2.0 servers and network attached storage and of course wireless infrastructure. With less stringent power and thermal requirements ARM is looking at anything from 1-2.5GHz options here in dual, quad and even octo core configurations. With support for more than 4GB of RAM and up to 1TB of local storage as well as hardware virtualization support, ARM should be able to put something of a dent in the x86 market if all goes according to plan. The new Cortex-A15 core also supports SMP processor clusters which mean that we might be seeing more ARM powered servers for specific usage scenarios in the future.
ARM claims that the new Cortex-A15 will be able to “decode and dispatch up to 3 instructions per cycle (3X that of an ARM11) and can issue up to 8 instructions per cycle resulting in very high real-world performance”. This is part of what is meant to give the new core its huge performance boost over ARM’s current generation of SoCs. It should also give Intel and AMD some serious competition in the entry level market space where at least Intel is putting a lot of focus on trying to get into the handheld device market.
ARM based processors won’t replace x86 everywhere though, however, the Cortex-A15 core shows that ARM is willing to take on Intel’s x86 everywhere program head on. Instead of being happy with the markets ARM already has the company seems to be busy finding new markets that will suit its low power cores. The Cortex-A15 has been designed to be manufactured at 32 or 28nm as well as whatever the future brings in manufacturing technologies. This should further help ARM to keep its power sipping processors doing what they do best. Retail products with the Cortex-A15 core aren’t expected until late 2012 or early 2013, so sadly we’ll have to wait quite some time until we’ll reap the benefits of this new ARM core. Luckily the Cortex-A9 should tide us over until then, at least according to ARM.S|A
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