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ARM launches new high-end CPU and GPU cores

ARM cortex a73 and mali g71

UK mobile chip designer ARM has unveiled its latest high-end processor and graphics cores, which should feature in many of 2017’s flagship smartphones.

The Cortex A73 CPU core is the successor, as you might expect, to last year’s Cortex A72. ARM isn’t making such lofty claims about performance gains this time, promising a 30% increase over the A72, but is keen to bring attention to its power-efficiency improvements which, after all, is what ARM is all about.

“These products are the cornerstones of our flagship, premium IP for 2017 premium devices,”  John Ronco – CPU Product Marketing VP at ARM told Telecoms.com. “We’ve already licensed them to multiple customers so you can expect to see SoCs in production at the end of this year, which means devices in consumers’ hands in the first half of 2017.

“We’ve shipped 25 billion chips in the past two years. Over five billion people are using an ARM-based mobile phone now, but there are many other embedded computing applications using ARM. Since 2009 phone have increased massively in complexity; there are many more sensors, the screens are bigger, and what we’ve been able to do over that time is to increase the CPU performance 100x and the GPU performance 300x.”

The slide below shows how successive high-end Cortex A CPU cores compare to 2011’s Cortex A7. While relative performance has steadily risen, power consumption has gone in the opposite direction.

ARM Cortex A73 power performance

On the graphics side, the Mali G71 has been built using a new microarchitecture called Bifrost, which promises a 50% performance increase on its predecessor. “Mali is the number one shipping GPU in the world, with over 750 million units shipped in 2015,” Jakub Lamik, GPU Product Marketing VP told Telecoms.com.

“We are introducing the new Bifrost GPU architecture; designed with a new instruction set, a new way of controlling the graphics content and compatible with the latest graphics APIs, such as Vulkan and Open CL. The Mali G71 is the highest-performing Mali GPU ever, which will deliver 50% higher performance than the T-880.”

ARM Mali G71

Compared to previous major product launches there seems to be a particular emphasis on power efficiency in this announcement. ARM can’t afford to get complacent just because Intel has thrown in the towel as there are still alternatives to its chip designs.

One of the ARM’s unsung achievements has been to actually reduce the number of transistors in its chips, while still increasing their performance. Combined with process shrinks this enables ARM to keep improving both performance and power efficiency at the same time, on a smaller piece of silicon, an especially useful trick at the dawn of the IoT era.


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