ARM launches fastest mobile CPU core yet

UK low power chip designer ARM has announced the launch of its latest flagship CPU design – the Cortex-A72 – which promises almost double the performance and the energy efficiency of the previous high-end CPU design, the Cortex-A57.

ARM announced the new design, which is likely to find its way into chips such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon and Apple’s A-series, alongside a suite of other designs, including a new Mali graphics core and a new CoreLink interconnect.

“Our new premium mobile experience IP suite with the Cortex-A72 processor delivers a decisive step forward from the compelling user experiences provided by this year’s Cortex-A57 based devices,” said Pete Hutton, president, products groups, ARM. “For multiple generations, together with our partners, we have delivered the leading-edge of the premium mobile experience. Building on this, in 2016 the ARM ecosystem will deliver even slimmer, lighter, more immersive mobile devices that serve as your primary and only compute platform.”

One of the big contributors to the improvements in performance and power efficiency is the move from a 22nm manufacturing process to a 16nm FinFET+ one. The measurement essentially refers to the size of each transistor and as they get smaller you can fit more of them into the same space. The Cortex-A72 is designed to operate at a frequency of 2.5GHz within the constrained power envelope required by mobile applications., but could clock even higher in, say, a server context.

ARM A72 slide 3

ARM A72 slide 4


ARM has already signed up major Qualcomm competitor Mediatek as a Cortex-A72 licensee. “The pace of innovation in mobile is accelerating at an unprecedented rate, which means we need to deliver the latest technology to our customers as fast as possible,” said Joe Chen, SVP of MediaTek. “We are pleased to partner with ARM for the launch of Cortex-A72, bringing the ARMv8-A architecture to market with leading performance and energy-efficiency benchmarks. Ultimately it is all about providing a better experience for end users as the complexity of applications, content and devices increases.”

As well as enabling ever more processing power to be crammed into mobile devices, ARM’s also wants to make the case for using its designs in server chips, where Intel is currently dominant. Meanwhile the launch of a suite of designs in one go is possibly designed to encourage customers to license the whole package, which has implications in ARM’s graphics core competition with fellow UK outfit Imagination Technologies.

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