ARM Reveals Cortex-A7 Chip, big.LITTLE Processing

Sub-$100 entry level smartphones will soon get a little extra skip in their step thanks to the ARM Cortex-A7 MPCore processor. Revealed on Wednesday, ARM claims the new chip is the most energy-efficient application class processor ARM has developed to date, delivering 5x the energy-efficiency and significantly greater performance while remaining one-fifth the size of the Cortex-A8 processor.

The company also revealed what it calls big.LITTLE processing which essentially controls two compatible but different processors installed within a single SoC. Power management software will select the appropriate processor for the task at hand, using the "LITTLE" lowest-power processor like the new Cortex-A7 for running the operating system and basic apps. Gaming and navigation would be handled by the faster Cortex-A15 processor, or both, depending on the app's hardware demand.

"The time for this migration is in the order of 20 microseconds," the company explained on Wednesday. "The efficient and seamless switching of workloads between the two processors is supported by advanced ARM system IP, such as AMBA 4 ACE Coherency Extensions. This ensures full cache, I/O and processor-to-processor coherency between the Cortex-A15 and Cortex-A7, and across the complete system. Software and applications can therefore continue to run unhindered, and unnoticed by the user, as the tasks are rebalanced to provide the optimum big.LITTLE user experience."

As for the new processor, ARM claims that it will deliver sub-$100 entry level smartphones in the 2013-2014 timeframe with an equivalent level of processing performance to today’s $500 high-end smartphones. Manufactured using 28-nm process technology, it will occupy less than 0.5mm2 of space. ARM Partners already supporting both technologies include Broadcom, Compal, Freescale, HiSilicon, LG Electronics, Linaro, OK Labs, QNX, Redbend, Samsung, Sprint, ST-Ericsson and Texas Instruments.

"TI's OMAP platform success relies on superior mobile computing at ultra-low power to deliver extraordinary experiences on smartphones, tablets and ultrathin laptops," said Remi El-Ouazzane, vice president, OMAP platform business unit, Texas Instruments. "Our mobile processors' smart multicore architectures have long been complementing main ARM processors with specialized engines and accelerators better suited to perform certain tasks at the lowest possible power. We are excited to see ARM's introduction of Cortex-A7 with big.LITTLE processing. We see it as a natural continuation of our innovative approach to smart mobile computing as it presents new opportunities to advance the industry overall enabling even lower power general purpose CPU performance."

For more information on the Cortex-A7, head here. Further details regarding big.LITTLE processing can be acquired here.

  • N.Broekhuijsen
    I find it amazing how fast mobile processing is developing lately! It makes the PC hardware development look sluggish, and out of all honesty, it makes buying a new phone at this point seem kind of intimidating...

    Normally I would say just buy something, don't wait for it, but with how fast these phones are progressing lately the price you pay today is staggering given how fast they depreciate...

    I mean, a PC depreciates fast but this stuff.... :cry:
  • LuckyDucky7
    Well, if they've finally solved the lag you get when opening apps, and tilting the screen (which NO tablet or phone does effectively), then count me in.

    But if it still uses the A7 for that, forget it because the A15's power will be wasted- if the A15 is even fast enough to compensate.

    And as for deprecation: if you're not one of those who get a new phone every 3 years (the reasonable lifespan for such a device), it really doesn't matter.
    The smartphone concept is only 4 years old anyways (mainstream, it's only two years)- and people who bought those 4-year-old phones have already upgraded (because they're Apple users). The Nexus One is only 2 years old.
    3 year old dumb phones were worthless to begin- they don't deprecate at all.
  • gladosiri
    This is good. Now I can be more interactive with the meatbags for possibly 5 times more before I turn off. Oh joy.
  • CyberAngel
    I have 7 year old Nokia 7710 with touch interface
    I think I'll wait just a little bit more...
  • ares1214
    I really hope ARM enters the CPU desktop market, ARM is such a powerhouse and would crack open the competition in desktops.
  • CKKwan
    intel used to had something call StrongARM right?
  • CKKwan
    Ooppsss sorry guys, my comment above was for another thread. Anyone can tell me how to edit the post? I can't find any options :(
  • agnickolov
    Isn't this the same concept as the 5-th core in nVidia's Tegra 3 (Kal El)?
  • ben850
    CKKwanOoppsss sorry guys, my comment above was for another thread. Anyone can tell me how to edit the post? I can't find any options
    Click the "Read the comments on the forums" link and you will see all of your standard forum-editing options in there.
  • dragonsqrrl
    agnickolovIsn't this the same concept as the 5-th core in nVidia's Tegra 3 (Kal El)?Same concept, although Nvidia is using a low power Cortex A9 instead.