Thursday, 20 October 2011

ARM unveils Cortex-A7 processor, 'big.LITTLE' computing

Fancy a glimpse of the future? That little psychedelic beauty on the right is ARM's brand new Cortex-A7 processor. Its spec sheet might not seem so colorful at first glance, because it doesn't really do things any faster than existing high-end smartphone processors. However, this UK-based chip designer isn't known for bumping its gums, so it pays to look a little deeper. For a start, the Cortex-A7 is built using a 28nm process that makes it five times smaller and more efficient than the current-gen Cortex-A8. It's also cheap enough to power sub-$100 handsets, so we could be pulling GSII-like tricks on budget phones within a couple of years.

Is that it? Nope, there's more: perhaps the most important feature of the A7 is that it can be combined with much higher-power cores like the Cortex-A15 side-by-side on the same chip. This allows a super-phone or tablet to switch between two totally different processing units depending on how much power is needed at the time. ARM calls this "Big.LITTLE" computing," and a similar concept is already in use on NVIDIA's Tegra 3 (aka Kal-El) SoC, which we'll see imminently in the next Asus Transformer. However, the Tegra 3 uses five identical Cortex-A9 cores, whereas a device that mix-and-matches the A15 and A7 could potentially deliver higher highs and lower lows, giving you speed when you need it and amazing battery life when you don't. How cute is that? Full PR after the break.

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ARM unveils Cortex-A7 processor, 'big.LITTLE' computing originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 20 Oct 2011 07:27:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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