ARM unveils Cortex-A15 MPCore architecture, 2.5 GHz mobile processors coming soon
It looks like it may be processor news week. After news about Qualcomm’s upcoming 1.5 GHz beast, today ARM, the company that designs pretty much all the application processors found in phones, smartphones and tablets, have announced their next-gen design.
Previously known by its codename, “Eagle”, this processor architecture now has an official name: Cortex A-15 MPCore. While the Cortex A brand was more or less a given, why ARM chose to go from A9 all the way up to A15 is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the people who design some of the most advanced bits of silicon this world has ever seen are just very bad at counting.
Processors based on the Core-A15 architecture will be dual-core or quad-core and they will have frequencies of up to 2.5 GHz.
But, as is usual with these announcements, don’t expect to buy a 2.5 GHz smartphone just yet. ARM has finalized the design, which makes the architecture available to its partners now (the companies that integrate the processor with other chips to create the so-called Systems-on-a-Chip or SOCs – among others, these are Qualcomm, Samsung, ST Ericsson, Texas Instruments). They will do their thing and surround the A15 with things such as baseband chips, WiFi and bluetooth controllers, graphics coprocessors and what not, and then will have SOCs ready for the phone manufacturers. Which will then start designing, and finally producing, the actual gadgets you and I lust for.
It will all take some time, and the year when we will probably see the first devices powered by this architecture is 2012.
In any case, this is a significant development for ARM and the mobile industry, which has been dominated for more than a decade by ARM’s designs. Recently Intel has made it clear that it wants to enter this space too. Nothing of significant importance has come from Intel yet, as they probably struggle to deal with excessive power consumption in their solutions (well, excessive compared to ARM’s).
ARM are well aware of Intel’s power-related issues and have used the words “power-efficient” a number of times in the press release announcing the A15.
This is shaping up to be a very interesting battle in a few years. Intel will surely overcome all the issues they’ve faced with power consumption, while ARM’s solutions are getting better and better, performance-wise, with each new design.
The A15, for example, is said to be 5 times faster than today’s high-end mobile processors, while having a similar energy footprint.
One thing is clear. In the not so distant future, mobile processor operating frequencies will be similar to those in laptops.