AMD announces first official Android chipset – just how good will the Cortex A53/A57 be?

by: Jonathan FeistMay 7, 2014

Project Skybridge AMD Cortex A57

In a recent announcement, AMD shared a bit of their development roadmap for the next couple years. The best part of this announcement is that AMD will release a 20nm Cortex A57 based SoC next year that will be their first official Android SoC platform.

The core of their announcement is for a project that is being called SkyBridge, which AMD refers to as “ambidextrous computing.” The platform will be able to run their low-power ARM based Cortex A57, with an integrated Graphics Core Next GPU, and it will be pin-compatible with their next generation x86 SoC, using Puma+ cores. Thus, AMD will be able to offer up one system that can be easily converted to handle either ARM or x86 instructions.

AMD will focus on manufacturers of embedded systems, which means we may not be able to purchase ARM based hardware for our old tower PCs at home. At least not yet.

A57 Roadmap

The Cortex A57 runs ARMv8 architecture at AArch64 64-bit execution. It will fairly handily backwardly support 32-bit as well to support ARMv7. It can be implemented all on its own, or can be paired with the A53 in an ARM big.LITTLE configuration. The diagram below shows support for up to 4 cores, but the ARM website mentions that the A57 is slated to support up to 16-core processing, for all our future smartphone and tablet needs. Head on over the the ARM website to get the entire list of specifications.

AMD ARM Cortex A57 chipset

What can we expect from Cortex A57?

AMD has launched some performance expectations for their Cortex A53 based SoCs, due in the next few months, and the Cortex A57, which is expected in 2015. They compare the A53 to the currently available Cortex A7, inline with the Snapdragon 200 or 400, and they compare the A57 to the Cortex A15, inline with the Tegra 4 or Samsung Exynos 5.

Cortex A53 and A57 Performance chart

It is important to point out that there will be a significant difference between the current 28nm process nodes and the next generation 20nm or 16FF technology. We see in the graph a near 50% increase in performance comparing the chips on the same 28nm design. AMD fully expects next year’s Cortex A57 to move forward to the 20nm design and support AArch64 and ARMv8 – aside from what AMD has provided, the performance improvements of such, including any power consumption advancements, are speculative at this point. Of course, they did throw together a Geekbench 3 performance chart for us to look at.

Geekbench A53 A57

What about that Graphics Core Next GPU?

Graphics Core Next (GCN) Architecture

Available on select AMD Radeon™ R7 series, R9 series and HD 7000 series graphics cards, the visionary Graphics Core Next (GCN) Architecture is a radically new approach to the design of a consumer GPU, making it a top choice for gamers who expect the best.

As you may surmise, AMD says that their Graphics Core Next GPU is exclusive to traditional computer video cards at the moment. It will be very intriguing to see if GPU’s with this technology implemented for an Android device can compete with the existing options on the market. Even more intriguing if a mobile version can come equipped anywhere near as powerful as the graphics cards mentioned above. For now, we expect to continue to see Adreno lead the pack in GPU availability.

When will we see these chips?

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 410, 610 and 615 are announced to come with ARM’s Cortex A53, and the Snapdragon 808 and 810 will utilize the big.LITTLE A53 and A57 combination. The A53 based units are expected by the end of 2014, with the A57 units coming as late as mid-2015.

We are glad to hear that AMD is getting serious about their own line of Android hardware, and very happy to see a process streamlined to support multiple architectures with as little changes possible. This story is still early though, we can’t wait to see what these Cortex A57 chips at 20nm will truly be capable of.

Be honest now, do you consider all of the particulars of a processor/chipset when you go phone shopping – would you go out of your way to purchase a phone that has a particular chipset?

  • YETI

    Does this mean it will be almost like an processor APU for android devices? Or do we have something similar already? I don’t exactly know how the graphics/processor are divided in Android devices

    • renz

      they intend to use their current x86 APU like mullin for android. but so far i haven’t heard details about AMD making ARM chip for used in tablet or consumer device. all i know so far was server based on ARM.

  • 4Liner

    Awesome, AMD start entering ARM market. 64-bit right? Can’t wait for next year

    • renz

      for servers….

  • renz

    is AMD really making ARM SoC combined with their GCN graphic to compete with other ARM player? so far i only know about AMD making ARM based server along side their existing x86 one. for tablet it seems they prefer to use their existing APU (x86) rather than making entirely new SoC based on ARM to tackle the market.

  • Luka Mlinar

    I’m a big fan of AMD. Might just jump on this in the future.

  • MasterMuffin

    AMD finally jumping to this market way too late, but cool beans! Maybe if they start competing with low prices like MediaTek, they could succeed (and I hope they do because MediaTek is poooop).

    • Luqmaan Mathee

      Plot twist: mediatek releases their sources for free.

      • MasterMuffin

        Plot twist: MediaTek is owned by AMD

        • Plot twist: Plot got twisted so much it broke its back.

        • Luqmaan Mathee

          Lol. Another plot twist. Intel is the scumbag with the largest shares in both companies.

          • kkk

            lol this discussion made me laugh.
            Plot twist: Apple orders Mediatek/AMD chips

          • Luqmaan Mathee

            Lol mtk would be hilarious

    • Put some more Os in there.

      • MasterMuffin

        Yes sir. Done! :)

    • renz

      that is if AMD intend to fight with price. but as it is AMD have no interest doing so. so don’t expect something cheap from AMD

      • MasterMuffin

        Well :| Good luck for them, even Intel hasn’t got almost any market share

        • renz

          that’s why they employing their ‘contra revenue’ right now just for the sake of gaining market share.

    • monstercameron

      amd dont have moden ic lie icera or qualcomm and they want to compete in higher margin markets.

  • Jayfeather787

    AMD woot!!!

  • Gal

    AMD’s processors suck
    Intel is much better

  • Jonathan TAM

    Imagine one day when we will finally have 10000 mah batteries and intel core i7’s in our phones

  • droidtomtom

    I wonder what AMD’s talent in heterogeneous architecture will do for ARM? The new APU from AMD sucessfully leverages the compute power of both the GPU and CPU together. They could have a Big.Medium.Little architecture with better memory management and superior 64bit support. While they make an awesome desktop GPU, I don’t think their GPU is advanced as some of the competition is in the low power mobile space.

  • wezi427

    I’d rather have AMD as opposed to MediaTek. Especially if they intend to start in low/cheap phone market. In my opinion AMD is a more trusted brand than MediaTek. If AMD can compete in price, they will make waves in the emerging markets. I hope AMD and Intel do well.

    • Third_Eye

      AMD is not entering the phone market. If you listen to the Q&A following the presentation, Rory was clear in that.

      MediaTek competes in phones and a lesser extent in tablets. I am not sure if AMD would make a run towards the low-cost Tablet market too. The low cost attempt by AMD in the ARM space will also be “Semi-custom” models.

      Ironically AMD is actually trying to go towards the higher-end in the ARM space instead of targeting the lower end as does in the x86/x64 market.

      • wezi427

        You can believe that they aren’t getting into the phone market, but I’m sure at some point they will. It makes sense for them to do it. Why would they turn their backs to this industry? They’ve ignored it long enough.

        • renz

          that’s the problem. they were too late. also did AMD have their own radio/wireless tech like Qualcomm/Intel/Mediatek?

    • renz

      for sure they not intended to compete in the low budget segment:

      also i don’t think AMD will ever interested in phones. that market is even harder for them to enter than tablet.

  • Andrew T Roach

    How will Qualcomm compete when Chinese SoC vendors are also going to the stock A53/A57 designs? Seems like a bad call since Krait made them huge by outperforming its rivals per core and in power consumption because it was a custom design.

    • renz

      well they cannot pop out with custom 64 bit ARM just like that. custom design take times. Apple caught everyone by surprise with their A7. even for nvidia they have been working on theirs well before they announce their project denver in 2011.

  • Stu14nmUD64bit7″

    He asks do specs matter to me, heck yes, if I’m going to be driving a 6″ UHD screen, I want 128 GB flash, 4 GB of RAM, GPUs coming out of the wazzoo, 64 bit, ideally 14 nm, I don’t want the battery to drain in half an hour, it to be as hot as a toaster oven, I am going to need heaps of memory for my UHD movies. Plenty of buffering for high end compression, decompression and the GPUs are going to have to work like a cart horse, especially if I’m going to be doing any 4K gaming, House of Cards came in at 0.7 GB for an hour of FHD. My $133 Australian UHD Android TV set top box works well enough, but at times it just stops under the load, resumes well, but the more spec power, the better, especially when you don’t have household power to back it, AMD does a good job, too bad Microsoft sucks all the power away. Yay Nexus 10 QHD; 5, 7 FHD, more pixels good, less pixels bad.

  • M132

    If their Android drivers are going to be as “good” as fglrx, then I’m going to laugh so bad… hahahaha.