April 29, 2015
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ARM announced its second generation high-end 64-bit processor, the Cortex-A72, back in February, and we recently took a deeper look at the chip’s architecture following some technical sessions at ARM’s TechDay 2015 in London last week. During the event I was able to catch up with the Cortex-A72’s lead architect and ARM Fellow Mike Filippo.

The baseline was A57, but it is a pretty reasonably sized derivative.

I asked Mike to tells me a little bit about the Cortex-A72 and what where the design goals behind the new processor. “There were three major themes that we were looking for in that design. Pushing the performance to the next generation for the next series of phones and mobile products. Pulling the power down significantly so that we can sustain maximum frequency performance on those products. And pulling area out of the design, again contributing to a reduction in power, but also enabling low cost designs as well.”

The starting point for the Cortex-A72 was the design of the Cortex-A57. Mike was also the lead artitect of the A57, so I asked him if the A72 can really be consider an iteration of the A57. Although the heritage of the Cortex-A72 is the Cortex-A57 it isn’t just a tweak and should be considered “a large-scale derivative.” The improvements to he A72 means that the core design has “performance improvements ranging from upwards to 60%” in some situations. Whereas the power reductions range from “approaching 20% to 45% depending on the workloads.” This is coupled with the significant area reductions.

ARM Cortex A72 reduced power
“The baseline was A57, but it is a pretty reasonably sized derivative,” said Filippo during the interview.

Mike confirmed that the design for the A72 is with ARM’s partners and that during 2016 we should see chips using the Cortex-A72. In fact, since MediaTek has shown off some silicon based on the Cortex-A72, Mike hinted that we could see production level SoC’s during the latter part of 2015.

Although there are no deals announced, ARM is looking for the major handset makers to pick Cortex-A72 based SoCs for 2016’s flagship phones. As Mike put it, the Cortex-A72 is “a generational leap, a general movement from the A57 and will enable top-tier devices.”

Gary Sims
Gary has been a tech writer for over a decade and specializes in open source systems. He has a Bachelor's degree in Business Information Systems.He has many years of experience in system design and development as well as system administration, system security and networking protocols. He also knows several programming languages, as he was previously a software engineer for 10 years.
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