October 27, 2011

Now this is a piece of news you won’t forget very easily. A few days ago ARM announced that we are going to see the ultra-low-power Cortex A7 sometimes in 2013-2014, and paired up with their high-performance (but still reasonable power consumption) Cortex A15, in a big.Little configuration, to save power when doing normal tasks, or to achieve maximum performance when browsing or playing games.

Imagine my surprise when I read that Samsung is going to use this in their Exynos chip as early as next year, way before anyone else. This week’s ARM TechCon 2001 John Kalkman, VP LSI, Samsung Electronics said:

“I’m extremely excited to announce that Samsung will deliver a new Exynos processor in 2012 that leverages both the Cortex-A7 and big.Little technology to meet the crucial demands of always-on and always-connected computing.”

The big.Little processing idea seems perfect for mobile devices, because they could have even better battery life than they do right now with Cortex A8 or Cortex A9 chips, by using the much more efficient (up to 5x more compared to Cortex A8) Cortex A7, while still keeping up with times in terms of performance by using the Core 2 Duo-class Cortex A15 chips. According to ARM, this big.Little configuration should improve a phone’s battery life by 70%.

As a side note, big.Little and Cortex A7 are one more reason why Intel Atom still can’t catch-up with ARM. At the end of 2012, or in 2013, Intel Atom will still probably have higher power consumption than a Cortex A15 chip, while Cortex A15 will have significantly higher performance, cost less, and in combination with Cortex A7 will make sure Atom doesn’t even touch the smartphone or tablet markets.

This new Exynos chip that is destined to come out in the 2nd half of 2012 will be manufactured at 28 nm, like most ARM chips will be by then, including the Qualcomm S4, TI OMAP 5 and Tegra 4.

But Qualcomm doesn’t really have anything that comes close to the big.Little configuration. Sure, it has the asynchronous CPU’s, but I doubt that’s close to being as effective as a big.Little configuration.

TI OMAP 5 is getting a bit closer to that, having a dual core Cortex 15 at 2.5 Ghz each, and 2 Cortex M4 specialized cores, that are used more for running media applications and to handle touch inputs.

Nvidia comes the closest to this. Well, actually it’s almost identical, except they probably won’t be using the more efficient Cortex A7, and will be forced to continue with Cortex A9 for their companion cores in Tegra 4.

I don’t know about you but a dual core Cortex A7 at 1.2-1.5 Ghz, coupled with a dual core Cortex A15 at 2.0-2.5 Ghz, in a big.Little configuration, sounds very exciting to me, and it looks like Samsung will once again wow us with their flagship phones in 2012.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from the Galaxy S and Galaxy S II phones, is that you should never bet against Samsung. When they launch a high-end phone, it’s usually the best/most powerful for at least the next 6 months (which is half a generation in smartphone years).

Now I’m going to leave you with the thought of an Asus Transformer 4 with a quad core 1.5 Ghz Cortex A7 + quad core 2.5 Ghz Cortex A15 (8 core big.Little configuration), and running in quad core mode for “low-end” tasks, and also in quad core mode for “high-end” tasks, for maximum multi-tasking performance. Heck yeah! If that’s not going to be a laptop replacement, then I don’t know what is.

[Via AndroidAndMe]

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