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

AMD will release a 20nm Cortex A57 based SoC next year that will be their first official Android SoC platform. Built on project Skybridge, which will also support x86 processors.
May 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?