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Orion will power smartphones and tablets in the first half of 2011

Samsung's Hummingbird 1 GHz ARM Cortex processor already fares quite well against the 1 GHz Snapdragon in the GLBenchmark, and has helped power impressive sales of the Galaxy S line of Android smartphones across all major U.S. wireless carriers. Now, Samsung is introducing a new 1 GHz ARM Cortex A9 dual-core processor, dubbed "Orion."

The Hummingbird, which powers devices like the Epic 4G and the upcoming Samsung Tab, is a single-core processor. The Orion features a pair of 1 GHz Cortex A9's, allowing an estimated 50 percent increase over the Hummingbird's power, while improving battery life and allowing 1080p video capability and HD recording.

"Mobile device designers need an application processor platform that delivers superb multimedia performance, fast CPU processing speed, and abundant memory bandwidth," Dojun Rhee, a representative for the Taiwanese tech company, said in a press release. "Samsung’s newest dual core application processor chip is designed specifically to fulfill such stringent performance requirements while maintaining long battery life.”

The A9's performance is based on its 45nm architecture, compared to the A8's 65nm. Each core will sport a 32KB data cache and a 32KB instruction cache, as well as a 1MB L2 cache "to optimize CPU processing performance and provide fast context switching in a multi-tasking environment." An enhanced GPU will allow five times the graphics performance over the Hummingbird, which should entice heavy gamers. 

"Customers have the choice to use different types of storage including NAND flash, moviNAND, SSD or HDD providing both SATA, and eMMC interfaces. Customers can also choose their appropriate memory options including low power LPDDR2 or DDR3, which is commonly used for high performance," the press release said.

The Orion will also allow mobile devices to run two simultaneous on-screen displays, while powering another external display like a TV, thanks to an on-chip HDMI 1.3a interface.

The Orion will be available to "select customers" in Q4 of 2010, and will begin mass production in the first half of 2011. You can expect the first batch of Orion-powered smartphones to hit the market some time around then.

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How come?
By bug77 on 9/7/2010 8:36:21 AM , Rating: 2
a pair of 1 GHz Cortex A9's , allowing an estimated 50 percent increase over the Hummingbird's power, while improving battery life

How do they do it? Add one core, use less energy?
This one should go along nicely with Gingerbread which is expected around the same time. If SuperAMOLED get more widespread adoption too, I'll be shopping for a new phone.

RE: How come?
By Brandon Hill on 9/7/2010 8:46:28 AM , Rating: 5
45nm vs 65nm
Core optimizations?
The ability to turn off one core when not needed?

Could be a number of things at play...

RE: How come?
By bug77 on 9/7/2010 9:23:19 AM , Rating: 2
It's probably 45 vs 65nm, but the article is a bit confusing. Do we know there are core optimizations beyond the die-shrink? Do we know it has the ability to shut-down one core?

RE: How come?
By labbbby on 9/7/2010 10:19:23 AM , Rating: 2
You can look up the optimization done from Cortex A8 reference design to Cortex A9.

The A9 is a huge architectural milestone has it is out of order architecture.The process does not account for this big of a performance boost and efficiency.

Haven't seen any detailed article on this implementation so can't comment on the shutting down one core although I would expect it would be the case.

RE: How come?
By bug77 on 9/7/2010 10:20:51 AM , Rating: 2
Ok, out-of-order explains a lot.

RE: How come?
By JohnB101 on 9/7/2010 10:25:34 AM , Rating: 3
A9 really is an improved architecture. Texas Instrument has also come up with a similarly improved dual-core processor based on the Cortex-A9 too but no words on how good its GPU is, yet. The above article mentions 50% improvement over the previous design - I am assuming that is based on core-to-core comparison over Hummingbird? I would not be surprised if that was mainly gained by adding out-of-order execution design.

Hummingbird already kicks everyone else's bu** right now:

Can't wait to see what this baby can do. :)

RE: How come?
By omnicronx on 9/7/2010 10:28:26 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly. Out of order processing also requires more power, which was the reason in order processing was used so long (same reason its used on the Intel Atom).

Yes the jump to 45nm would certainly be enough if they stayed with the same chip architecture, but from the benchmarks I've seen, it seems to me the boost in efficiency cannot only be pegged on the process shrink alone.

RE: How come?
By ekv on 9/7/2010 10:03:37 PM , Rating: 2
"Out of order processing also requires more power"

...because it takes more transistors to remember where things were [just to finish your thought]. I still can't quite see a 50% improvement even with the die-shrink. Perhaps, it really IS the architecture ... even though more power is being used, the efficiency gain is just that much greater and the benchmarks are getting done faster so the CPU can go into an idle state.

Curiouser and curiouser.

RE: How come?
By beerhound on 9/7/2010 10:31:07 AM , Rating: 2
Also consider: When there is a peak load, 2 cores will handle it quicker. They will spend less time drawing peak power before they scale back down, turn one core off and set the 2nd to a lower power state.

RE: How come?
By zmatt on 9/8/2010 10:07:49 AM , Rating: 2
I'm thinking there are a lot of optimizations and improvements that we don't know about yet. Die shrinks do make things more energy efficient, but 50% is a lot. There could be lots of things, better memory management, what the L1 and l2 cache is made out of, characteristics of the pipeline, and most importantly how advanced it's power management is. If this thing can shut down a core, under clock, and undervolt itself when needed that's a big plus.

RE: How come?
By mmnno on 9/7/2010 9:22:44 AM , Rating: 2
Smaller process = less energy.

RE: How come?
By Exodite on 9/7/2010 11:03:24 AM , Rating: 2
Two cores can perform the same amount of work at half the clock that one can. Half the clock means lower operating voltage.

Operating at peak performance it'll require more power, obviously, but that's very rarely the norm for any device. Also, it'll still finish its load faster.

This on top of the obvious architecture and process improvements.

RE: How come?
By bug77 on 9/7/2010 12:46:07 PM , Rating: 2
That's pure theory. First, the workload has to be "thread-able". Then there's overhead for synchronization. I don't recall ever seeing any benchmarks showing a dual-core chip doing work with less power than a single core one.

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