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ARM Cortex-A15 cores are coming to smart phones and tablets in late 2012 or early 2013, packing up to 16 cores clocked at up to 2.5 GHz. Early designs will likely only have two to four cores.   (Source: The Gadget Guy)

The latest round of cutting edge smart phones like the Atrix 4G use Cortex A9 processors, which can only be clocked up to 2 GHz (and current designs are much slower than that).  (Source: Geeky Gadget)
Release the Cortex A15!

James Bruce, the U.S. mobile segment manager at ARM Holdings (ARMH), announced this week another important step in ARM's plans to try to further dethrone the veteran x86 and become the world's most used computer architecture.

I. Superpower Smartphones Almost Here

Starting late next year or in early 2013, Mr. Bruce announced this week, smartphones, tablets, and possibly laptops using ARM's new Cortex A15 core will go on sale.  Initially the chips will be dual-core designs, but the architecture supports up to 16 cores.  The cores can be clocked at up to 2.5GHz.

Expect top ARM chipmakers NVIDIA Corp (NVDA), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (005390) (and its partner Intrinsity, Inc.), Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN), and Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) to all be readying Cortex A15 designs to ship next year.  NVIDIA and Texas Instruments recently became the first Cortex A15 licensees, indicating their design efforts have already started.

All ARM cores of a specific architecture share a certain amount of commonality, but the actual design and performance can vary significantly between licensees.

Current cutting-edge smart phones and tablets like the Motorola Xoom, the new Galaxy Tab 8.9/10.1-inch models, and the LG G-Slate use Cortex A9 processors.  Cortex A9 can only support up to four cores and clock speeds of up to 2 GHz, maximum.

But aside from bumping the core count and the speed, Cortex A15 delivers numerous architectural improvements that should bump power performance and increase the efficiency of parallel processing on mobile devices.

The Cortex A15 design was previously announced in September, but this was the first time concrete availability information has aired.

II.  What's Next?

Along side the architectural efforts of ARM Holdings and its corporate partners will be a series of die shrinks.  Intel Corp. (INTC) recently stated it was confident it would beat ARM in power consumption by 2013, by moving to the 22 nm transistor node.

But ARM Holding's Mr. Bruce says that Qualcomm is already moving to a 28-nm process and will soon be joined by the other licensees.  Intel currently is at the 45 nm node, for its latest Atom (Lincroft) mobile designs.

By 2013 ARM will likely be on the 22 nm node as well.

Mr. Bruce says that his company won't target the server market, which it calls a "legacy" market, till 2014.  Many are looking forward to ARM servers, as they would offer a very power efficient, presumably affordable RISC alternative to x86 designs.  And with Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) announcing that it would support ARM with Windows 8, the possibility that future version of Windows Server will support ARM seems strong.

In the meantime Mr. Bruce says that ARM Holdings and its partners will continue to focus on mobile devices like smart phones and tablets.  He says he is excited about new "convertible" designs like the Motorola Atrix 4G, which transform a smartphone into an impromptu Android netbook.

He also says that future ARM-powered devices will be capable of streaming video over Bluetooth to your television.  He states, "The interesting thing in the smartphone space is the small screen coming to the big screen."

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It already is
By MrTeal on 4/20/2011 11:43:57 AM , Rating: 2
James Bruce, the U.S. mobile segment manager at ARM Holdings (ARMH), announced this week another important step in ARM's plans to try to further dethrone the veteran x86 and become the world's most used computer architecture.

There are way more ARM devices out there than x86/x64 already, in everything from your smartphone to your dishwasher and microwave. ARM just hasn't moved into the high performance space, and it likely isn't any time soon, for the same reasons Intel can't just take Sandy Bridge and scale it down to a 2W TDP.

RE: It already is
By JasonMick on 4/20/2011 12:07:07 PM , Rating: 2
There are way more ARM devices out there than x86/x64 already, in everything from your smartphone to your dishwasher and microwave.

I meant "computer" in a "personal computer" sense.

Excellent point on the market penetration, but I think the term used is appropriate, but I would exactly call the embedded microprocessor inside my dishwasher a traditional "computer" and neither would most people. :)

ARM just hasn't moved into the high performance space, and it likely isn't any time soon, for the same reasons Intel can't just take Sandy Bridge and scale it down to a 2W TDP.

I don't know about that. A 2.5 GHz octacore processor seems beefy enough to handle most users' needs. And that should be available with ARM designs soon, probably sometime in 2013.

RE: It already is
By MrTeal on 4/20/2011 12:51:07 PM , Rating: 2
Probably, but then the computer I built for my wife last year has a single core Sargas 140, and it's plenty for what she uses it for.

We'll have to wait and see, but I would be shocked if even an octo-core A15 in 2013 could compete with a current SNB or Nehalem under Windows in general purpose benchmarks.

RE: It already is
By michael2k on 4/20/2011 1:37:54 PM , Rating: 2
A current iPad2 on a per core basis is already half as fast as an Atom processor with SunSpider (and that is open to a whole host of software optimizations!).

Adding more cores won't increase SunSpider scores, but the A15 architectural changes and GHz improvements would mean a 2013 iPad with a dual core A15 would be just about as fast as today's Atom. Of course general purpose computing does see benefit from multiple cores; GeekBench shows an iPad 2 (750) as being roughly 2/3 a dual core 1.6GHz Atom processor. So going dual core A15 (or quad core A9) should see them easily best an Atom processor from today. A 1.2GHz ULV Core i3 @1.2GHz scores just about 2k, so going to quad core A15 in 2014 really could match todays ULV Core i3 processors.

RE: It already is
By Pirks on 4/20/2011 1:56:06 PM , Rating: 3
ARM's super duper high end CPUs of 2014 matching Intel's low end CPUs of 2010! Whoopeedeedoo! Intel must be sh1tting bricks now eh :P LOL

RE: It already is
By WilcoD on 4/20/2011 5:53:48 PM , Rating: 3
You're being disingeneous by assuming that the currently low memory bandwidth of ARM mobile cores won't increase at all. If we look at integer performance the picture is completely different.

The fact is that the iPad is already much faster than an Atom. Cortex-A9 is a dual-issue out-of-order CPU which is much more efficient than the in-order Atom. The Geekbench integer scores show a 0.9GHz Cortex-A9 beating a 1.66GHz Atom by 20% (both dual cores). So the A9 is already 2.3 times faster than Atom at the same clock frequency!

A quad core 2.5GHz Cortex-A15 would be at least 5 times faster again (ie. ~14 times faster than than the fasest dual core Atom). So in 2013 we'd be looking at an integer score of ~3500. A quad-core 2.5GHz Core2 scores 5459 and a 2.53GHz quad-core i5 does 4648. So in 2013 ARM will be well into high-end PC territory while still using around 1 Watt.

RE: It already is
By Pirks on 4/20/2011 6:25:27 PM , Rating: 2
So in 2013 ARM will be "well into" high end PC of 2008, whoopeedeedoo! LOL

RE: It already is
By WilcoD on 4/20/2011 7:10:19 PM , Rating: 3
Indeed, and that is hugely significant. You obviously don't get it, but ARM is not trying to beat the fastest x86 CPUs. Today Windows runs pretty well on an 1GHz dual core A9, fast enough for browsing and office tasks. However in 2013 ARM CPUs will be fast enough for 99% of PC users. That means most PCs could switch to cheaper, lower power ARM CPUs.

RE: It already is
By Lazarus Dark on 4/20/2011 9:50:04 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know what you people are talking about. My Moto Droid 1 is nearly enough for 99% of people. Seriously, I use my Droid for half of my computing needs these days (browsing, mobile entertainment, facebook and social media, etc). The only thing my Droid is not nearly capable of is playing bluray and Portal 2, for which I definately need the htpc. Though, I'm still running on a q6600 cpu and an nvidia 8800gt from 2008. Which works perfectly fine at 1080p. If my phone can do that in two or three years when streaming to the hdtv, WHY WILL I NEED A PC?

But remember, thats me, an occational pc gamer and regular htpc user. 99% of people dont use their pc for this, they have an xbox and a ce bluray player or a ps3. So for those 99% of people, something like the Atrix could easily be the only pc they need. And when most phones start supporting such docks or just tv output, people will learn very soon I think, that they don't need a redundant pc, laptop, or even netbook. I'm just sad cause that means high end pc components will skyrocket in price. I can see the high end pc perhaps even just merging with the server market as economy of less scale make gaming pc components just not a profitable r&d investment.

For years, they cried the death of pc gaming due to consoles, but that didn't happen. Now they are saying mobile phone gaming is killing pc gaming, but really its not the mobile gaming that will kill it, its the phone itself, as manufacturing shifts to smaller devices and gaming rigs become impractical and expensive.

RE: It already is
By Pirks on 4/21/2011 11:32:04 AM , Rating: 2
Because of price. PC is cheaper than a high end smartphone with those super duper quad ARM cores with bazillion gigahertz, plus PC does not require super expensive data_and_voice plan like a high end smartphone does, plus PC uses DSL with _stable_ and uncapped (300 gigabytes a month is not a cap really) bandwidth which is way way waaayyy better than piece of sh1t molasses slow mobile "network" you get on a smartphone (or a fast nice network but with tiny data cap for a lot of money or even without a cap for an insane price like couple of hundreds a month combined). Open architecture PCs will always beat proprietary closed system smartphones price wise, performance wise and network bandwidth wise. And no smartphone ever ever will get any close to a $200 cheap AMD GPU framerate/resolution wise. You can't change laws of physics buddy, so stop your senseless mobile propaganda :P PCs and smartphones have very different niches, and one cannot replace the other completely and never will be able to. Because of the laws of physics and economics. Got it?
gaming rigs become impractical and expensive
Stupidest bullsh1t of today :))) Gaming rigs become smaller, quieter and CHEAPER every year, the old huge noisy box that you'd need to build 5 years ago to be able to run Darksiders with tiny resolution and low framerate turned into a quiet little cheapo box with some cheapo AMD 6790 inside that can run all your games with highest framerate no problem. The days of super expensive huge full tower gaming rigs are over, modern console ports like Crysis 2 work on cheapo middle end micro-ATX machines like charm. Your stupid bullsh1t about "expensive" "inefficient" etc etc gaming rigs is not even funny anymore.

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