ARM goes 64-bit with new Cortex-A53 and Cortex-A57 designs

ARM logoAMD revealed yesterday it would be building new 64-bit ARM-based Opteron chips intended for use in servers, and now it's clear what technology those chips will be using. ARM just announced two new Cortex-A50-series chips that will bring 64-bit capabilities to ARM SoCs. In addition to AMD, Broadcom, Calxeda, HiSilicon, Samsung, and STMicroelectronics are also listed as licensees.

ARM's press release mentions two specific processors: the first is the Cortex-A57, a high-performance design that will likely be more suited for server use. The second is the Cortex-A53, which has the same capabilities as the A57, but in a more power-efficient (and thus, slower) package. These two chips can be combined into one package if desired—the Cortex-A53 cores can handle low-impact workloads and stay on while the system is idle, and the more power-hungry Cortex-A57 cores will spin up only when the workload requires it. ARM calls this type of processor layout "big.LITTLE" and already offers licensees the ability to pair a Cortex-A15 CPU with a Cortex-A7 chip to achieve similar results.

According to ARM, the new processors should scale well enough that they can be used in smartphones, tablets, and laptops as well as servers. So while they are fully 64-bit capable, they also fully support 32-bit programs and operating systems. Whether the new chips are intended to fully replace current Cortex-A9 and Cortex-A15-based chips isn't clear, but there's a lot of overlap in today's devices between newer and older ARM architecture. The Cortex-A15 design, for example, has been around for a couple of years now, but shipping products based on that architecture (like the new Nexus 10 or ARM-based Chromebook) have only just begun to make it to market.

The list of licensees is impressive and includes most of the major players currently using ARM's architectures in their chips, though NVIDIA and Texas Instruments are notably absent. However, we don't expect to see chips based on these designs until 2014 or so, conforming to the timeline AMD has set.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: ARM, CPUs

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