ARM belatedly fills gap in its CPU lineup with Cortex A12, due in 2014

ARM logoWhile high-end phone hardware usually gets the most coverage from the tech press, not everyone needs a cutting-edge quad-core system-on-a-chip inside their phone to get by. There's a lot of money to be made in mid-range phones and tablets; to serve those (and other) devices, ARM has just announced a CPU architecture made specifically for them: the Cortex A12.

As you might guess from its name, the Cortex A12 sits somewhere in between the existing Cortex A9 and Cortex A15 in performance. It's about 40 percent faster than the A9 at the same clock speed, but thanks to design changes and manufacturing improvements, its power consumption should remain roughly level with Cortex A9. A12-based SoCs should be making it into production by late 2014 and shipping to customers in early 2015.

ARM Cortex-A12

While the performance and power consumption of the CPU design is of primary interest here, the A12 also imports a few features from the A15. These include 40-bit memory addressing (supporting up to 1TB of RAM), ARM's virtualization extensions and TrustZone security support, and the ability to be paired with lower-power Cortex A7 cores in a big.LITTLE arrangement (though such a configuration doesn't make as much sense with the A12 as it does with the more power-hungry A15).

А12 поможет поправить положение ARM на рынке смартфонов среднего ценового диапазона, однако продуктов на ее базе придется ждать еще пару лет.

ARM Mali-T622

The biggest issue with the A12 design is that it won't be in shipping products for more than a year, and there are already CPU designs available today that fill the gap between A9 and A15. Both Apple's "Swift" architecture used in the A6 SoC and all of Qualcomm's various Krait architecture revisions fit this basic description. A12 will be a nice option for smaller SoC designers who don't produce their own CPU architectures, but many of today's mid-range smartphones (the ill-fated HTC First, for example) are already packing SoCs that do exactly what the A12 intends to do.

ARM has also made a pair of smaller announcements to accompany the A12 reveal. The Mali-T622 GPU is a dual-core GPU design that will be slower than the already-announced quad-core (T624) and octo-core (T628) variants, but will still feature support for features like OpenCL 1.1 and OpenGL ES 3.0.

There's also the Mali-V500 video encode and decode block, which can take over those operations from the more power-hungry CPU and GPU. Like the CPUs and GPUs, different V500 variants will include different numbers of cores, and the number of cores will dictate the blocks' power consumption and capabilities. A single-core unit will be able to encode and decode 1080p video at 60 frames per second, while AnandTech reports that the eight-core variant will be able to handle 4K resolutions at 120 frames per second.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: ARM, CPUs

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