ARM Reveals Cortex-A12: New Core to Powerful Affordable Application Processor

ARM Weds Performance, Power-Efficiency and Low-Cost in ARM Cortex-A12 Core

by Anton Shilov
06/04/2013 | 11:20 PM



ARM Holdings, a leading designer of low-power microprocessor cores, has unveiled something that combines the best qualities of today’s leading-edge energy-efficient processors to address mainstream mobile gadgets of the future. The company believes that its Cortex-A12 core will let it address up to 580 million of different devices by 2015 and provide decent functionality, performance and energy efficiency.

The Cortex-A12 processor offers ARM partners a 40% performance uplift in the same power envelope when compared to the successful Cortex-A9 processor, besides it brings premium features such as virtualization, 40-bit memory addressing (up to 1TB) and TrustZone technology to the mid-range mobile device market; efficiency profile also makes it ideal for DTV and home networking. The new core resembles something between Cortex-A9 and Cortex-A15, just like Qualcomm Krait. The new A12 core features out-of-order execution, dual-issue and 11 stage pipeline along with VFPv4 FPU, 128-bit NEON accelerator, snoop control unit (SCU), generic interrupt controller (GIC), accelerator coherence port (ACP), 2MB L2 cache per core and so on. One cluster based on ARM Cortex-A12 can feature up to four cores. The A12 is optimized for 28nm process technologies.

ARM Cortex-A12 fully supports ARM Mali graphics as well as ARM Big.Little processing technology, hence can also support low-power ARM Cortex-A7 co-processors.

The new ARM Cortex-12 technology is just what the doctor ordered for rapidly expanding market of midrange tablets and smartphones. The mid-range market is projected to exceed the number of premium smartphones and tablets beginning in 2015. The new core provides better performance compared to popular Cortex-A9, but is not as power-hungry and large as Cortex-A15 and Cortex-A50-series. Therefore, it should boost performance of inexpensive mobile gadgets without increasing their price.

Partners will announce their plans in due course, but ARM expects Cortex-A12 IP solution will be in mobile devices by mid-2014.

"Mobile users expect a range of devices at different price points and for a mid-range mobile experience to include some high end mobile features. With a billion smartphones predicted to ship in 2013 and tablets projected to out-ship notebook PCs, device-makers can now provide quality, high-performance mobile products with the features that matter the most, at a range of price points. The market is evolving at an amazing rate and there is now a choice of solutions for semiconductor companies and for mobile device-makers. Our suite of optimized IP expands the choice for the mid-range mobile market," said Ian Drew, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of ARM.

Separately, ARM unveiled Mali-T622 graphics engine, which should complement the Cortex-A12 and provide decent graphics performance and capabilities without enormous cost. The Mali-T622 scales from one to two cores, it is a complete embedded graphics and GPU Compute acceleration platform and enables the development of advanced user interfaces, gaming capabilities and GPU Compute applications for a wide range of tomorrow’s consumer devices, from smartphones to tablets, from DTV to portable gaming and beyond.Key APIs supported include OpenGL ES 1.1, OpenGL ES 2.0 and OpenGL ES 3.0, DirectX 11 and OpenCL 1.1.

In addition, ARM revealed its energy-efficient Mali-V500 video solution provides dedicated video processing and reduces system bandwidth requirements by more than 50% compared to currently available solutions. The Mali-V500 is a multicore video solution, scaling from a single core capable of 1080p/60 encode and decode to multiple cores supporting ultra-high definition 4K at 120 frames per second. Additionally, the Mali-V500 video solution was architected with support for TrustZone security technology enabling efficient, hardware-backed security for movie and TV content from download to display.