ARM Holding has announced a new general-purpose core as well as a new graphics core designed for mainstream devices that hit production in 2015 and beyond. The new Cortex-A17 may become ARM’s new “working horse” that will serve hundreds of designs for a number of years thanks to its relatively high performance and low cost. The new ARM Mali-T720 graphics technology will further boost graphics performance for low-power consumer devices.
ARM Cortex-A17 processor is expected to offer 60% higher performance compared to Cortex-A9 core and in general resembles the Cortex-A15, a general-purpose cores that ARM developed for servers and high-end mobile gadgets. The Cortex-A17 is an out-of-order ARMv7-A architecture core that can scale from one to four cores; it features 256KB – 8MB L2 cache, 128-bit AMBA 4 ACE coherent bus interface and so on. The Cortex-A17 (unlike the Cortex-A15) does not support virtual 40-bit addressing and thus does not support more than 4GBs of random access memory. The Cortex-A17 supports full-system coherency for ARM Big.Little processing using the CoreLink CCI-400 cache coherent interconnect. The Cortex-A17 can be paired with Cortex-A7 in heterogeneous multi-core system-on-chips.
"We expect to see a rich set of innovation in the mid-range mobile phone segment which is forecast to become a half a billion unit market annually from 2015 and the Cortex-A17 processor will be a key component in that growth," said Ian Ferguson, vice president of segment marketing at ARM.
The Mali-T720 GPU (with up to eight shader cores) is based on the Midgard architecture and is a cost-optimized graphics solution targeted at entry-level Android devices developed to reduce an OEM's manufacturing complexities and time-to-market. It supports the latest graphics and GPU computing APIs, including Open GL ES 3.0, OpenCL and RenderScript, extending the rich visual experience previously found only on today's high-end smartphones and tablets. Additionally, the mid-range IP suite includes the Mali-V500 video solution, a very efficient and compact video processor delivering up to 4K resolutions and when combined with the new Mali-DP500 display controller, enables security from content to the glass.
To enable SoC designers to combine their own IP in the most efficient and effective manner, ARM provides ARM POP™ IP implementation solutions on 28nm process technology. POP IP for the Cortex-A17 processor includes core-hardening acceleration technology and delivers 2.0+ GHz implementations. POP IP for the Mali-T720 GPU enables best-in-class area efficiency (fps/mm2) and market-leading power efficiency (fps/mW). It includes a proven RTL-GDS flow to easily reproduce complex implementations for a faster time to market.
MediaTek, Realtek and Via Telecom have already announced plans to use the new Cortex-A17 for their upcoming system-on-chips (SoCs).
The Cortex-A17 is 32-bit ARMv7-compliant core that is small enough to be inexpensive (when made using 28nm process technology) yet powerful enough to power smartphones, tablets and other gadgets. With its broader implementation, it will add further segmentation to the market of Google Android-based gadgets. By the end of this year there will be at least five categories of Android devices with different microprocessors: high-end devices with 64-bit system-on-chips (Cortex-A57, heterogeneous), performance products with 32-bit application processors (Cortex-A15/A17, Qualcomm Krait 400/600), mainstream gadgets with 32-bit (Cortex-A9/A17) or 64-bit SoC (Qualcomm Snapdragon 410, Cortex-A53) as well as low-end hardware with various 32-bit app processors (Cortex-A7). The chips will be based on two instruction-sets (ARMv7 and ARMv8) and will offer completely different levels of performance.