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EXCLUSIVE: ARM unveils next gen processor – promises 5x performance increase

by Scott Bicheno on 9 September 2010, 08:19

Tags: ARM

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Thinking big

Being a UK outfit, low-power chip designer ARM is not as inclined towards hyperbole as some tech companies. So when its VP of processor marketing - Eric Schorn - told us in an exclusive interview that Eagle is "The biggest thing ARM has ever done, the degree of commitment is truly phenomenal," we knew he meant it.

Eagle is the codename for the next generation ARM Cortex A (application processor) design. Current high-end single core mobile SoCs (system-on-chips), such as TI's OMAP 3 series and - it's assumed - Apple's A4, are based on the Cortex-A8 design. The next evolution was the Cortex-A9, which is starting to appear in dual-core SoCs like NVIDIA's Tegra 2.

To emphasise quite how big a revolution ARM thinks Eagle is, it has been named not Cortex-A10, nor A11, but Cortex-A15. Are you sure ARM doesn't do hyperbole? I hear you say. Well, the justification for this name is simple: the Cortex-A15 MPCore (to give it its full name) promises five times the performance of the Cortex A8 at a similar energy footprint. And it can clock up to 2.5GHz.

"It's like taking a desktop and putting it in your pocket," said Schorn, and it was clear that he considers this new design to be a pretty major shot across the bows of Intel and AMD. In case we were in any doubt, he turned the knife further: "The exciting place for for software developer graduates to go and hunt for work is no longer the desktop."

And it's not just the desktop ARM has its sights set on. "This processor is going to further advance our presence in the infrastructure; opening the door to base-stations, routers and servers." A big reason this claim is also credible is that the Cortex-A15 is scalable to 16 cores, and maybe more. Schorn returned to the infrastructure theme many times during our chat, so we can safely assume ARM's feeling pretty ambitious about expanding beyond mobile devices with this design.

Here is Schorn, talking us through the launch, followed by a visual metaphor of the Cortex A-15. Of course ARM doesn't actually manufacture chips and it's only just started licensing the design, so don't expect to see this chip in the shops.