ARM unveils A7 and A15, with Big.LITTLE plan

By Richi Jennings (@richi ) - October 20, 2011.

[Updated to fix the stupidest typo I've ever made]

ARM (LON:ARM) has been showing off its new A7 and A15 designs, which will be inside power-sipping smartphones in a couple of years' time. ARM also showed off its curiously-named Big.LITTLE idea, which allows dissimilar cores to handle different types of task, for better battery life. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers have seen the future.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.

    James Niccolai reports:

The A7 will be its most energy-efficient chip design to date, ARM said. ... Samples are due next year, and the A7 will appear in entry-level smartphones by 2013.


But the A7 will also be used in high-end smartphones alongside the upcoming Cortex-A15, as part of a new power-saving architecture that ARM calls big.Little. ... [C]ombining two types of core on the same chip, and assigning different applications to each depending on their requirements...will reduce power consumption by 70 percent for many common tasks.   

  Mark Hachman adds:

ARM said that it believes that the A7 will be the engine behind many sub-$100 smartphones during 2013 and 2014. ... [It] uses 28-nm process technology and has a die size of less than 0.5 square millimeters.


[The] novel "Big.LITTLE" strategy...will pair the small, energy-efficient ARM Cortex-A7...with a larger, more powerful Cortex A-15 multicore. ... ARM also plans to take advantage of techniques that Intel refers to as Hurry Up and Go Idle (HUGI).   

     Patrick Goss talked to ARM's CEO, Warren East :

East was pushing the company's which allows high-end devices to switch between two processors, one for always-on and less intensive tasks...and one powerful enough to run complex new applications and games.


"The innovation here is the seamless switch...applications that are written to run on, say, an ARM 8 processor can run on this hybrid. ... You're not going to have a very successful product if you have to have special software to run the thing...we want people new products with new system on the chip devices...and take advantage of the software that is already written."   

And Caroline Gabriel thinks thuswise:

In ARM's system, the dynamic selection of generic cores would be invisible...and would be managed by ARM. ... The transfer of tasks between cores would be triggered by the same mechanism which handles dynamic voltage and frequency scaling.


A7 is less than 20% of the size of the Cortex-A8...with about 70% power saving compared with a dual-core A9. ... Chipmakers lining up to use the A7 included Broadcom, Freescale, HiSilicon, Samsung, ST-Ericsson and Texas Instruments.   

Meanwhile, Katie Fehrenbacher curses the chem:

Phone architects are toiling away at efficiency gains like this as a way to create smartphones and tablets that last as long as possible. ... [C]onsumers are doing more and more...but also expect to be able to [run] their devices...for even greater periods of time.


It’s a good thing that phone designers are this way; the batteries themselves certainly aren’t getting better very quickly. ... [T]here’s no Moore’s Law for batteries ... (darn you chemistry!)   

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Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher

Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. He's the creator and main author of Computerworld's IT Blogwatch -- for which he has won American Society of Business Publication Editors and Jesse H. Neal awards on behalf of Computerworld. He also writes The Long View for IDG Enterprise. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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