ARM ups speed, drops power with new chip

The world's most popular processor architecture continues to push its performance while aiming for mobile internet dominance over Intel
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

ARM has launched its Cortex-A5 MPCore processor, the latest in its series of embedded chips aimed at internet-connected devices such as handsets, set-top boxes, industrial and consumer electronics equipment.

With between one and four cores, the chip will run software developed for previous members of the Cortex family, including the A8 and 19 processors, the company said in its announcement on Wednesday. That software includes ports of Adobe Flash, Java, Microsoft Windows Embedded, Symbian, Android and other Linuxes, according to ARM.

"The launch of the Cortex-A5 processor reinforces ARM's leadership in innovation and technology, and sets a new standard for cost-effectiveness and power-efficiency in entry-level mobile devices," said Nathan Brookwood, research fellow at Insight 64, in a statement.

"The performance of the Cortex-A5 processor, when combined with Adobe's recently announced support for Cortex-A profile processors in Flash Player 10.1, will allow users of ARM processor-based systems to view the same internet video content previously accessible only to users of x86-based systems."

Designed to be implemented by licensees in a 40nm process, the Cortex-A5 includes ARM's Neon medial processing 128-bit SIMD architecture. That gives it video and audio performance equivalent to that delivered by rival x86-architecture designs, especially given Adobe's ARM support in Flash Player.

Intel has recently positioned its Atom x86 low-power chip as a direct competitor to ARM, and it has been using similar core IP licensing models and the same TSMC chip fabrication plants as its rival. Both companies are highlighting mobile internet usage and media consumption as an area of rapid growth.

Cortex-A5 MPCore is intended to supercede ARM's ARM9 and ARM11 designs, running at three times the performance of the former, at a third of the power of the latter.

The company said 15 billion ARM-based chips have been shipped since the architecture was launched in 1985, and it expects the next 15 billion to appear within four years.

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