ARM today announced its newest mobile processor core, the Cortex A-17. Slated to hit mid-range tablets and smartphones next year, the Cortex A-17 will come with a 60% boost in performance over the previous Cortex-A9, according to the British chipmaker. The chip is also expected to improve battery life and energy efficiency over the A9, and ARM says that it’ll run at clock speeds exceeding 1.5GHz.
The Cortex-A17 can be seen as more-or-less an upgrade over the Cortex-A12, which ARM announced as a successor to the aging yet still popular Cortex-A9 last summer. The A12 didn’t find much industry uptake, however.
Like the A12, the A17 is a 32-bit design, which seems to be appropriate given that it’s targeting mainstream devices. ARM has already dove into 64-bit cores with its higher-end A50 series.
ARM says that the Cortex-A17 will support the 28-nanometer manufacturing process, but it expects designs based on the core to be built on a 20nm process over time. It will also come with support for ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture, allowing it to be paired with a lower-power core like the Cortex-A7 for a multi-core solution, giving a combination of power savings and perfrormance.
ARM vs. Intel
While hardly a household name, ARM is the company behind the processors that are used in the vast majority of tablets and smartphones. It’s relatively unknown because it doesn’t produce chips; rather it designs them and then licenses these designs to others who do the manufacturing, sometimes after adding their own modifications. Companies that use ARM designs include Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm, and many more. Both iOS and Android were created specifically for ARM processors.
With competition from Intel and other chipmakers heating up, ARM sees the Cortex-A17 as a necessary step in its ongoing quest to control the mid-range mobile market. The company believes that over a half a billion devices that fall into the segment — including everything from tablets to wearables to smart TVs — will be released in 2015. It’s aiming to get the A17 in almost all of them, so expect to see plenty of machines powered by the core in the near future.