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ARM announces Cortex A12 chip for midrange smartphones and tablets

Touts Big Little compatibility
Mon Jun 03 2013, 05:00
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CHIP DESIGNER ARM has announced its Cortex A12 processor for midrange devices.

ARM's Cortex A15 has been getting all the plaudits as the first chip to support the chip designer's Big Little architecture and has already found its way into the Nexus 10 tablet and some versions of Samsung's Galaxy S4 handset. Now ARM has announced the Cortex A9 for the mainstream market that it pitches as a replacement for its hugely popular Cortex A9 chip.

ARM also took the opportunity to announce a new Mali GPU that it hopes will be paired with the Cortex A12 and its other graphics chip, the Mali T622. While the firm pitches the Cortex A12 at the lucrative midrange device market, the Mali T622 has full OpenCL 1.1 and OpenGL ES 3.0 support with the firm touting 50 percent energy efficiency improvements over previous generation Mali T600 series GPUs.

However ARM's Cortex A12 addresses the business end of the mobile market, with ARM claiming it is a completely new design based on the ARMv7 architecture. While the chip designer continues to use the ARMv7 architecture, the Cortex A12 supports the Big Little architecture and has physical address extensions allowing it to address more than 4GB of RAM.

ARM promotes the Cortex A12's feature compatibility with its bigger Cortex A15 brother and the low-end Cortex A7 processor, which is likely to be used in Big Little implementations with the Cortex A12. The firm said it expects the Cortex A12 to be the so-called Big processor, so it is unlikely that licensees will set up Big Little clusters with Cortex A15 and Cortex A12 chips.

Interestingly, ARM has chosen Globalfoundries as the lead foundry for the Cortex A12 on the fab's 28nm SLP process node. However the chip designer has also shown support for TSMC, with the Cortex A12 having support for its 28nm HPM process node for both the Cortex A12 and the Mali T622 GPU.

ARM's Cortex A12 is a vital part for the chip designer and its many licensees as it tackles the midrange mobile and tablet markets. Just about every handset maker is taking about addressing the next two billion smartphone and tablet users, and that just isn't going to happen with £600 smartphones and tablets, which is where the ARM Cortex A12, perhaps mated with the Cortex A7, comes in. µ


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