At its annual TechCon3 show, ARM is showing off its newest processor design that is targeted at smaller, Internet-connected devices such as smartphones, netbooks and embedded systems. The unveiling of the Cortex-A5 chip comes at a time when Intel is making an aggressive push into the mobile space with its Atom platform. ARM expects devices powered by the Cortex-A5 will begin appearing in 2011.
ARM, whose dominance as a designer of chips used in smartphones and
other small devices is being challenged by Intel, is rolling out a new
small, energy-efficient design.
The new Cortex-A5 MPCore processor will be cheaper, faster and more
energy efficient than its predecessors, all key attributes as ARM
officials look to deal with rising competition from Intel and its Atom
ARM unveiled the new design Oct. 21 at its ARM TechCon3 event in Santa Clara, Calif.
ARM can be licensed immediately and will be delivered to its
hundreds of manufacturing partners, such as Samsung Electronics, later
this year. The company expects devices with the Cortex-A5 processor to
become available in 2011, according to Travis Lanier, product
development manager for the Cortex-A5.
The new processor comes as Intel looks to move deeper into the
mobile device space with its Atom processor. At their Intel Developer
Forum in September, company officials said Intel is working on a
32-nanometer version of Atom, which will offer better leakage control
than the current version and will rival what ARM can offer now. Intel
also created a developer program
aimed at expanding the market reach of the Atom platform.
Lanier noted that the Cortex-A5 is a much smaller and more powerful
offering than Atom, and said that Intel will have to reach the 15-nm
manufacturing process for Atom before the chip can offer the same cost
efficiency as the Corex-A5.
"For the mass market, they're a long way off," he said in an interview.
ARM's new chip comes with one to four processors, at speeds of up to
1GHz. The cores in the Cortex-A5 will be able to run up to three times
faster than those in the ARM 9, the eight-year-old product which is the
company's current chip for the low-end market.
The Cortex-A5 will refresh the ARM 9, which gave users basic
Internet connectivity, Lanier said. More than 5 billion ARM 9 units
have been shipped, he said.
The Cortex-A5 will include ARM's TrustZone security technology and a
Neon multimedia processing engine, which was first introduced with the
Cortex-A8 processor design. The Neon technology is designed to offer
enhanced acceleration for multimedia applications.
The Cortex-A5 also is compatible with the Cortex-A8 and A9 chips,
which means immediate support from developers using Android, Adobe
Flash, Java Platform Standard Edition, JavaFX, Linux, Microsoft Windows
Embedded, Symbian and Ubuntu.
The chip is designed to work with a wide range of Internet-enabled
devices, from smartphones and netbooks to embedded consumer and
"There's a very massive opportunity here," Lanier said.
Part of that opportunity comes in emerging markets, he said, where
the issue is not just cost, but battery life, given that many places in
the world have limited access to power supplies.
"These [new devices used in these areas] will have to be very power efficient," Lanier said.
The Cortex-A5 uses about a third of the power of the ARM 11 chip,
which plays in the midrange market, which translates into the ability
to double the battery life, Lanier said. It also costs about 80 percent
less to manufacture than the ARM 9, he said.
The Cortex-A5 has two designs, one for a general-purpose chip at a
frequency of 1GHz and a power envelope of 80 milliwatts. The second is
a low-power chip that runs at 500MHz.