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ARM Unveils Mobile Multi-core CPU & GPU

Gordon Kelly


ARM Unveils Mobile Multi-core CPU & GPU

Now this could be a big deal...

The ARM TechCon3 annual conference is underway this week and the company has used it to unveil new CPU and graphics chips which look set to bring affordable, multi-core technology to mobile devices.

On the processor we have the latest addition to the Cortex family, the 'A5'. This, ARM claims, can scale all the way from a single core in low end, budget handsets through to dual core in smartphones and quad core in smartbooks (essentially non-Intel style netbooks). Excitingly, even an entry level A5 will have enough grunt to provide "Internet capable performance" and each core can be clocked at up to Snapdragon 1GHz levels giving each product potentially game changing speed.

Happily ARM also says the A5 is a) nearly twice as efficient as existing chips {so battery life shouldn't be a problem} and b) is fully compatible with Cortex A8 (used in the Palm Pre and iPhone 3GS) and A9 processors so no software recoding will need to be done by handset/software developers.

As for the graphics, here we find the 'Mali' which will come in single ('200') and multi-core ('400') editions. Again just the 200 is powerful enough to decode 720p HD video at 30fps, while the 400 manages 1080p and 3D gaming (see the video above).

The only fly in the ointment here is real world availability. ARM has already begun to supply A5 and Mali designs to its partners, but development times mean the first devices to use them will be unlikely to appear before late 2010/early 2011. That said, it's about time multi-core processors hit our smartphones and besides, let's see Apple claim multi-tasking isn't possible then...


ARM Cortex A5 Product Page

ARM Mali Product Page


October 23, 2009, 4:59 am

The iPhone and Palm Pre use the Cortex-A8 CPU, not the A9. As far as I know there is currently not a single device on the market that uses ARM's Cortex-A9 CPU. I guess we will be seeing those around the second half of 2010.

Cortex-A9 is also a multi-core part in the same way as the A5, meaning you will also see single core Cortex-A9 chip-sets as well as dual or quad core versions.


October 23, 2009, 6:07 am

Interesting stuff but what operating system will one be running on those quad core smartbooks? Currently the only candidates are Linux and Google Chrome OS. What are the odds Apple and Microsoft will join the fray?

BTW Gordon, shouldn't the last sentence say "let's see Apple claim multi-tasking isn't possible then..."?


October 23, 2009, 6:19 am

Looks promising :-)


October 23, 2009, 6:31 pm

I don't believe Apple don't multi-task on the I-Phone, not because of processing power, but battery life. As anyone who has Jailbroken there Iphone will know.:)

Oliver Levett

October 23, 2009, 8:48 pm

Multitasking is possible (and very good) on devices running lowly processors such as the OMAP850 chipset. My Prophet is running Opera, WMP and texting. It's only Apple who think devices can't multitask...


October 24, 2009, 3:41 am

@Helmore: Until the Nokia N900 is on sale next month.

Phones can multitask just fine right now, even the lowly sonyEricsson dumb phones multitask. Nokia smartphones have been at it for years. All this chip will do is make a good thing better.

Of course there are certain fruit companies that havent optimized their software enough to handle multitasking and attain good battery life....and even then its battery life is crap to begin with.

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