Cambridge-based chip designer, ARM, has announced its most power-efficient chip yet, which it claims could herald the era of sub £65 smartphones.
ARM has announced the Cortex-A7 MPCore processor and claims that it delivers five time the energy efficiency of the Cortex-A8, the chip found in most of today's high-end smartphones and tablets.
Not only this, but the 28nm Cortex-A7 is just one fifth the size of the Cortex-A8 while “providing significantly greater performance.” This increase in efficiency and decrease in footprint won’t however be seen in mobile products until mid- to late-2013.
“The Cortex-A7 processor will enable a rich user experience in sub-$100 [£64] entry-level smartphones and help connect the next billion people in developing markets.” The A7 design is based on ARM’s most powerful chip, the Cortex-A15, but has been optomised for low-power use through something ARM likes to call big.LITTLE processing.
ARM architecture dominates the smartphone and tablet market, with Intel x86 architecture so far being too power-hungry. The new Cortex-A7 processor will be seen in System on Chips (SoC) from the likes of Broadcom, LG Electronics, Linaro, QNX, Redbend, Samsung, ST-Ericsson and Texas Instruments.
With ARM-based chip currently sitting inside something like 95 per cent of smartphones and the Cortex-A8 powering high-end devices like the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy Nexus, it’s clear that ARM want the A7 processor to be just as powerful and popular, but in a much lower price bracket.
"This core will enable apps processors at similar levels of performance to what you find in a high-end smartphone today, but in a couple of years that level of performance will be in a lower-end, and therefore a lower-cost smartphone," the ARM chief executive, Warren East, said – with developing markets such as China, India and Africa a key target for growth.
Intel is trying to muscle in on the highly lucrative mobile market and is hoping that it’s low-power Medfield processors will be able to capture some of ARM’s market share. It will be unveiling its Red Ridge Medfield tablet reference design at the beginning of next month, which promises to combine low-power and a small footprint with "stunning" performance.
With Intel promising Medfield-powered phones and tablets in the first half of 2012, it is certainly an exciting time in the development of mobile CPUs and this can only mean good things for our wallets as Intel and ARM go head-to-head.