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ARM launches Cortex A-72 platform, powering flagship smartphones in 2016

Mark Hachman | Feb. 4, 2015
ARM, the CPU company that powers virtually all smartphones, announces the Cortex A-72 chip design as well as a new graphics core.

 

Every flagship smartphone you buy contains a processor designed by ARM. On Tuesday, ARM described what those flagship phones will look like in 2016-and they'll all be powered by its new chip, the Cortex-A72 processor.

ARM's announcements set the table for a new generation of flagship phones. Not only did ARM announce the Cortex-A72 processor, but a new, integrated Mali-T880 GPU, a new CCI-500 processor interconnect and even optimizations for a new TSMC 16-nm FinFET manufacturing process.

ARM occupies a unique niche in the chip industry. As a chip designer, the company doesn't actually make any products, but its designs are licensed to companies including Qualcomm, Samsung and others. Those companies turn ARM's designs into actual chips that power next-generation smartphones. To allow time for its ten unnamed licensees to actually develop product, ARM's new Cortex A-72 won't ship until early 2016, according to ARM CPU group vice president of marketing Nandan Nayampally. But the chips should run at 2.5-GHz speeds, the company said.

ARM
MARK HACHMAN. ARM's own performance estimates of the Cortex-A72.

In general, ARM said its chips have increased in performance more than 50 times in five years, with the Cortex-A72 simply continuing the trend.

ARM's selling points for the A72 chip will be 4K technology, mobile gaming, and connecting the Internet of Things, the company said. ARM's Ian Drew, the company's chief marketing officer, said the chip will enable capturing 4K video at 120 frames per second, allowing "slow-mo" image capture that can only be done in 1080p on today's smartphones. 

ARM
MARK HACHMAN. ARM predicts a steady drop in power, based on process and design improvements.

The case for 4K: "All users hate pixels"
James Bruce, ARM's director of mobile solutions, said it was simply not true that 4K pixels weren't discernible on today's smartphones. "All users hate pixels," he said. "They hate to see and detect pixels." 

There will be some users with better eyesight that can discern pixels even at higher resolutions, Bruce added; the new Cortex chips will also be shipped into tablets, where displays are even bigger. In general, "there is an insatiable demand for higher resolutions and higher frame rates," he said.

ARM
MARK HACHMAN. ARM's new Mali core promises console-like gaming, the company said.

Mobile gaming will also improve dramatically, ARM said, as the new T-880 integrated GPU will offer 1.8 times the performance of the Mali T-880 GPU that's powering today's smartphones. And to connect the Internet of Things, the chip will need to be able to spare the power to periodically communicate with sensors, smartwatches, and other devices; the A72 will consume 75 percent less power than the Cortex-A15, Drew said.

 

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