Marvell launches triple-core ARM chip

While other manufacturers are content to develop dual-core ARM processors, Marvell has gone one better - literally - with a new triple-core chip called the Armada 628.

The system-on-chip design, based on ARM's v7 MP series, features two dedicated 1.5GHz processing cores plus a third 624MHz core in a single application processor - making Marvell the first company to bring such a beast to market.

Weili Dai, co-founder of Marvell and vice president of the company's consumer and computing business unit, claimed that the new processor would allow devices based around it to deliver, "dual stream 1080p 3D video and 3D graphics performance with quad unified shaders for 200 million triangles per second" - a significant achievement for a low-power mobile chip.

Dai went on to say that Marvell will be aiming the device at "ultra-low-power, long-battery-life smartphones and tablets." And the chip has a trick up its sleeve to make the most of a battery.

While two of the cores are a pretty standard SMP setup, as seen in other dual-core ARM implementations, the third is a standalone processor designed for ultra-low-power draw. The idea behind such a design is that when the system is idle, or only running a low-performance application on a single thread, it can shut off the dual-core portion and save oodles of power.

Talking about the innovative design, industry analyst Linley Gwennap said: "Marvell's groundbreaking tri-core architecture is a unique solution to a long-time problem - how to achieve enterprise performance without breaking the limited power budget of smartphones, tablets and other mobile consumer devices."

The SoC design also includes six additional processing engines for 3D graphics, 1080p HD video decoding and encoding, HD audio, hardware-accelerated cryptography, and a dedicated engine for photo data processing - along with integrated support for USB 3.0.

Marvell, sadly, was unable to provide a release date or expected pricing for the Armada 628, except to say that the chip is "available for sampling to [OEM] customers" now.