British processor designer ARM has announced the launch of its Cortex-A5 MPCore microprocessor family, a range of products that's squarely aimed at devices like smartphones, set top boxes, consumer electronics as well as non x86 computers (e.g. smartbooks).
Launched at the annual ARM TechCon3 conference in California, the A5 MPCore is expected to replace ARM's existing ARM9 and ARM11 which have been used in a wide range of products, from the Nintendo D to the Nokia N97, the HTC Dream, the Hero and even the iPhone and the iPod Touch (the earlier generations).
ARM claims that the Cortex A5 will be three times more powerful than the four-year old ARM9 while consuming only a third of the power of the slightly more powerful ARM11; this should mean extended battery life with ARM saying that users will be able to use their devices for twice longer.
We haven't been able to get a direct power/performance comparison between the ARM11 and the A5 which will be ARM's new mid-range champion and almost certainly bound to become the company's biggest revenue earner over the next few years.
Most A5 MPCore chipsets are expected to be build using Taiwan-based TSMC's foundries using an advanced 40nm manufacturing process. This will make them not only extremely cheap to produce - only 20 percent that of the ARM9 according to some sources - but also very frugal when it comes to power consumption.
The A5 will be available in two version, a low power version running at 600MHz and a faster one clocked at 1GHz which will consume 80mW. Add in the fact that you can combine four physical cores together and you have a pretty powerful solution. Unfortunately, products based on the Cortex A5 won't appear before 2011.