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Exclusive : ARM Cortex-A15 "40 Per Cent" Faster Than Cortex-A9

We've received an email from ARM that confirms that the Cortex-A15 will be at least 40 per cent faster than the A9 when it comes to raw performance (Dhrystone MIPS), all things equal; same number of core, same speed.

The Cortex-A8 reached 2.0 DMIPS/MHz while the Cortex-A9 reached 2.5 DMIPS/MHz, a 25 per cent improvement. According to our contact at ARM, the A15 has a "published but not formal number" of 3.5 DMIPS/MHz but told us that the performance difference across generation is "dependent on many factors" before adding that "Other benchmarks can show less improvement on specific devices, others a greater improvement". ARM has yet to officially publish the Cortex-A15 figures on its website (opens in new tab).

The 25 per cent performance improvement roughly ties up with the preliminary benchmark results reported by Nvidia and by Anandtech (opens in new tab), which means that ARM is deliberately being conservative when it comes to benchmark figures.

What's more we already know of at least one manufacturer who has published benchmark figures for the Cortex-A15; Last month at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, ST-Ericsson revealed that its new system on Chip, the Nova A9600 (opens in new tab), would have two Cortex-A15 core, runs at 2.5GHz and, more importantly, breaks the 20,000 DMIPS barrier.

This means that the ST-Ericsson's tweaked implementation of the Cortex-A15 can reach at least 4.01 DMIPS/MHz, which is itself a 14 per cent improvement upon what ARM's figures.

Given that startups like Caldexa are already developing quad-core iterations of the Cortex-A9, one can easily envision that a 4-core Cortex-A15 will shatter the 40K DMIPS barrier, putting it within touching distance of the AMD Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition which reached almost 43K DMIPS running at 3GHz.

As a side note, the Cortex-A8 was launched back in October 2005, the A9 back in October 2007 and the A15 in September 2010. Products based on the Cortex A8 like the Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 (which is found in HTC Desire, the Xperia X10 or the Dell Streak), were released THREE years after the ARM's official launch. The first Cortex-A9 products which were released 2.5 years afterwards while the first Cortex-A15 system on chip should come to the market as early as 2012 according to Texas Instruments.

This means that the time to market is gradually shrinking by around six months with every generation, a change fuelled by increasing competition from newcomers like Broadcom, Fujitsu or Nvidia.

We've also been tipped off by an anonymous source outside ARM that the company will be announcing a major breakthrough by the end of the 2011; just one year after the unveiling of the Cortex-A15.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.