UK-based semiconductor company ARM has announced today a new Cortex-A50 processor series that is based on the 64-bit ARMv8 architecture that was launched back in October 2011. The new products will enrich ARM's portfolio allowing it to deliver a wider range of cores to cover everything from entry level smartphones all the way to super computers.
Two processor cores are part of this new family, the Cortex-A53 and the A57. The last core introduced by ARM was the A7 as part of the big.LITTLE processor configuration (opens in new tab).
The A57 is hailed by ARM as being its most advanced higher performance applications processor and it will replace the Cortex-A15 as the top dog core (opens in new tab). Its little brother, the A53, is presented as the world's smallest 64-bit processor and the company's most power-efficient application processor to date.
The A57 is said to deliver up to three times the performance of today's superphones within the same power budget. That's all things equal (same 32-bit processor technology, same processor speed and same node) and compared to the Cortex-A9 rather than the Cortex-A15.
As for the A53, it delivers today's superphone experience using a quarter of the power. In essence, it provides with the power of a Cortex-A9 but with a power consumption closer to the Cortex-A5.
Given that the A15 is around 40 per cent more powerful than the Cortex-A9, we can guesstimate that the A57 delivers more than twice the performance of its predecessor, providing what "ARM calls performance comparable to a legacy PC".
Both members of the A50 series will "target multi-GHz performance" which means that it will not be surprising if for the first time ever, ARM SoCs' clockspeeds match those of their x86 counterparts.
The performance delta is likely to rise as ARM partner foundries move to smaller geometries and roll out new manufacturing techniques like FinFET while 64-bit code base become more prevalent.
Both are expected to be sampled late next year with first products based on the A57 and the A53 likely to come out in 2014 or as some analysts would say, depending on market demands.
Both the A57 and the A53 are likely to be used in tandem in the big.LITTLE processor configuration to increase power efficiency and performance and will supersede the "first generation" A15/A7 combo.
ARM licensees for the A50 include AMD, Broadcom, Calxeda, HiSilicon, Samsung and STMicroelectronics (and its subsidiary ST-Ericsson), leaving no doubt that the A50 will target, first and foremost, the server and data center market which is historically dominated by x86.
Notable absentees include Qualcomm, Nvidia (which is working on its own server chip) and Texas Instruments; coincidentally all three are also launch partners for Microsoft Windows RT.
By combining the best of both worlds (32-bit and 64-bit), ARM aims to accelerate and facilitate the transition between the two ecosystems, a process that has already started and is likely to last well into the second half of the decade.