Intel, Mediatek, Nvidia, and Qualcomm are in a race to roll 64-bit mobile apps SoCs at MWC, but until the software is ready, 32-bitters will lead in performance.
The lack of a native 64-bit operating system has certainly not slowed chip manufacturers from announcing 64-bit mobile processors. Prior to MWC, Apple, Nvidia, and Qualcomm had announced 64-bit mobile ARM processors.
At MWC, MediaTek announced its entry into the 64-bit processor market with the MT6732 quad core smartphone processor with integrated LTE modem announced the day before the start of MWC (MediaTek’s MT67xx product nomenclature is for 64-bit ARM processors; 32-bit parts are MT65xx).
Nvidia had demoed its chip, a variant of the the Tegra K1, at 2014 CES. The Nvidia chip will have two wide-issue, custom 64-bit “Denver” cores.
Qualcomm also added to its 64-bit product line with the Snapdragon 610 and 615 processors. The Qualcomm chips use ARM’s licensable Cortex-A53 CPU cores in the Snapdragon 410, 610, and 615.
The Cortex-A53 is the 64-bit evolution of the 32-bit Cortex-A7, the little core in the big.LITTLE system architecture that can be paired with the Cortex-A15 or Cortex-A17 big core.
There is also a 64-bit big CPU core, the Cortex-A57, but that seems destined for ARM server chips like AMD’s eight core Opteron A1100 because of its higher die area and power requirements -- at least in the short term. A number of low-to-mid-range mobile chips use from one to eight Cortex-A7 cores.
The new chips announced by MediaTek, like the one announced by Qualcomm use the 64-bit capable Cortex-A53 for mid-range smartphones. While the Cortex-A53 is not the highest performing mobile CPU in ARM’s arsenal, it offers good performance through a dual-issue microarchitecture and clock speeds up to a consumer friendly 2GHz in 28nm. Intel’s Atom processors are also 64-bit enabled.
Next page: The 64-bit conundrum