LONDON – Processor IP licensor ARM Holdings plc has announced a main and graphics processor pairing plus a video rendering core to address the mid-range performance ground between its Cortex-A9 and A15 levels of performance. The Cortex-A12 processor core and the Mali-T622 GPU provide such features as virtualization, big-little processing and GPU-compute aimed at price points for mid-range mobile devices, ARM said.
The 32-bit Cortex-A12 processor provides a 40 percent improvement in performance over the A9 on an instructions per clock basis compared to the A15's 60 percent margin, according to Stefan Rosinger, a CPU product manager at ARM. Typical clock frequencies achievable in the 28-nm processes are of the order of 2.3-GHz, he said.
Rosinger said he expects the A12 to be paired with the Mali T622 graphics processor unit, a step down from ARM's top of the range Mali T628 GPU in performance but also in die area. ARM claims that the A12-T622 combination is the "most area- and cost-efficient solution." ARM is also introducing the Mali-V500 video processing core. The Mali-V500 is a multicore video solution, scaling from a single core capable of 1080p/60 frames per second encode and decode to multiple cores supporting 4K video at 120 frames per second.
The CPU-GPU processors have been designed with the 28-nm node in mind and has support from Globalfoundries Inc. (Milpitas, Calif.) for its 28-SLP process and from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (Hsinchu, Taiwan) for its 28HPM process.
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Where ARM's mid-range processor IP suit fits in the projected market for smart mobile device shipments (smartphones and tablet computers). Source: ARM.
"We could not increase the performance without looking after the area," said Rosinger. The A12's arithmetic logic unit is an 11-stage pipeline supporting fully out of order processing – compared with the 9-stage pipeline of the A9 and the its limited scope for out of order processing. Other differences across the range include essentially single-issue of instructions per clock cycle within the A9 while the A12 has double-issue processing and the A15 supports triple-issue of instructions. ARM reckons it has also further optimized the integrated L2 cache which can be up to 8-Mbytes in size.
The Cortex-A12 processor core also supports ARM's big-little processing technology when combined with previously announced "little" Cortex-A7 processor. It has greater than 4-Gbytes of addressable memory and offers security support by way of virtualization and ARM's TrustZone technology.Features of the Cortex-A12 core including up to four-way multicore capability. Source: ARM.