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ARM Cortex-A17 processor promises 60% more performance for sub-£150 smartphones and tablets

Tom Morgan
11 Feb 2014
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Cambridge-based ARM has announced its latest mobile processor, the Cortex-A17, which the company promises will provide a 60% performance increase over the outgoing Cortex-A9

ARM, the Cambridge-based manufacturer of mobile processors for smartphones and tablets, has announced a new chip it promises will provide more than double the performance of its previous mid-range CPU. The Cortex-A17 looks set to appear in sub-£150 mid-range smartphones from the second half of 2015, with chip vendors VIA, Realtek and MediaTek already signed up to use the new design.

The Cortex-A17 will replace the ageing Cortex-A9, which is approaching its sixth birthday. The scaleable design can support up to four cores running at speeds of 2GHz and beyond, and can also be paired with other, low-power ARM cores in a big.LITTLE configuration - much like the US version of Samsung's Galaxy Note 3, which uses an Exynos 5 octa processor built on an ARM reference design. It will reportedly provide up to 60% greater performance than a Cortex-A9 chip, but use 20% less power.

Cortex-A17

Although the smartphone world is increasingly looking towards 64-bit processing, spearheaded by Apple's iPhone 5s, the Cortex-A17 is a 32-bit chip. ARM has the 64-bit Cortex-A57 and A53 cores already, but the company doesn't expect demand for 64-bit processors in mid-range devices just yet.

The new chip will eventually find its way into a range of mid-range smartphones and tablets, Smart TVs and set-top boxes, and in-car entertainment systems. ARM predicts various combinations of components using its big.LITTLE multi-core layout for performance and power saving in equal measure; quad-core Cortex-A17 chips running at 2GHz+ can be paired with quad-core Cortex-A7 CPUs, while more entry-level devices could use a dual-core A17 running between 1.5GHz and 2GHz paired with a dual-core A7. Finally, the chip will also be available by itself, running between 1GHz and 2GHz depending on the manufacturer.

The Cortex-A17 will initially be manufactured on a 28nm process, but could see a reduction to 20nm in 2016.

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