Cortex-A12 fills a gap

At Computex in Taiwan, ARM announced a new CPU core and GPU core for SoC that fill a gap between the A9 and A15.

Starting off Computex with an interesting announcement, ARM is talking about a new Cortex-A12 core that will attempt to address a performance gap in the SoC ecosystem between the A9 and A15.  In the battle to compete with Krait and Intel's Silvermont architecture due in late 2013, ARM definitely needed to address the separation in performance and efficiency of the A9 and A15. 

Source: ARM.  Top to bottom: Cortex-A15, A12, A9 die size estimate

Targeted at mid-range devices that tend to be more cost (and thus die-size) limited, the Cortex-A12 will ship in late 2014 for product sampling and you should begin seeing hardware for sale in early 2015.

Architecturally, the changes for the upcoming A12 core revolve around a move to fully out of order dual-issue design including the integrated floating point units.  The execution units are faster and the memory design has been improved but ARM wasn't ready to talk about specifics with me yet; expect that later in the year. 

ARM claims this results in a 40% performance gain for the Cortex-A12 over the Cortex-A9, tested in SPECint.  Because product won't even start sampling until late in 2014 we have no way to verify this data yet or to evaluate efficiency claims.  That time lag between announcement and release will also give competitors like Intel, AMD and even Qualcomm time to answer back with potential earlier availability.

The A12 will support the ARM big.LITTLE architecture and can be paired with lower power, more efficient A7 cores just like the A15 can be today.  If Cortex-A12 is as efficient as ARM claims then there might be less of a purpose to engineer a duplicate core design. 

Along with the new A12 core, ARM also announced the complementary technologies of the Mali-T622 GPU and Mali-V500 video processor. 

The T622 Mali GPU is similar to that of the T600 but extends it to an optional dual-core.  Performance claims are based on efficiency rather than raw performance; the T622 is runs 50% more energy efficiently than the T600. 

The V500 is a separate core that handles video processing for playback and recording.  1080p60 support for encode and decode doesn't sound overly impressive but ARM also mentioned optional 4K video support as well.


I do not have any more details than what was provided other than to tell you we can talk more about the Cortex-A12 design in the coming months.  For the first time in really forever, ARM has some legitimate competition coming in the mobile space that doesn't license ARM ISA (like Qualcomm).  Intel and AMD are making quick strides towards tablets and phones, Intel with the Silvermont and AMD with Temash.  ARM still has a big lead, but each quarter that passes going forward will bring potentially dramatic changes to the market.