ARM unveils Cortex-A7 MPCore processor

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ARM has launched the Cortex-A7 MPCore processor, said to be the most energy efficient application class processor it has yet developed.

The part also features big.LITTLE processing, described as a flexible approach that redefines the traditional relationship between power and performance. The Cortex-A7 processor is five times more energy efficient than a Cortex-A8 targeted at a 45nm process and requires only 20% of the silicon area of the A8 – 0.5mm2 on a 28nm process. Clock rates in excess of 1GHz are supported. The processors features an in order eight stage pipeline with branch prediction, along with improvements in the memory management unit and bus interface and an integrated low latency L2 cache. According to Mike Inglis, executive vice president of ARM's processor division, pictured: "As smartphones and tablets continue to evolve into users' primary compute device, consumers are demanding performance as well as the always on, always connected service they expect. The challenge for our industry and the ARM ecosystem is how to deliver on this. The introduction of Cortex-A7 and big.LITTLE addresses this, setting a new standard for energy efficient processors and redefining the traditional power and performance relationship." Big.LITTLE processing pairs Cortex-A15 MPCore and Cortex-A7 processors in one package, with the host device selecting the right processor for the task. This dynamic selection is transparent to application software or middleware. The Cortex-A7 performs the LITTLE part of the operation, running the operating system and applications such as social media and audio. As demands rise for high end tasks, these can be migrated to the Cortex-A15 in around 20µs. Switching of workloads is supported by ARM system IP, ensuring full cache, I/O and processor to processor coherency between the two processors and across the complete system.