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ARM debuts power-sipping 64-bit Cortex-A35 processor

Nov 12, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 1,768 views

At ARM TechCon this week, ARM unveiled its most power-efficient 64-bit processor to date: the ARMv8-A based “Cortex-A35,” aimed at mobile and embedded apps.

Due to ship in smartphones and other devices in late 2016, the ARMv8-A based Cortex-A35 architecture is ARM’s most power-efficient 64-bit processor design to date, and is positioned as a replacement for the 32-bit Cortex-A7 core.

Cortex-A35 draws about 33 percent less power per core and occupies 25 percent less silicon area, compared to the 64-bit Cortex-A53, says ARM. The SoC is aimed primarily at the smartphone market, but can also be used for “power-constrained embedded applications such as single-board computers and automotive,” says the chip designer.

ARM Cortex-A35 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Cortex-A35 based chips, which will also support 32-bit mode, will be 20 percent faster than Cortex-A7 on 32-bit mobile workloads “while consuming less than 90mW total power per core when operating at 1GHz in a 28nm process node,” says ARM.

According to ARM, more than half of all shipping smartphones now use 64-bit, ARMv8-A SoCs, which range from quad-core Cortex-A53 models to octa-core -A53 and -A57 SoCs. By contrast, Cortex-A7 is found mostly in low-end smartphones, or mid-range phones combined with Cortex-A15 or -A17 cores.

Like all these architectures, Cortex-A35 supports ARM’s Big.Little multi-core task sharing technology, permitting similar hybrids, most likely in combinations with Cortex-A57 or Cortex-A72 cores. In fact, AnandTech suggests that Cortex-A35 is as much the heir to the Cortex-A53 as it is the Cortex-A7. Since much of the duty of the lower-end cores in Big.Little SoCs is to offer more power-efficient operation when doing less demanding work, the -A35 could offer a big power savings over the -A53 in Cortex-A57 or Cortex-A72 driven combo SoCs.

The confusion over which SoC is the heir to which is nothing new. ARM called the 32-bit Cortex-A17 the heir to the Cortex-A9, but it was widely seen — and often used — as a replacement for the Cortex-A15. Previously, ARM had called the widely ignored Cortex-A12 the heir to the Cortex-A9, as well.

The AnandTech story notes that while Cortex-A35 will be implemented in ARM’s current 28nm process, it will also support 14nm or 16nm fabrication at clock rates above 2GHz.

Cortex-A35 is touted by ARM as being its most configurable processor to date. In addition to choosing single- or multi-core configurations, licensees will be able to pick and choose NEON, Crypto, ACP, or even the L2 blocks a la carte, says AnandTech. As such, it could have the widest application range yet compared to other ARM processors, with the potential for wearable and IoT designs using single-core configurations as small as 0.4mm squared, with 8K L1 cache, and no L2 cache or other extras.

Further details regarding the Cortex-A35 processor are available at ARM’s Cortex-A35 page.

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