ARM ups its 64-bit game big time with new A72 processor

New processor promises big performance improvements and big power gains at the same time.

After a long quiet period with very little new product announcements, ARM Holdings took the wraps off its Cortex A72 processor, a high-end 64-bit chip with a new GPU and interconnect that will offer some major improvements.

ARM was a little vague about the architecture of the A72, which will succeed the A57 as the top of the line 64-bit processor family. It uses the big.LITTLE design, like prior chips, and ARM claims a 3.5-fold increase in sustained performance over the A15 while offering a 75% reduction in energy on similar workloads over the A15.

Accompanying the A72 is the CCI-500, which stands for Cache Coherent Interconnect, an interconnect that's vital for core and memory communication. The first CCI chip, the 400, came out three years ago and is used in chips like Qualcomm's Snapdragon and Samsung's Exynos, enabling higher performance computing.

The CCI-500 has a number of new features and performance bumps. ARM claims a 2x improvement in peak system bandwidth, which will support 4k displays, and 30% processor memory performance compared to the CCI-400. It also has something called a snoop filter on the interconnect, which allows for improved power efficiency because the amount of transactions when doing cache lookups is reduced. That's how the 500 gets its 30% better memory performance.

Finally there is the new Mali GPU, which comes as part of the A72 SOC along with the CCI-500. ARM claims 1.8x the performance of the 2014 generation Mali part while delivering a 40% reduction for the same workloads.

ARM said it has 10 partners lined up to adopt the A72, but named only three – Mediatek, HiSilicon and Rockchip. The latter is interesting because it has a deal with Intel to build an Atom-based SoC for tablets. And I've already covered how Mediatek is making a push into the high-end, targeting Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor.

The A72 is still a way's off. It won't ship until 2016, and ARM is expecting to use the popular 16nm FinFET manufacturing process. We should see a lot more licensees by then.

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