ARM announces Cortex A7 MPCore processor

Plus, big.LITTLE processing for our high-end devices

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ARM has announced a new Cortex A7 MPCore processor which promises super processing power and low-battery power for the cheap and cheerful smartphone market in the years to come, and also its big.LITTLE concept for increased efficiency in devices..

The company calls the Cortex A7, which uses a 28nm process, the "most energy-efficient application class processor" that it has ever developed, and promises that the chip will bring both high performance and longer battery life.

It's intended to tap into the growing demand for handsets like the Orange San Francisco that are on sale for under £100, not to mention cheaper handsets intended for developing countries (affectionately known as "emerging markets" in awful business-speak).

"The Cortex-A7 processor will enable a rich user experience in the sub-$100 entry level smartphone," said ARM. "And help connect the next billion people in developing markets."

To put it in context, the Cortex-A7 offers five times the energy efficiency of the Cortex-A8 while still managing to be one fifth of its size.

The chip uses 28nm process technology while requiring less than 0.5mm squared of space, and can be used in either single- or multi-core set ups.

ARM is expecting to see the Cortex-A7 system hit value smartphones in 2013-2014, reckoning that they will provide the equivalent processing power of today's top-end superphones.

big.LITTLE

The highly-efficient ARM Cortex A7 plays a part in the big.LITTLE processing concept, which "redefines the traditional power and performance relationship".

It does this, essentially, by pairing a low-power processor (the A7) with a much more powerful and power hungry partner (the A15 MPCore) allowing almost seamless switching between the two.

That means that, when you are doing more casual and less demanding activities like keeping your email up to date or playing music, your battery will be being drained much less, but your device can quickly improve its power for higher-performance activities.

So, not only is the tiny A7 design bringing the cheaper end of devices up in power, but also potentially bringing more powerful devices down in power demand. Nifty - and we'll see devices that use this in 2011.