High-Performance Applications Processing
Cortex-A series processors scale efficiently across a range of the highest performing consumer, embedded and enterprise devices. These include a spectrum of smartphones, mobile computing platforms, digital TVs, set-top boxes, and rich IoT devices through to enterprise networking, and server solutions. In an increasingly energy-conscious business landscape, the power efficiency of Cortex-A processors can provide significant advantages.
ARM's processors all share a commonly supported architecture and feature set, ensuring compatibility across the range of instruction sets. The Cortex-A17 processor which was introduced last year, the mature Cortex-A15, the widely-shipped Cortex-A9, and high-efficiency Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A5 processors all use the same ARMv7-A architecture, and therefore share full application compatibility, including support for the traditional ARM, Thumb® and high-performance Thumb-2 instruction sets. ARM also enables 64-bit computing with its ARMv8-A architecture which is supported by the Cortex-A72, Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53 processors. The ARMv8-A architecture also has a specialized execution state allowing it to process legacy ARM 32-bit applications. This provides an excellent path to upgrade for the existing 32-bit ecosystem and ensures the 64-bit ecosystem is backwards compatible.
High-performance cores such as the Cortex-A72, Cortex-A57, Cortex-A17 and Cortex-A15 processors can be paired with architecturally aligned high efficiency cores like the Cortex-A53 and Cortex-A7 processors in a big.LITTLE™ configuration for ARMv8-A and ARMv7-A respectively. This power-optimization technology allows the high-performance core to deliver peak-performance for intensive tasks such as instant webpage loading while background processing is undertaken by high efficiency cores. This is done seamlessly and is transparent to the applications and middleware, resulting in significantly improved overall energy efficiency and an exceptionally responsive user experience. High-performance Cortex-A processors are ideally suited to enable servers to meet the growing need for performance requirements delivered in ever more power-efficient solutions.
With the move to ever increasing driver assist, passive and active safety systems and advanced driver interfaces, the compute power of vehicles is set to significantly increase, and thus ARM Cortex-A processors are increasingly being designed in for safety related automotive applications.
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Cortex-A Series Characteristics
Cortex-A processors are specifically designed to execute complex functions and applications such as those required by consumer devices like smartphones and tablets. Their performance efficiency is also making them an increasingly popular choice for servers and enterprise applications where large core clusters can be combined for optimal solutions.
In consumer electronics, Cortex-A processors are ideal for providing fast and immersive connected experiences. Their low-power architecture enables all-day browsing, connectivity, console-quality gaming, technologies such as NEON™ and support for the widest mobile app ecosystem. Across enterprise and networking solutions, Cortex-A processors enable highly scalable solutions to match performance requirements for more power-efficient package transfer, basestations, edge routers and servers.
All Cortex-A based processors share a commonly supported architecture and feature set, with each processor based on either the ARMv7-A or ARMv8-A architecture and feature set. The ARMv8-A architecture has a 64-bit execution state and can also support existing 32-bit applications. This backwards compatibility strengthens the 64-bit ecosystem. This commonality makes them the best solution for open platform design where compatibility and portability of software between designs is of upmost importance.
Cortex-A processors offer support for a rage of full Operating Systems including Linux, as well as others requiring a Memory Management Unit such as Android, Chrome and MontaVista.
On top of the ARMv7-A and ARMv8-A architecture support, Cortex-A series processors have been developed to run a number of architecture extensions to provide support for security (TrustZone®), SIMD, and Advanced SIMD (NEON) technologies. Other extensions and technologies supported by Cortex-A series processors include:
- Instruction Set support - ARM, Thumb, Thumb-2, DSP
- Advanced single and double-precision Floating Point support
- Large Physical Address Extension (LPAE) addressing up to 1TB of physical memory
- big.LITTLE processing
ARM has worked closely with its partners to bring the performance and energy efficiency of Cortex-A series processors to Android devices. The vast ARM ecosystem brings with it a deep wealth of mobile knowledge in both hardware and software to maximize the benefits of the Android OS, and to ensure the best possible experience for users. The combination of these benefits makes Android better on ARM.
All ARMv7-A and ARMv8-A based processor cores featured in the current ARM Processor Portfolio support ARM's multicore technologies.
- Single to quad-core implementation for performance orientated applications
- Supports symmetric and asymmetric OS implementations
- Coherency throughout the processor exported to system via Accelerator Coherency Port (ACP)
The big.LITTLE compatible processors extend multi-core coherence beyond the 1-4 core clusters with AMBA® 4 ACE (AMBA Coherency Extension) and AMBA 5 CHI (Coherent Hub Interface).
The success of the Cortex-A processors is built on the innovation of ARM partners who have licensed these processors and developed a wide array of success stories in various markets. Click here for a list of the currently public Silicon Partners.