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Cortex-A Series

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The ARM® Cortex®-A series of applications processors provide a range of solutions for devices undertaking complex compute tasks, such as hosting a rich Operating System (OS) platform, executing a user interface and supporting software applications.

Cortex-A series processors can be found in a range of the highest performing consumer devices, including a spectrum of smartphones from ultra-low-cost to high-end flagship devices, mobile computing platforms, digital TVs, and set-top boxes, but can also be found in enterprise networking, printers and server solutions. 

ARM's processors all share a commonly supported architecture and feature set, ensuring compatibility across the range of instruction sets. The recently introduced Cortex-A17 processor, 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-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-A57, Cortex-A17 and Cortex-A15 processors can be paired with energy-efficient cores including the Cortex-A53 and Cortex-A7 processors in a big.LITTLE™ configuration. This switches tasks between the processor pairing, and ensures that each operation is executed by the relevent processor. Simple tasks or background processing is undertaken by the energy-efficient core, with intensive tasks such as game rendering executed in short bursts by the high-performance core. This improves overall energy efficiency and delivers a better user experience.

 


Industry Standard

Cortex-A processors are used in applications that have high-compute requirements, run rich operating systems and deliver interactive media and graphics on the latest must-have devices such as handsets and ultra-portable netbooks to automotive infotainment systems and next-generation digital TV systems.

Cortex-A processors are geared towards providing the full internet experience, but are used in a wide variety of applications including:

Product Type Application
Mobile Computing Netbook, Tablet, eReader
Mobile Handset  Smartphones, Feature phones, Wearables
Digital Home Set-top Box, Digital TV, Blu-Ray player, Gaming consoles
Automotive Infotainment, Navigation
Enterprise Industrial printers, Routers, Wireless base-stations, VOIP phones and equipment
Wireless Infrastructure Web 2.0, Wireless base-stations, Switches, Servers

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.

Ideal for Mobile Internet

  • Native support for technologies like Adobe Flash
  • High performance NEON engine for broad support of media codecs
  • Low power design enables all-day browsing and connection

High Performance

Cortex-A based devices provide a scalable range of power-efficient performance points for their target applications. Some illustrative examples are:

  • Cortex-A57 processor: ARM's highest performing processor, delivering next-generation performance to mobile, enterprise and networking devices
  • Cortex-A53 processor: ARM's most efficient 64-bit processor for applications including mobile, digital TV, Internet of Things (IoT) and networking. It is architectually aligned with the Cortex-A57, making it an ideal choice for implementation in a big.LITTLE configuration
  • Cortex-A17 processor: The most efficient ARMv7-A based processor, delivering a new mid-range performance point for any screen, from smartphones to smart televisions
  • Cortex-A15 processor: High performance core for current mobile and demanding wireless infrastructure applications
  • Cortex-A9 processor: Widely deployed ARMv7-A processor core delivering 800 MHz - 2 GHz typical frequency and 5000 DMIPS of performance per core
  • Cortex-A7 processor: High energy and area efficient core with implementations in standalone, multi-core configurations delivering 800 MHz - 1.2 GHz typical frequency, or in a big.LITTLE configuration. Cortex-A7 is increasingly the choice for leading wearable devices
  • Cortex-A5 processor: Cost effective processor core offering implementations from 400-800MHz delivering over 1200 DMIPS of performance.

Multicore Technology

All ARMv7-A and ARMv8-A based processor cores featured in the current ARM Processor Portfolio support ARM's second-generation 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 cluster with AMBA4 ACE (AMBA Coherency Extension).

Advanced Extensions

Apart from binary compatibility with prior generation Classic ARM and Thumb® architectures, the Cortex-A process family cores provide additional benefits through the following technology extensions:
  • Thumb-2 for optimal code size and performance
  • TrustZone® security extensions for trusted computing
  • Jazelle® technology for accelerating execution environments such as Java, .Net, MSIL, Python and Perl

Industry Standard

Cortex-A series processors are used in a wide variety of performance applications. As a result, they offer significantly different power and performance characteristics to ensure the right-fit for advanced embedded solutions demanding a feature-rich operating system and a wide variety of mobile and consumer applications.

Cortex-A Comparisons

All Cortex-A based processors share a commonly supported architecture and feature set. This makes them the best solution for open platform design where compatibility and portability of software between designs is of upmost importance:

  • All Cortex-A processors suupport ARMv8-A or ARMv7-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
  • Support for full Operating Systems
  • Instruction Set Support - ARM, Thumb-2, Thumb, Jazelle®, DSP
  • TrustZone® Security Extensions
  • Advanced single-precision and double-precision Floating Point support
  • NEON™ media processing engine
  • Virtualization
  • 1TB addressing (LPAE)

Together, the range of Cortex-A processors provide design flexibility by providing the required peak performance points and scalability, and delivering the desired power efficiency and silicon cost while maintaining full software compatibility.

Core Cortex-A5 Cortex-A5
MPCore
Cortex-A7 Cortex-A9 Cortex-A9
MPCore
Cortex-A15 Cortex-A17 Cortex-A53 Cortex-A57
Architecture ARMv7 ARMv7+MP ARMv7+MP
+LPAE
ARMv7 ARMv7+MP ARMv7+MP
+LPAE
ARMv7+MP
+LPAE
ARMv8 ARMv8
Interrupt
Controller
GIC-390 Integrated- GIC GIC-400 GIC-390 Integrated- GIC Integrated-GIC GIC-400 GIC-500 GIC-500
L2 Cache
Controller
L2C-310 L2C-310 Integrated L2C-310 L2C-310 Integrated Integrated Integrated Integrated

Cortex-A57

The ARM Cortex-A57 processor is ARM’s highest performing processor, designed to further extend the capabilities of future mobile and enterprise computing applications including compute intensive 64-bit applications such as high end computer, tablet and server products.

The processor can be implemented individually or paired with the Cortex-A53 processor into an ARM big.LITTLE configuration that enables scalable performance and optimal energy-efficiency.

Cortex-A57 processor benefits include:

  • Highest performance ARM processor, further extending the capabilities of advanced smartphones
  • Can execute 64-bit applications while maintaining backwards compatibility to existing 32-bit applications
  • ARM big.LITTLE enabled- AMBA®4 AXI™ coherency across CPUs and GPUs
  • Optional reliability and scalability features for high-performance enterprise applications

Cortex-A53

The ARM Cortex-A53 processor is our most power-efficient ARMv8 processor capable of seamlessly supporting 32-bit and 64-bit code. It makes use of a highly efficient 8-stage in-order pipeline balanced with advanced fetch and data access techniques for performance. It fits in a power and area footprint suitable for entry-level smartphones, and is at the same time capable of delivering high aggregate performance in scalable enterprise systems via high core density.

It delivers significantly higher performance than the highly successful Cortex-A7, and is capable of deployment as a standalone applications processor or paired with the Cortex-A57 processor in a big.LITTLE configuration for optimum performance, scalability and energy efficiency.

Cortex-A53 processor benefits include:

  • Power efficient 64-bit performance brings advanced processing capabilities in devices with small power envelopes
  • Can execute 64-bit applications while maintaining backwards compatibility to existing 32-bit applications
  • ARM big.LITTLE enabled- AMBA®4 AXI™ coherency across CPUs and GPUs
  • Offers optional reliability and scalability features for high-performance enterprise applications.

Cortex-A17

The ARM Cortex-A17 processor is the latest high-performance ARMv7-A solution targeted at smartphones and tablets, and delivers today’s premium user experience in tomorrow’s mid-range mobile and consumer devices.

Cortex-A17 processor offers premium performance and a high-end feature set making it an ideal fit for every screen – from smartphone to tablet, to smart TVs, over-the-top TV boxes and set-top box devices. The Cortex-A17 processor is architecturally aligned with the broadly deployed Cortex-A7 processor, enabling next-generation mid-range devices based on big.LITTLE technology.

Cortex-A17 processor benefits include:

  • High performance ARMv7-A solution with premium performance and high-end feature-set
  • ARM big.LITTLE enabled – AMBA ACE™ coherency across CPUs and GPUs
  • 1TB addressable memory space – supporting future needs of mobile software
  • Virtualization and TrustZone – Security enabling new use cases like BYOD for your mobile device

Cortex-A15

The ARM Cortex-A15 MPCore processor delivers unprecedented processing capability, combined with low power consumption to enable compelling products in a wide range of new and existing ARM markets ranging from mobile computing, high-end digital home, servers and wireless infrastructure.

Mobile configurations of the Cortex-A15 processor deliver over five times the performance of today’s advanced smartphones. In advanced infrastructure applications, the Cortex-A15 processor running at up to 2.5GHz will enable highly scalable solutions within constantly shrinking energy, thermal and cost budgets.

Cortex-A15 processor benefits include:

  • ARM big.LITTLE enabled – AMBA ACE coherency across CPUs and GPUs
  • 1TB addressable memory space – supporting future needs of mobile software
  • Virtualization and TrustZone – Security enabling new use cases like BYOD for your mobile device
  • Efficient hardware support for data management and arbitration

Cortex-A9

The Cortex-A9 processor is available as either a single-core or 1-4 core multicore synthesizable processor each offering 2.5 Dhrystone MIPS per MHz per CPU. In its single-core implementation an area optimized implementation of the processor provide a minimal footprint and exceptional energy efficiency for traditional embedded designs, while a speed optimized multicore implementation offers up to four time the total performance with the additional advantages of cache coherence, integrated peripherals and advanced bus interface options.

A dual-core multicore solution is also available as a hard macro that can achieve over 2 GHz typical performance having leveraged the ARM high performance Physical IP within its implementation.

Cortex-A9 processor benefits include:

  • Ideal power and performance profile for ultra-low-power smartphones or high-end wearable devices
  • Mature processing solution with up to four cores operating
  • Leverages substantial multicore ecosystem with advanced OS support from major vendors
  • Full scalability of solutions from minimal single-core through to MPCore™ with NEON

Cortex-A7

The Cortex-A7 MPCore processor is the most power-efficient application processor ARM has ever developed, and dramatically extends ARM’s low-power leadership in entry-level smartphones, tablets, high-end wearables and other advanced mobile devices. The Cortex-A7 led the multicore revolution for entry-level and mid-range mobile smartphones, and devices based on the popular quad- and octa- core configurations are shipping in huge volumes. The Cortex-A7 processor can also be combined as a small energy-efficient CPU with either the Cortex-A17 or Cortex-A15 processors in a big.LITTLE processing configuration.

The Cortex-A7 processor benefits include:

  • Up to 20% more single thread performance compared to Cortex-A5 at similar energy efficiency
  • Provides the best power-efficiency of any ARM applications processor
  • ARM big.LITTLE enabled- AMBA 4 AXI coherency across CPUs and GPUs
  • Identical architecture and feature set to the Cortex-A15 and Cortex-A17 processors, with differences in the Cortex-A7 processor's microarchitecture focused on providing optimum energy efficiency

Cortex-A5

The Cortex-A5 processor is the smallest, lowest cost and lowest power ARMv7 application processor, ideal as a stand-alone processor within current and future generations of smart wearable devices. It is capable of delivering the internet to the widest possible range of devices, from smart devices like wearables, feature phones and low-cost, entry-level smartphones, to a range of pervasive embedded, consumer and industrial devices.

The Cortex-A5 processor benefits include:

  • Designed with size, area and cost restrictions in mind, the Cortex-A5 processor offers a solution for a wide range of mobile devices
  • Full application compatibility with the Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 processors 
  • Provides a higher performance and lower silicon cost migration path for the large number of existing ARM926EJ-S and ARM1176JZ-S processor licensees
  • One-third the power and area of Cortex-A9 processor, with full instruction set compatibility

Cortex-A Technologies

The Cortex-A processors share a number of key technologies that make them ideal for portable media-rich devices.

RISC Processor Core Instruction Set Architecture
  • High performance 32-bit & 64-bit cores
  • 15-stage+ pipeline technology
  • 1.5-3.5+ DMIPS/MHz per core
  • Advanced branch prediction
  • ARM and Thumb ISA for ensuring binary compatibility
  • Thumb-2 for optimal blend of code density and performance
  • NEON™ / DSP extensions for advanced DSP and media performance
  • VFP for high-performance single and double-precision floating point
  • Jazelle®-DBX and RCT support
Media Acceleration Multicore Technologies
  • NEON integer and floating point SIMD Engine for enhanced media performance
  • Jazelle technology for accelerated execution environments
  • 1-4 cores
  • Full L1 cache coherency
  • Advanced Coherency Port
  • Snoop Control Unit
Advanced Memory System System Extensions
  • 1-2 cycle cache access
  • Pipe-lined loads and stores
  • Tuned for memory streaming
  • Integrated or closely-coupled optional level-2 caches

ARM MPCore Technology

The ARM MPCore technology allows for design-configurable processors supporting between one, two, three or four CPUs, and operating in an integrated cache coherent manner. These multicore processor clusters are fully coherent at the level-1 cache boundaries and in addition can be configured to extend limited coherency into the rest of the System on a Chip (SoC) through an Accelerator Coherence Port (ACP). The ACP permits system-mastering peripherals and accelerators with a non-cached view of memory - such as a DMA engine or cryptographic accelerator core - to share the processor caches in a fully cache coherent manner. The multicore cluster includes a Global Interrupt Controller (GIC) architecture compliant integrated interrupt and communication system with private peripherals for increased performance and simplified software portability. This GIC can be configured to support between 0 (legacy bypass mode) to 224 independent interrupt sources providing a low latency interrupt path to a large number of devices.  The processor can support either a single or dual 64-bit AMBA® 3 AXI™ interconnect interface with the option for full speed filtering between different address space within the SoC.

The intelligence of the MPCore technology comes from the Snoop Control Unit (SCU) which  is responsible for managing the interconnect, arbitration, communication, cache-to-cache and system memory transfers, cache coherence and other multicore capabilities for all MPCore technology enabled processors.  

ARM MPCore technology allows for very efficient, scalable multi-processing CPU clusters which give a very high-range of performance possibilities with very low software overhead. In Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) mode, the OS scheduler handles all allocation of threads to the processing cluster making it transparent to applications running. Most current high-level operating systems have built-in support for this mode of operation.




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