updated 10:40 am EDT, Wed April 20, 2011
ARM Cortex-A15 to start with dual-core late 2012
ARM's US mobile division head James Bruce said in a conversation late Tuesday that the first phones and tablets using the Cortex-A15 architecture should be available by the end of 2012 or early into 2013. The much improved chip design will start out cautiously with dual-core designs before moving on to quad-core later on. The performance leap over the A9 was such that he predicted to PCWorld that phones like the Motorola Atrix were part of a larger trend towards mobile devices used for desktop-level tasks.
He didn't give the expected clock speeds. The A15 at its peak can run up to 2.5GHz and with as many as 16 cores, but likely not at the same time and in the tight spaces of a smartphone or some tablets.
The design is coming along just as Intel has been showing signs of catching up. It hoped to get to phone-friendly power levels by 2013, when Atom chips would be made on a 22 nanometer process. Most ARM chip designers plan to get to 28 nanometers before then, however, and would be improving on the power consumption that Intel would still be trying to beat.
ARM has been gaining traction for serious performance in the past few months with the advent of dual-core processors and the promise of quad-core. Many smartphones now have visibly better HD video playback and 3D gaming than Intel-based netbooks. Microsoft has also had to reluctantly support ARM in Windows 8, and the quad-core processor coming in the Sony NGP will have near-PS3 performance in a fraction of the size.
Virtually every major smartphone maker is expected to use the A15 shortly after it's ready, ranging from Apple to HTC and Samsung.