updated 10:25 am EDT, Tue April 17, 2012
ARM Cortex-A15 hard macro blends speed, effciency
ARM on Tuesday rolled out a unique variant on the Cortex-A15 designed to bring the next-generation chip to shelves faster and with less power use. A new hard macro variant that has fixed specifications, including quad cores clocked at 2GHz based on a 28 nanometer TSMC-made (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) design, instead of the "soft core" that lets firms heavily customize an ARM design to their own ends. In return, however, it's both faster to implement and uses the same power as the earlier Cortex-A9.
The gain is seen as a "balance of performance and power" that could go so far as to power full notebooks and thin but fast network hardware.
More details should be coming at an IEEE symposium on low-power chips in Yokohama, which starts on April 18. ARM hasn't said when it expected the Cortex-A15 hard macro to reach the public, but it had previously aimed for late 2012 or early 2013 for the first shipping A15 hardware.
Customers remain the real question for the hard macro version. Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung, and TI have all typically preferred to customize their ARM chips, but it could give all of them a fast-track option to head off competitive pressures. At a minimum, it could give Android and eventually Windows 8 tablet and phone designers a way to quickly and cheaply use the latest ARM technology instead of waiting for someone else to finish a design.