The Cortex-A5 is intended for devices including Internet-enabled mobile phones and embedded systems.

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

October 21, 2009

2 Min Read

ARM on Wednesday launched the Cortex-A5 processor, the chip designer's smallest and lowest power multicore processor for devices including Internet-enabled mobile phones and embedded systems.

The new chip, built with a 40-nanometer production process, offers about 20% more performance than the ARM11 in a third of the space. Compared to the ARM9, the Cortex-A5 delivers 80% more performance in a similar-size chip.

ARM, which licenses its technology to chip makers, says the new chip offers a "high-value migration path" for licensees currently using ARM9 26EJ-S and ARM11 76JZ-S processors. Among the targeted applications for the Cortex-A5 are smartphones, as well as low-cost handsets.

ARM chips dominate the mobile phone market today. Intel, however, is developing its Atom processor core for the market and expects the chip to be ready for a major push in 2011. Atom, which consumes far more power than ARM processors, dominates the netbook market today.

Depending on the application, the Coretex-A5 can be deployed as a single-core chip or up to a quad-core processor using ARM's multicore technology, called MPCore. That technology has been licensed by more than 15 semiconductor companies, including Broadcom, NEC Electronics, Nvidia, Renesas Technology, Toshiba and Sarnoff.

"The Cortex-A5 processor scales from ultra low cost handsets and lifestyle Internet devices all the way to consumer, embedded, and industrial devices -- anything that can be connected to the internet," Eric Schorn, VP of marketing for ARM's Processor Division, said in a statement. "We are truly delivering the Internet everywhere."

The Cortex-A5 is compatible with Cortex-A8 and Coretex-A9 processors, which means the new chip can be used with software already running on the older platforms. Those applications include Android, Adobe Flash, Java Platform Standard Edition, JavaFX, Linux, Microsoft Windows Embedded, Symbian and Ubuntu.

While declining to name licensees, ARM officials said several companies are developing chips with Cortex-A5 and are expected to have products available next year.

Intel this year announced an agreement in which semiconductor manufacturer TSMC will deliver technology that will drive Atom into a broader set of gadgets, including smartphones. Intel needs TSMC because Intel does not have manufacturing capabilities for customizing a full set of technologies to fit the many different device designs for non-PCs, analsysts say.

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