ARM unveils first 64-bit chips

British firm promises next-gen chips will be three times as powerful as existing designs

Reuters Nicole Kobie
30 Oct 2012

ARM unveiled its first 64-bit processors to power the next generation of smartphones and tablets and offer low-energy solutions for servers.

The Cambridge company, whose technology is in Apple's iPhone 5 and Samsung's Galaxy S3, said its latest blueprints would deliver three times today's processing power using the same amount of energy.

The move to a 64-bit architecture, from ARM's current 32-bit designs, will give ARM-based chips increased processing power but retain the energy efficiency central to its technology, the company said. While ARM is also extending its existing 32-bit line up, the new 64-bit processors will be "fully compatible with the extensive ARM 32-bit ecosystem", the company said.

The ARM Cortex-A50 series is based on its ARMv8 architecture, and starts with the Cortex-A53, which the firm claimed was the world's smallest 64-bit processor, and the Cortex-A57, an applications processor. The two chips can be used together as part of ARM's big.Little system, which combines a faster chip with a more energy-efficient one, choosing the right one for each specific job.

ARM said it expected the chips to start shipping from its manufacturing partners from 2014.

ARM's processor division marketing VP Noel Hurley said demand for more power came from the proliferation of data driven by smartphones and tablets.

"When we are looking at 'superphones' and tablets, the consumer is having to deal with much more data, particularly if they start to originate material on these devices," he said.

Server moves

ARM, which dominates the smartphone processor market, has started to make inroads into server markets, a stronghold of its rival Intel.

AMD said this week it would start making ARM-based processors for servers.

Licensees of ARM's new 64-bit Cortex A-50 series include AMD, Broadcom, Calxeda, HiSilicon, Samsung and STMicroelectronics, the company said, and the first chips are expected to ship in 2014.

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