ARM Cortex A5: Super cheap, super low power, coming to a phone near you really soon

ARM just announced their Cortex A5 processor, the latest processor to use the ARM v7 instruction set. The A5 is the “most power-efficient and cost-effective multicore processor” according to their press release, and judging by the spec sheet, they’re right. The Cortex A5 can be configured to be ultra economical by using a single core configuration, or can be threaded with a maximum of 4 cores. The 8 stage pipeline is lean and mean and achieves 1.5 DMIPS/MHz, which isn’t the 2.0 DMIPS/MHz performance of the A8 found in the iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre, but then again this processor isn’t about performance, it’s about lowering cost. Right now smartphone manufactures go with an ARM11 based chip to save money, and that really screws things up since code that is optimized to run on that instruction set needs to be ported over to run on the new, modern, ARM v7 architecture.

Thanks to the Cortex A5, manufactures can now have a cheap, but speedy, processor to shove into their devices. Think low end iPhone, or crazy cheap iPod Touch and you’ll understand where this chip is aimed. The A5 is designed to be built on a 40 nm process and run at 480 MHz. It’s shipping to people who make full system on chip processors (think Qualcomm with their Snapdragon or Texas Instruments with their OMAP) this quarter.

  • Alex

    I just wanted to mention that all ARM architecture versions (within reason) are backwards compatible, and therefore code that is written to work on ARM11 is completely compatible with Cortex A5. The only exception here is that things like device drivers, and anything that relies on a memory mapped interface that would be different between two platforms, would need porting, but that is nothing to do with the Cortex-A5.

Back to top ▴