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ARM's battery-saving technology debuts in tablet, smartphone prototypes

Agam Shah | Feb. 28, 2013
ARM is promising close to 70 percent processor power savings with a new chip design called Big.Little, and mobile devices on display at the Mobile World Congress provided the first glimpse of how the technology works.

One of ARM's major licensees, Nvidia, has not adopted Big.Little, instead coming up with its own "4+1" design for its Tegra chips, which have four high-performance cores and one core for low-power tasks.

But Renesas showed how Big.Little could be used in smartphones with its upcoming MP6530 quad-core chip. The company coupled two Cortex-A15 cores with two Cortex-A7 cores in a prototype LTE smartphone, which was on display under glass at the company's booth.

Economics drove the company's decision to include two high-performance and two low-power cores in MP6530, said Ashley Wheeler, director of customer programs and support at Renesas Mobile Europe.

A quad-core chip is the right option for smartphones, so the best approach in the view of Renesas was to bring in two of each, Wheeler said. Any more would increase the size and cost of the chip, which Wheeler said was not an option, especially when smartphones are shrinking in size and consuming less power.

The Renesas chip will reach device makers by the end of the year and be in smartphones that become available next year.

The Big.Little design strikes the right mix of power consumption and performance on mobile devices, and seven customers licensing the technology is a good start, said Warren East, CEO of ARM, in an interview.

The technology has a lot of promise and there are many ways in which it could be implemented that ARM hasn't yet envisioned, East said. Implementations could change as Big.Little is adapted for embedded devices, servers and other computing products.

 

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