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Whether it’s MediaTek, Samsung or Qualcomm, they all license CPU and GPU designs from British company ARM to some extent.
Sure, many players are moving to their own custom designs for top-end products, but when ARM announces a new CPU, they all pay attention
And that’s exactly what happened at Computex in Taipei, as ARM revealed the A73 CPU core, succeeding the A72 core (used in the Huawei Mate 8, Huawei P9, Sony Xperia X, Xiaomi Mi Max and Samsung Galaxy A9).
What to expect from the new CPU core then?
It’s clear that the company has focused on evolving the A72 and improving efficiency rather than throwing everything out of the window.
For starters, ARM has announced a 30% performance improvement in the same power envelope. This thermal efficiency means the core is also able to reach clock speeds of 2.8Ghz.
The chip uses a 10nm design, with the company saying it delivers “the best single-thread performance in the smallest area footprint”.
The previous A72 core is no slouch, but what’s the motivation for the big improvement?
“Innovation, such as virtual and augmented reality or ultra-HD content, drives the demand for extra performance into the high-end thermally constrained smartphones,” the British firm explained.
Much like the previous core, the A73 can be used on its own or as part of a big.LITTLE CPU cluster.
New graphics tech too
ARM also announced a new graphics core, in the form of the Mali G-71.
The G-71 is built on new “Bifrost” architecture, while also delivering 1.5 times the performance of 2016 Mali-T880 based devices, the company explained.
And yes, the new graphics component has deep support for the Vulkan API as well, which promises to eke more performance out of mobile chips.
A slow shift to custom cores
The announcement comes as Apple, Samsung and Qualcomm continue the drive to use their own CPU cores, reducing their reliance on ARM in the process.
Former ARM customer Apple shifted to a custom core solution with the iPhone 5, while Qualcomm uses custom cores in its top-end chipsets this year (it still uses ARM cores for its cheaper chipsets). Meanwhile, Samsung uses a mix of custom chips and Qualcomm chips for the Galaxy S7.
However, Chinese chip juggernaut MediaTek and Huawei’s HiSilicon chip division both make full use of ARM technology, so expect next year’s Chinese smartphones to use ARM designs for the most part.