Last month TI announced it was the first to license ARM’s next-generation Eagle core. Today, ARM is announcing the official name of that core: it’s the ARM Cortex A15.

Architectural details are light, and ARM is stating that first silicon will ship in 2012 at 32/28nm. Here’s what we do know. The Cortex A15 will be a multi-core CPU, designs can have as few as a single core but most will have 2 - 4 cores depending on their target market.

The cores will all be superscalar out-of-order designs and support Long Physical Address Extensions (greater than 32-bit memory addressing). I suspect the cores will be an evolution of the Cortex A9. The Cortex A15 will support extensions to the ARMv7 instruction set to enable hardware virtualization support (among other things).

The Cortex A15 will feature private L1 caches but a shared L2 cache (similar to the A9). The L2 cache is stated to be low latency and up to 4MB in size, although smartphones will probably see smaller versions. ARM is promising FP and SIMD performance improvements, but it isn't saying anything more than that. 

ARM is listing performance as 5x a Cortex A8 but we don’t have a good estimate vs. Cortex A9. Clock targets are as follows:

1) 1 - 1.5GHz single or dual-core for smartphones and mobile devices

2) 1 - 2GHz dual or quad-core for netbooks/notebooks/nettops

3) 1.5 - 2.5GHz quad-core for home and web servers

ARM is targeting more than just smartphones with the Cortex A15. This will be the architecture that ARM takes into the low end notebook and netbook market. That’s right, with the Cortex A15 ARM is going after AMD and Intel - it wants to fend off the impending x86 assault on its territory. 

In addition to notebooks/netbooks based on Cortex A15, ARM will also be targeting the server market with its next architecture. As Xeon and Opteron grow more powerful, so does the need for simpler, lower power consumption servers. We’ve seen some companies attempt to address this market, but expect the floodgates to open in a couple of years as ARM officially supports it. The Cortex A15 will also enable virtualization support, specifically for the server market.

It’s too early to know anything about how well the Cortex A15 will do, but it’s clear that Atom (and maybe even Bobcat) are going to have to face a threat from below just as ARM is gearing up to face the threat from above. 

Given that the first Cortex A9 designs have yet to ship it’ll be a little while before we see smartphones, tablets, notebooks and servers based on Cortex A15. Today’s announcement is simply ARM’s statement of intent. ARM doesn’t plan on staying in the smartphone market forever, it has bigger things planned.

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  • Computer Bottleneck - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    I have read that Ubuntu, Meego and Chrome OS can use ARM.
  • Mjello - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Even though codemorphing is possible with nvidias tegra.
    I highly doubt that it'll run windows and all its software bug free. Even if the performance makes it theoretically possible.

    I would love a new player in the x86 CPU market btw.
  • Computer Bottleneck - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    I wonder how much ARM Cortex A15 netbook hardware would cost compared to smartphone hardware?

    Wouldn't the netbook require far less in the way of parts?
  • Adsski - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    I'm not so sure no x86 actually means no windows

    Microsoft must be thinking of blurring the lines between desktop OS and Mobile OS in the future, windows phone 7 after all will run on ARM devices, and there will surely be a new mobile office suite to complement it on these smartphones.

    Looking further ahead to Windows 8 and Windows phone 8, i'm betting we'll see Microsoft try and integrate your experience further.

    Lets take office, office 2010 online in the cloud will sync with your desktop x86 version, and the ARM version in your phone seemlessly, allowing productivity wherever you are. Given how good of a Job apple has done on the iWork apps for iPad i dont think its too much of a stretch to imagine very close feature parity between all the different versions.

    Taking it to its logical conclusion, I wouldn't be surprised if mobile office comes to Andriod, in the desktop space they support Mac, i wonder how long it will be before the install base for Android devices surpasses that number...
  • chromatix - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    As far as in-core performance goes, I believe a dual-core Atom presently matches a PowerPC G4 at the same clock speed - if, that is, software fully utilises the four threads on Atom, and the G4 is single-core. Indeed, G4s were (and are) actually available at the clock speeds presently reached by Atom, and are a lot easier to code effectively for.

    Cortex-A9 roughly matches early G4s, which were dual-issue, in clock-for-clock and core-for-core performance. Later G4s used a triple-issue architecture which I hope that Eagle (that is, Cortex-A15) is aiming for. Given that dual-core is becoming normal for ARM as well as Atom, it would appear that they already beat Atom in terms of raw performance.

    The only thing Atom has going for it is x86 compatibility. For open-source software this Does Not Matter.
  • kanth - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    May be its time now for Anand to explain in detail the differences between an ARM processor and an Intel processor for a novice.

    What makes an Intel work well for a "big" computer and an ARM for "small" devices when both are being manufactured at 32nm?

    How is ARM able to keep the battery drain low compared to Intel ?

    Is it just that the Instructions sets are different or anything more in the hardware design.

    And many more differences which only Anand can tell.
  • justaviking - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    An excellent suggestion.
  • anactoraaron - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    I will third this idea, so as long as it doesn't delay news about the new Intel SSD's due to come out soon as the 25nm NAND ramps up... I am really wanting to see price/performance of the new x25-v and x25-m's.
  • GullLars - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link


    Also seconding priority on Intel G3 SSDs.
  • Powerlurker - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    Might also be a good idea to talk about MIPS and Power as well while you're at it. I'd also love to see an article that talks about SSD controllers and compares the different models on the market and how they affect the way an SSD performs.

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