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ARM announces power-efficient Cortex-A7, big.LITTLE architecture for sharing it

ARM Cortex-A15
ARM Cortex-A15

For months, mobile silicon connoisseurs have been looking forward to the ARM Cortex-A15 (above) to deliver feeds and speeds. Those who appreciate battery life, however, could get a kick out of ARM's new Cortex-A7 — coming in 2013. ARM claims the new multi-core processor (which measures just 0.45mm² at 28nm, compared to 2.7mm² for a 45nm Cortex-A8) will deliver the same performance as today's high end handsets while sipping 60 percent less juice from your battery. What's more, ARM's going to pair the low-power chip to that very same Cortex-A15 in something it's calling a big.LITTLE configuration, which dynamically switches between the A15 and A7 as necessary to maximize power efficiency or performance depending on the workload -- somewhat like the extra chips in Nvidia's Kal-El, TI's OMAP 5 and Marvell's Armada 628.

It sounds like big.LITTLE may be a ways out, as ARM says we won't see it until the second-generation Cortex-A15, but the littler chip could potentially make for cheaper smartphones too. ARM imagines the Cortex A7 could be paired with a Mali-400 GPU in a handset for under $100 in parts. Broadcom, Freescale, HiSilicon, LG, Samsung, ST-Ericsson and TI have already signed on, so expect those names to be the ones challenging Qualcomm, Nvidia and Marvell in mobile silicon over the next few years.