ARM has just announced the ARM Cortex-A7 processor core for SoC designers and the low-power landscape will never be the same again. Why? Because the Cortex-A7 core implemented in a 28nm process technology is reportedly one fifth the size of an ARM Cortex-A8 processor core implemented in a 45nm process technology yet the 28nm Cortex-A7 core will deliver about 20% more processor performance at about 30% to 40% of the power consumption. But I betcha can’t use just one of these cores because the ARM Cortex-A7 core is an MPCore product, which means it sports all of the multicore goodies you need to create SMP processor clusters—just like the ARM Cortex-A9 and Cortex-A15 MPCore processors—including a Snoop control Unit (SCU), shared L2 cache, and a 128-bit AMBA4 Advanced Coherent Bus interface. It also sports the large (40-bit) physical address-space extensions (LPAE) introduced with the ARM Cortex-A15 processor.
ARM’s Cortex-A7 Web page points out that the LPAE feature makes the ARM Cortex-A7 an ideal processor companion for the ARM Cortex-A15 processor core for what the company calls big.LITTLE Processing, a concept similar to NVIDIA’s “variable symmetric processing” implemented using two differently optimized ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processors in a 5-core arrangement. (See “Processor Wars: NVIDIA reveals a phantom fifth ARM Cortex-A9 processor core in Kal-El mobile processor IC. Guess why it’s there?”) This is certainly going to happen for high-end SoCs and media/phone processors. However, I think you will also see 2-core and quad-core processor complexes built entirely from ARM Cortex-A7 MPCore processors because of the small size and huge power savings.
Of course, ARM wins either way.