20
Nov
8_ball

Eight cores, in a mobile processor? Balderdash! But according to EETimes, that's just what Samsung's planning on unveiling in February at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (that sounds so exciting).

Now before you get too excited, this isn't - technically speaking - an eight-core processor. It's a dual quad-core, which is to say, a two-processor chip. The design is based on a reference architecture thought up by ARM themselves, dubbed "big.little," and is designed to combine the light-load battery life of a high-efficiency quad-core 28nm ARM A7 chip with a super-hi-po A15 processor for heavy lifting. The exact specifications, for our nerdier readers, are: 1 quad-core ARM A7 chip clocked at 1.2GHz for everyday tasks, and 1 quad-core ARM A15 chip clocked at 1.8GHz w/ 2MB L2 cache for processor-intensive tasks like video games.

ARM itself has said the "big.little" project is delivering benefits beyond those expected when the architecture was initially announced, and Samsung's chip should be the first on the market based on the concept. So yes, this will be a new Exynos of some sort.

Should you expect this chip in the Galaxy S IV (or whatever Samsung's going to call it - because that's far from a given)? It's possible, but not necessarily likely. The gap between chip announcement and tape-out (mass-production readiness) can be lengthy. With the first batch of Exynos 5 Dual devices just now hitting the market in the form of the new Samsung Chromebook and Nexus 10, this eight-core beast may not be ready in time for the next "next big thing." Samsung could very well specifically be targeting this chip for Chromebooks and Windows RT / Android tablets before taking a dive into smaller form factors, too.

Either way, it's exciting business - I can't say I ever tire of technology getting faster.

EETimes

David Ruddock
David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • tyrone

    We don't need any more cores, we need battery battery technology

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      I agree. Battery battery technology - a battery for your battery. Revolutionary.

      • FayezNoor

        big.Little is for battery maximization not performance.

        • http://www.facebook.com/gleneireann Glen Price

          It's 4 both!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      But this is a battery-saving technology - more cores doesn't mean it will use more power. This is similar to the 4-PLUS-1, except it's 4 + 4.

      • Zebelious

        I'm sorry to break it to you but all the promises that multicore processing will reduce battery consumption turns out to be false. Blame it on the false hype sites such as this fed to the consumers without a single practical scientific proof.

        Basically, the MB designers are now relying on a single core to save battery ultimately. Multicore processing only increase performance in multi-thread environment.

        • hot_spare

          Did you check the power consumption for Exynos 5250? That's just a dual core SoC, yet it consumes like 4W. More than number of cores, it's dependent on architecture utilized. A15 by itself is quite power-hungry irrespective of number of cores.

          • http://www.facebook.com/gleneireann Glen Price

            Yes u got that my friend! A standalone A15 core is lot more powerful hungry than it's ARM predecesors! That's y it makes sense 2 use it in heterogenous big.Little models 2 harness it's power n also lessen power drain! Cortex A57-A53 configs would takes this much further and would give greater power and even better power efficiency than Cortex A15-A7, along with 64-bit (and also 32-bit) support!

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          Guess what - a modern OS *is* a multi-thread environment. Android is a multi-thread environment, even if every app it ran was single-threaded (remember this little thing called multi-tasking?). Every Java-based Android app that is has any complexity uses threads. It is not outside the realm of possibility that an architecture that turns off power-hungry cores and kicks in power-efficient ones may optimize battery life.

          • Will Tisdale

            How many interactive tasks / apps can you run at one time on Android which are actually going to require a significant amount of CPU time and a fast response? I would say 1. And it probably won't even be CPU bound.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            Which is why such hybrid designs are great at finding that sweet spot where you still have a lot of power if you need it without going all single-core where performance grinds to a halt if you run something that needs a lot of CPU cycles.

            These processor designers know a thing or two about what they're doing. Everyone can sit at home and give advice about what they think is right without knowing anything about modern chip design.

          • Will Tisdale

            You misunderstand, then try to be condescending when you can't even read properly lol.

            I am implying that this many cores is pointless for Android, because it won't efficiently use them. It doesn't with the tegra 3. In fact, the only reason the Tegra 3 fires up more than a couple of cores is because of the odd choices that nvidia made with their CPU hotplug driver which is oddly based on CPU frequency and not load and is horribly inefficient and gets it wrong much of the time.

            When you write a sane one based on load (which I have done, by the way), you will find that it very rarely even wants to fire up more than 2 CPUs.

            You can happily disable 2 cores on the Nexus 7 and not notice one jot of difference, except in multithreaded benchmarks, which as we know, aren't real life usage.

            If you run something which takes a lot of CPU cycles on Android, invariably it will only peg a single core anyway, leaving a second core to do any background processing which is required.

            This Samsung chip would be useful for proper operating systems though, which do *real* multitasking, or even servers which have peaks and troughs in load.

            I'm afraid it's complete overkill on Android though, so hopefully Samsung will never use it in an Android device.

          • Zebelious

            This is the Linux that allows multi-threading -- Android is only taking advantage of it. Let us not get lost in multi-threading subject as my response to you was about the cores.

            To save battery life CPU designers bank on two things. One, the manufacturing method also known as 'die shrink' in which the size is reduced to reduce heat hence to reduce power consumption as well as increasing the clock speed. Two, becoming common among ARM CPU designers, to dedicate a single core for less intensive tasks.

            Since the introduction of multicore processors to the mobile devices the marketing machine fasly claimed there was a battery consumption benefit and everyone reported it. Battery consumption is noticeably lowered only when the CPU size is reduced without increasing the clock speed, otherwise the performance is only the achievement.

            Battery benchmarks of Motorola Razr i (Intel) which is a single core clearly impressed everyone. To save battery by switching the device to a single core is in the right direction in my opinion but the software part has to be written smartly in order not to kill the user experience.

    • PhineasJW

      The key here is that the additional cores run at very LOW power. Hence, better battery life.

      And yes, we also need better batteries.

    • fixxmyhead

      nope more cores.

    • ickkii

      same for pixels! enough with ppi gimmicks! my 10 inch ips panel is fine with 720p, my prime outpreforms my infinity in both battery and fps because it doesn't have to push so many pixels for such a small reading advantage.

      • Matthew Fry

        You obviously haven't seen the Nexus 10 display. It's GORGEOUS, darling.

        • Justin W

          I completely agree with you on that... I've never seen such a gorgeous display.

    • Темури Поцхорая

      this IS for power efficiency. Modern dual/quad-core processors is far more power hungry than ones with proper implementation of big.LITTLE.

      • Joseph schneck

        Funfact: Qualcomm's Krait S4 is 95% as fast clock-for-clock as these A15 cores yet uses less than half as much power.

        • Темури Поцхорая

          lolwut? No they are not. See Nexus 10 (2x A15) and Nexus 4 / LG Optimus G (4x Krait) CPU benchmarks. 2xA15 is on parity or outperforming 4xKrait everywhere (partially because of better RAM handling, but also because of raw CPU-power of A15 is significantly better than those of Krait).
          Krait is somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of A15 in terms of perfomance per hz of clockspeed.

          S4 pro (4x Krait) and Exynos 5 dual (2x A15) both pretty hot (N4 have some throttling problems, and N10 just gets too hot), not sure who is more efficient, but hope next iteration of SoC's will be a lot cooler =)

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

      yo dawg, I heard you like batteries...

    • QwietStorm

      Yo dog, I heard you like batteries

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1503310639 Kree Terry

    I dont really see this chip combo being useful for chromebooks, well at least not with what chrome OS offeres at the moment. I do think that android tablets could use this, although my n7 has handled pretty much anything ive thrown at it with ease and with acceptable battery life. So unless this combo just blows everything out of the water i dont see how this will be that much better than the current tegra3 and the quad core exynos.

    • Matthew Fry

      But that's the point. The Tegra chipset already has a big.little concept. It has a low power core it uses for less cpu-intensive tasks. Thus saving battery life.

    • Justin Swanson

      One thing tablets can't do as well as, say a netbook, is multitask. I don't mean multitasking behind the scenes. I mean putting together a powerpoint, a word file, or an excel file of other word, powerpoint or excel files. Having 2-4 windows (at minimum open at any given time). I think this could be an interesting concept for single apps (defaulting to A7) and multitasking/games taking advantage of the A15.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1503310639 Kree Terry

        yea but android doesnt really have this multitasking option even available in current versions. not saying that i dont think the technology is crap or anything i just think itll add unnecessary costs

  • Androidium

    Need moar coar

    • Justin W

      Can't agree moar.

  • Guest

    speak for yourself I want more everything.

  • silaslenz

    Sounds cheap...

  • http://twitter.com/Darkmyth_pt Darkmyth PT

    i´m crossing my fingers to samsung calling the (SGS IV) The NEW SAMSUNG GALAXY... hehe

  • Greyhame

    Time to invest in ARM? Intel/AMD are NOT happy reading this. To think that mobile processors will now be eating into sectors where they once reigned supreme must be a scary thought indeed.

    • Ravengenocide

      Just because it has 8 cores doesn't mean it will be super fast.

      • Greyhame

        My point was that Intel/AMD will not like the reach of ARM's mobile chip technologies. The current processors in netbooks and tablets aren't the fastest out there even now. Speed is only half the battle because they must also be efficient, and mobile (i.e. ARM) chips are some of the most efficient money can buy. They also do not require cooling (moving parts adding bulk), which will allow for more portability. To sum up, everything is getting smaller and ARM is right there leading the way.

        • Joseph schneck

          Pretty much given that A15 cores / Qualcomm Krait cores are as fast as an AMD Phenom II clock-for clock yet we know how power efficient these are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gleneireann Glen Price

    This IS new battery technology and 2 the author of this article this is NOT an octo-core design but a heterogeneous big.Little quad-core configuration with PAIRS of Cortex A15-A7 cores on a single die! You may consider each pair as a single cumulative core, cos they behave just like that and their instructions codes are mutually compatible and cohesive! Just getting ever bigger batteries is a very primitive and ultimately impractical solution to the current battery issues that plague mobile devices! big.Little architecture attempts to address the issue at the SOC level and newer power amps will further reduce battery drain at the IC level!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Thanks for the clarification - I knew it wasn't octo-core, but the architecture wasn't completely clear to me.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      I'm not sure your explanation is correct. Qualcomm's documentation indicates this is two (in this case, quad-core) processors on a single die connected by some sort of low-level bridge tech, not "pairs" of A15/A7's.

      See: http://www.arm.com/files/downloads/big_LITTLE_Final_Final.pdf

      • FayezNoor

        it can be two or quad, even it can be single. depends on what manufacturers thinks is best for it.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      This isn't new battery technology - it is new optimization of power consumption. New battery technology would involve a change to the battery itself. Bigger batteries is not the solution - it's batteries with higher efficiency, and that is very hard to do.

      And I think both you and David are talking about the same design - a single A15 and a single A7, with dynamic switching between them. There is no true 8-core, but David clarified that right in the article.

  • John O’Connor

    big.little with the flexible OLED that was suppose to roll out this year... hmm

  • Will Tisdale

    8 cores...well, actually it's not.

    It's 2 * 2+2, only the A7s *or* the A15s are active at any one time and it switches seamlessly between them based on the workload, so technically the OS will only see 4 cores, much like Nvidia 4+1 technology which is seen as 4 cores by the OS, and nobody goes around calling that a 5 core processor, do they?

    I'm not really sure if this would be worthwhile to Android, because you don't really need 4 cores to run one app at a time. A quad core CPU is *really* not efficiently used by Android and probably never will be. Apps simply aren't multithreaded enough to take advantage of it.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      From a practical perspective, not an actual one, it's not 8 cores. You're totally right - the switching will make it such that not all 8 are active at one time. Literally, it is an 8 core chip - it has 8 physical processing cores. Much like NVIDIA's Tegra 3 has 5 processing cores.

      • Will Tisdale

        I'm well aware that I'm right as I studied a lot of the big.LITTLE info with interest.

        My point was that nobody calls the Tegra3 a 5 core chip. It's described as a quad core, so why is this any different, because technically it isn't? The A7 and the A15 each make up a 'core' so to speak.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          It's semantics - Tegra 3 was referred to as having 5 cores (which it does), but it's still a quad-core with a companion core in most references, especially after they made the 4-PLUS-1 thing official. 8 cores is technically correct - the fact that they're not active at the same time is clarified in the post.

  • Goldenpins

    Doesn't tegra have a similar road map 8 core etc

    • Justin Swanson

      Maybe, it is kind of similar to how the Tegra2 and Tegra3 operate. I wonder if there is a patent for the general way this technology works...

      • Goldenpins

        I remember them having a chart on newer Tegra models.. haven't heard much after Tegra3

        • Justin Swanson

          I figured I after I bought my N7, they'd announce the first device with the Tegra4, like they did when I bought the abysmal Sony Tablet S.

          • Goldenpins

            lol. I bought my N7 two months before the 32GB and a month after a Gnexus N4 comes out.

      • heat361

        A patent? Why doing you ask apple :) lol

  • leo Finn

    they are working on newer technology. Here is one of many articles I have read on newer and better batteries. http://www.intomobile.com/2011/11/17/new-battery-technology-allow-devices-10x-longer-battery-life/

    • Joshua Reynolds

      Now THAT'S something I want in my phone!

  • Mike Smith

    More hype to ditch your perfectly good smartphone you bought two months ago...When will the BS stop.

    • Joshua Reynolds

      Or, you know, information for people who are looking to replace a smartphone that will be 2 years old by the time this processor is released. Not all media hype is for show. Some of it, this article included, has tangible benefits for mobile computing.

  • heat361

    Its not like the 8 core chip will be optimized for anything we don't even have optimization for quad core chips let alone 8 core

    • Justin Swanson

      Why do you need to pop my bubble? :(

      I was so excited...

      • heat361

        Haha, but its true :D

  • Bottleneck

    Another bottleneck for a mobile device... Seriously smartphone doesn't need too much cores if the current OS can't utilize it effectively. Instead it needs to have a better optimization of cores with the OS.

    • Ravengenocide

      Why not have both? The hardware people on Samsung cant do anything with the software and vice versa. Its illogical to think that they lose development time on the software side because they are developing new hardware.

  • JG

    "that's just what Samsung's planning on unveiling in February at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (that sounds so exciting)." Sarcasm? BAZINGA!

    It actually does sound kind of interesting.... Oh gosh... I just realized, I *am* a geek....

  • ssj4Gogeta

    This is a quad-core in terms of functionality. Only four cores can be active at a time, and that's how the OS will see it too.