ARM technology powers the vast majority of mobile devices in the world, and the company has just announced some new designs to continue that tradition. The ARM Cortex-A17 is a new mid-range CPU core that offers improved speed and efficiency for budget devices. That's not all – there is also a new version of the Mali GPU for a complete price-conscious package.

Cortex A12 Mali-T720MP-LG

The Cortex-A17 is not meant to replace the A15 – that's still the flagship CPU core design from ARM. The A17 is a mid-range part that should give chip makers a better option than continuing to use older A9s, the limited A12, or just a bunch of low-power Cortex-A7 cores. Cortex-A17 supports full-system coherency for ARM big.LITTLE with the CCI-400, which means it can operate alongside low-power cores like the A7. ARM licensees will also have the option to integrate the Mali-T720 GPU with this and other CPUs. The Mali-T720 GPU is a "cost-optimized" GPU that supports Open GL ES 3.0, OpenCL, and RenderScript.

This seems like a design that would be right up MediaTek's alley, and indeed the company has announced a chip that will use the A17. The MT6595 will be an eight-core chip – four A17s and four A7s. The A7 cores will the the LITTLE half of the big.LITTLE configuration, and the MT6595 will support Heterogeneous Multi-Processing (HMP). That means all eight cores can operate at the same time. This system-on-a-chip will also have built-in LTE, which could be a big deal in mid-range phones and tablets.

ARM expects Cortex-A17 to be big in 2015, but MediaTek is going to start producing the MT6595 in the next few months, and is targeting devices for late 2014.

[ARM, MediaTek]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • aNYthing6

    Naming scheme is confusing. Why call it the Cortex-A17 if it isn't faster than the A15?

    • Simon Belmont

      The naming convention doesn't have much to do with the speed. The Cortex-A7s are faster than the Cortex-A8s (and even a couple early Cortex-A9s, I believe).

      It's probably more to seem like it's NEWER but than the Cortex-A15, but not necessarily faster. Yeah, it's weird.

    • natabbotts

      They are named in order of creation, not speed. It is admittedly unusual that they would create newer chips that run slower than older ones, but if there is a demand for them then fair enough. :)

      • andy_o

        What about the A7?

    • Henry

      Think of it like this; the A17 is a more efficient version of the A12.
      Although the A17 may be technically slower than the A15 it will still be the preferred chip because it will be able to perform almost as good as the A15 but doing so with much less power. The A15 is found in stuff like the Tegra 4 in the nVidia Shield which is already powerful enough for most people in a smartphone situation but now with much better battery life (the Shield already tops Anandtech's battery life tables with over 18.5 hrs of continuous HD video playback)

  • darkjeric

    Don't they just name them in order of performance and power-efficiency combined? That would sort of make sense: A7 as the lowest performer but also the least power consumption, A15 as the most powerful but also the power-hungriest. And now the new A17 is going to be pretty much as fast as the A15, but consuming 20% less while doing its work.

    And although ARM says it's not going to replace the A15, it actually is pointed at doing that. As they are targeting 2015 with this design, the high-end by then will be A53/A57-based, and the A15-design would be too power-hungry to put in midrange devices. Hence the A17, a 'refresh' of the A15 making it more power-efficient, targeting lower designs but also 1,5 years later than A15.

  • Anirudh

    I guess the era of SMP is over. Its HMP everywhere. Soon we will see heavy process and light process in new OS :P