ARM's first v9 CPUs are built for computers, not just phones

The Cortex-X2 and Mali-G710 are ready for ARM-based PCs.

·2 min read

Now that ARM has unveiled its first new chip architecture in a decade, it's ready to show the CPU designs that will take advantage of those improvements. The company has unveiled a host of new Cortex CPUs (and companion Mali GPUs) that it hopes will power laptops, other computers and wearables in addition to the next wave of smartphones.

The flagship is the ARM Cortex-X2, a CPU core meant to scale from "premium" smartphones to laptops. It reportedly offers a 30 percent performance boost over current high-end Android phones, although ARM didn't provide more details.

You'll also see gains for more mainstream uses. The Cortex-A710 is the first ARMv9 "big" core (meant for big.LITTLE chips) and is about 10 percent faster than the Cortex-A78 while delivering 30 percent greater efficiency. Cortex-A510, meanwhile, is the first new "LITTLE" high-efficiency core in four years and should offer 35 percent better overall performance and triple the speed for machine learning. ARM claims the A510 is nearly as fast as high-performance chips from a few years ago, making it a viable option for watches and smart home tech in addition to lower-end phones.

ARM is finally dragging the rest of the industry into the 64-bit era, too. It's promising that all "big" and "LITTLE" Cortex-A cores will be 64-bit by 2023, and its partners are helping put an end to 32-bit apps before 2021 is over. There's a good chance you've been using 64-bit phones and apps for a while, but this should push stragglers to catch up.

Like the Cortex CPUs, the Mali GPUs are aimed at more than just phones. The flagship Mali-G710 is about 20 percent faster for intensive tasks (35 percent for machine learning) and is aimed at Chromebooks in addition to high-end phones. The Mali-G610 offers similar features at a lower price, while the Mali-G510 gives mid-range phones and smart TVs a 100 percent speed boost (including for machine learning) and 22 percent efficiency gains. At the low end, the Mali-G310 brings ARM's Valhall architecture to basic GPUs for the first time, boosting performance for everything from starter smartphones to wearable devices.

New CoreLink CI-700 and CoreLnk NI-700 interconnects tie together the CPU, GPU and network processing with support for ARMv9 features as well as higher bandwidth and lower latency.

As usual, it will be a while before you see shipping products using ARM's new technology. Chip makers will have to build their own products around these designs, and it'll take a while after that before phones, PCs and other devices use the new processing power. It's already clear what ARM expects, though — it's anticipating a future where its architecture is more pervasive across the computing landscape, with phones just one part of a much larger strategy.