New ARMv9 Cortex X-2, A710 CPUs Deliver Major Efficiency Gains

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ARM has released new information on what we can expect from the first generation of ARMv9 CPUs. The latest version of the ARM ISA debuted earlier this year with an emphasis on improving SIMD performance and security. Now, ARM has released information on what kind of baseline performance and efficiency improvements end-users should expect.

ARM is announcing these CPUs as part of its Total Compute solutions initiative. These CPUs deliver on what ARM is calling the three pillars of its Total Compute strategy: compute performance, developer access, and security. Today, the company is announcing the Cortex X2, Cortex-A710, and Cortex-A510 processors.

NewARMCPUs1

The Cortex-A510 is ARM’s first update to its “little” CPU core design in four years, but it’s being billed as a much larger update relative to the A55 than the A55 was relative to the A53. The Cortex-A53 was unveiled in 2012 and the Cortex-A55 in 2017, but the A55 was only forecast to offer a 15 percent improvement in power efficiency and an 18 percent improvement in performance relative to the A53. ARM is claiming the Cortex-A510 will be 1.35x faster and 1.2x more efficient than the Cortex-A55.

ARM claims elsewhere that compared with a 2017 ARM CPU core, the Cortex-A510 is within 10 percent on IPC and within 15 percent on frequency while consuming 35 percent less power. This suggests that the A510 is ~23 percent slower than an A73 overall. That’s roughly the same size as the gap between the Cortex-A72 and Cortex-A73, and the A72 only dates back to 2015 (if we compare announcement dates).

The Cortex-A710 and X2 offer more modest performance improvements. The Cortex-710 will only uplift performance by 10 percent over the Cortex-A78, but it will do so at up to 30 percent improved energy efficiency, which is a more significant gain. Claims for the X2 vary — on the official ARM slide above, the company claims a 16 percent performance uplift, but the company claims 30 percent in the PR it sent over and 30 percent “peak performance” on a different slide, shown below:

ARMv9-CPU-Cluster

The implication here is along the lines of “16 percent nominal, 30 percent peak,” and either is reasonable for overall generational uplift at this stage of the game. The uplifts in AI performance are larger than the general computation gains. While a number of ARM licensees design their own AI co-processors, the performance of general-purpose AI algorithms on CPU cores remains important. Boosting the performance of the Cortex-A510 in these scenarios may have been important to ARM because these are the low-end chips likely to ship in IoT products going forward. ARM is also announcing that all mobile big and little cores will be 64-bit only by 2023.

The shift to 64-bit only processing doesn’t mean that the Cortex-A53 or A55 will just vanish from the market. But ARM’s big push with Total Compute solutions as a concept — and the way it’s very much angling the Cortex-X2 / A710 / A510 family — is as a family of products that can be combined with ARM’s Mali GPUs to build solutions that answer every aspect of the mobile market, where “mobile” is now very much understood to include laptops.

Last year, ARM and x86 were barely skirmishing, as far as the impact each had upon the other. The arrival of the Apple M1 intensified that conflict, but only a limited number of PC users are going to jump for macOS for now. How the laptop ARM market evolves through the remainder of 2021 and 2022 is going to depend on large part on what Qualcomm does, and how aggressively the company invests in the market segment before launching its Nuvia-derived laptop products, which are currently projected to drop in Q1 – Q2 2023.

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