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Meet the Chip That Will Power Your Phone in 2017

Your phones are being asked to handle more than ever, including processor-intensive tasks like virtual reality. ARM says its latest components, coming to phones next year, will be able to take on those stepped-up demands while consuming less power.

Credit: Shutterstock

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The chip maker is unveiling its latest mobile components at the Computex trade show in Taiwan this week. ARM's Cortex-A73 processor and Mali-G71 graphics chip both promise improved performance and energy efficiency to meet the growing processing demands of mobile devices that are getting thinner and more compact. ARM expects its new CPU and graphics chip to find their way into phones by the first half of 2017.

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Of the two mobile components revealed by ARM, the new Mali graphics processor is the more intriguing one, especially for anyone interested in mobile VR. ARM says the Mali-G71 is built on the new Bitfrost architecture which, in addition to promising better energy efficiency, is also optimized for the Vulkan graphics API favored by Google's Android N mobile OS. Boasting a 1.5x performance gain over 2016 devices, the Mali G-71 can match the GPU performance of laptops with discrete graphics while consuming far less power.

Source: ARM

Source: ARM

In terms of VR, ARM says the Mali-G71 can drive graphics to 4K screens with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. It promises 4 milliseconds of latency, which would tackle one of the big issues with VR on mobile devices, particularly among users who get nauseous from herky-jerky graphics.

VR figures to drive a lot of mobile development in the coming year, especially as Google pushes its Daydream VR platform. As outlined during Google's developer conference earlier this month, Daydream will require phones to meet a set of standard to be VR-ready — something processor makers like ARM can address.

As for the Cortex A-73, it's the latest processor from ARM that promises increased performance while taking up less power. In fact, ARM says the new CPU offers a 30 percent boost in both sustained performance and energy efficiency over the company's Cortex-A72 chip.

James Bruce, director of ARM's mobile segment, says the company was motivated to make improvements to the A-73 based on the ever-shrinking size of smartphones. ARM estimates that phones are 45 percent thinner than they were six years ago. At the same time, other parts of the phone, like the camera, are competing for power, increasing the demand on chip makers for more energy efficient processors.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.