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ARM's New Chip Gives Low-End Phones a Power Boost

By this time next year, entry-level smartphones should see a noticeable performance boost from the latest processor developed by ARM.

Credit: Georgejmclittle/Shutterstock

(Image credit: Georgejmclittle/Shutterstock)

The chip-maker announced the new mobile CPU, the Cortex A-35, to kick off its TechCon conference in Santa Clara, California, today (Nov. 10). The Cortex A-35 provides 64-bit processing to entry-level smartphones, and it's expected to start appearing in devices by the end of 2016. ARM says it's licensed the processor to multiple device makers, though it didn't reveal which ones prior to today's news.

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The takeaway from today's Cortex-A35 announcement is what you'd normally expect when a new chip is introduced: The new CPU is smaller than its predecessor, while consuming less power and delivering more performance.

In the case of the Cortex A-35, it uses 10 percent less power than the Cortex A-7 it succeeds. Specifically, ARM says the new processor uses less than 90mW of total power per core when running at 1GHz in a 28-nanometer process node.

Performance gains over the Cortex A-7 will range from 6 percent to 40 percent, depending on which benchmark you use. That 40 percent jump comes in tests using Geekbench, ARM says.

ARM is targeting the entry-level smartphone market with this chip, and it's easy to understand why. By ARM's math, more than 2 billion entry-level phones and tablets based on its Cortex A-5 and A-7 processor have shipped, and the market only figures to grow, with ARM and market research firm Gartner projecting more than 1 billion entry-level phones shipping in 2020.

All those low-end smartphones potentially powered by ARM's CPUs is good news for the chipmaker, but there's also a potential benefit for smartphone users. More powerful chips in less expensive phones means we don't have to necessarily pay up for a flagship smartphone to enjoy decent performance.

The influence of the Cortex-A35 could also be felt beyond just phones. ARM says it's designed the processor with scalability in mind, meaning the Cortex-A35 could scale down from a quad-core configuration to a single-core processor that can power other mobile devices. ARM's Cortex-A5 and Cortex-A7 processors already appear in car infotainment systems, action cameras and digital TVs, so the new processors might continue the trend of running systems that need power efficiency from a petite processor.