ARM Cortex-A12 brings big.LITTLE to the mass market in 2014

ARM has revealed its latest processor, the ARM Cortex-A12, packing 40-percent more performance than a Cortex-A9 but with the same power consumption and in a 30-percent smaller package. The big.LITTLE compatible A12 is a 28nm chip that can be paired with ARM's Cortex-A7 cores, driving the new, more powerful chips when processing grunt is needed, and then turning to the frugal A7's when prolonging battery life is the priority.

ARM expects the Cortex-A12 to be used in a variety of phones and tablets, but particularly with emphasis on the mid-range. That's predicted to in fact exceed high-end phones and tablets in numbers by 2015, ARM claims.

Those mid-tier devices won't necessarily lack in features. The Cortex-A12 supports up to 1TB of addressable memory, along with the virtualization and AMD TrustZone technologies that will be required for bring-your-own-device (BYOD) business use.

So, the Cortex-A12 will eventually replace the A9, and come with a line of new GPU and video engine to match. The Mali-T622 GPU takes care of the graphics, with support for OpenGL ES 3.0, and with a 50-percent cut in power compared to ARM's first-gen Mali-T600 chips.

ARM isn't just leaving the new Mali to creating visuals, though. There's also a greater emphasis on general computer power this time around, turning the GPU to doing parallel processing as a companion chip to the CPU. The Mali-T622 supports both the Renderscript Android, and OpenCL APIs.

Finally, there's the new Mali-V500 video solution, which handles high-definition video. In fact, the Mali-V500 can cope with higher-than-HD: a single core can deliver 1080p/60 encode/decode, while eight cores working together can support Ultra HD at up to 120 frames per second. There's also hardware support for DRM, as ARM attempts to court Hollywood.

The new ARM Cortex-A12 family – complete with the Mali-T622 and Mali-V500 – will begin shipping in 2014.