It seems that smartphones and especially tablets are no longer the darlings of the silicon industry. Chip makers, like Intel, Qualcomm, and even MediaTek are now vying for more embedded products, particularly wearables and the so-called Internet of Things. To sweeten the pot even more, at least on the ARM side of things, ARM Holdings has released the design for a new Cortex-A32. Like the Cortex-A35 it announced last November, this “ultra-efficient” chip is designed for embedded and Iot devices. The difference? It’s even more efficient than that and is only 32-bit.
The Cortex-A32 is built on the ARMv8 architecture, the very same CPU architecture that powers many of the most recent mid to high end mobile devices to day, specifically those running on CPU’s with Cortex-A53, Cortex-A57, and Cortex-A72 cores. At the lowest end of this architecture are the the Cortex-A35 and now the Cortex-A32, both for ultra high efficiency when it comes to power use.
ARMv8 is perhaps best known for ushering in the new breed of 64-bit CPUs but it also has support for 32-bit CPU instructions. Unlike the rest of that family, however, the Cortex-A32 only supports 32-bit. That might sound like a disadvantage, but limiting the CPU design to only one instruction set allowed ARM to streamline and improve the efficiency of the Cortex-A32.
While already 25% more power efficient than the Cortex-A7, which was the flag bearer for the ultra efficient category in the ARMv7 days, the Cortex-A32 is actually even more efficient than the Cortex-A35, consuming 10% less power and taking up 13% less space. Of course, that means that, on paper, a Cortex-A32 device would only be limited to 4 GB of RAM at most, but considering no smartwatch or IoT appliance even comes close to having 1 GB of RAM, that isn’t really going to be a problem.
The IoT market is indeed heating up and will most likely take the front page of this year’s tech news, along with virtual reality. While Intel is aggressively trying to carve out a name in that market, ARM-based devices pretty much has a head start. The new Cortex-A32 is being positioned to lead that market with its lower power consumption. All that needs to be done is for some CPU maker to actually turn it into a chip that OEMs can then use for their products.