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Digitimes Research: Cortex-A17 to take over ARM high-end/mid-range 32-bit business
Eric Lin, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei [Tuesday 4 March 2014]

Digitimes Research considers ARM's new Cortex-A17 and existing Cortex-A12 processors to be basically the same based on their architectures, except for the Cortex-A17's support for big.LITTLE architecture. As to why ARM created the Cortex-A17, Digitimes Research believes the chip designer is trying to prompt its clients to adopt the platform while its 64-bit architecture becomes mature in order to provide consumers with an optimized usage experience. The Cortex-A17 is inferior to the Cortex-A15 in terms of compute performance, but the processor has a friendlier price and lower power consumption compared to the Cortex-A15.

In addition, the release of the Cortex-A17 also marked the end of ARM's 32-bit product development. In the future, ARM will have the Cortex-A17 handle its mid-range and high-end 32-bit processor business and leave the Cortex-A7 in charge of the entry-level 32-bit processor business. Processors released prior to the Cortex-A15 will all gradually be phased out, with new processors being developed to natively use a 64-bit architecture.

Although the Cortex-A17 is mainly looking to fill the Cortex-A12's missing big.LITTLE architecture with a slight compute performance improvement through enhancing some memory management systems, Digitimes Research still believes the Cortex-A17 will be the best solution before the arrival of the 64-bit Android era due to its advantages in power consumption and price/performance ratio despite its inferior in compute performance against the Cortex-A15.

For ARM, even once 64-bit systems has become available, over 2-3 years will still be required before the 64-bit architecture becomes standardized and starts contributing benefits. Initially, besides the development of high-end 64-bit hardware, ARM is expected to spare some of its focus to the performance of 32-bit product lines and the release of the Cortex-A17 is meant to avoid the weak performance of its entry-level hardware such as the Cortex-A53 from affecting its competitiveness in the market.

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