Arm's Cortex-A76 CPU Unveiled: Taking Aim at the Top for 7nmby Andrei Frumusanu on May 31, 2018 3:01 PM EST
Conclusion & Thoughts
The Cortex A76 presents itself a solid generational improvement for Arm. We’ve been waiting on a larger CPU microarchitecture for several years now, and while the A76 isn’t quite a performance monster to compete with Apple’s cores, it shows how important it is to have a balanced microarchitecture. This year all eyes were on Samsung and the M3 core, and unfortunately the performance increase came at a great cost of power and efficiency which ended up making the end-product rather uncompetitive. The A76 drives performance up but on every step of the way it still deeply focused on power efficiency which means we’ll get to see the best of both worlds in end products.
In general Arm promises a 35% performance improvement which is a significant generational uplift. Together with the fact that the A76 is targeted to be employed in 7nm designs is also a boost to the projected product.
I’m having some reservations in terms of the performance targets and if vendors will indeed release the SoC with quad-core clock rates of up to 3GHz – based on what I’ve heard from vendors that seems like a rather very optimistic target. Even then, a reduced clock frequency still brings significant benefits, and it’s especially on the efficiency side where Arm should be lauded for continuing to place great focus on.
Whether my projections are correct or not is something we’ll have to see in actual products, but fact is that we *will* see significant efficiency benefits in the next generation of SoCs which should bring both an notable performance improvement as well as battery life improvement to the user. Arm’s focus here on the user experience seems to be exemplary and I hope vendors will be able to implement the core based on Arm’s guidance and reach the targeted metrics.
The Cortex A76 is said to have already come back in working silicon at two partners and we’ll very likely see it shipping in commercial products by the end of the year. I won’t be beating around the bush here as Huawei and HiSilicon’s product cycle schedule makes it obvious that they’re likely one of the launch partners for the product. Qualcomm has also doubled down on using Arm cores in the mobile space so we should also be seeing the next generation Snapdragon SoCs employ the A76. Among the big players, it’s Samsung LSI which is going to have a tough time – the A76 doesn’t seem to greatly outperform the M3, so at least in theory, the M4’s focus will need to be solely on power efficiency. Then again Arm is very open about their design goals; half the area and half the power at similar performance is something that’s going to be hard to compete against.
The Cortex A76 is said to be the baseline microarchitecture on which Arm will iterate over the next 2 generations at least. Arm has been able to execute their yearly beat roadmap on time for 5 generations now and with yearly 20-25% CAGR it’s going to be a very interesting next couple of years as the mobile space is very quickly approaching the performance of desktop CPUs.