In our smartphone and tablet reviews we make sure to spend a good amount of time talking about the silicon powering these devices. There’s no reason that handset and tablet manufacturers shouldn’t be held to the same standards as the PC vendors we’ve worked with for years. 

Today the fastest phones are either based on ARM’s Cortex A8 core or a similar architecture as in the case of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon. Starting either late this year or more likely sometime next year we’ll see the first SoCs based on ARM’s first out of order core, the Cortex A9, shipping in phones. The roadmap doesn’t end there though.
Later this year ARM will officially announce the successor to the Cortex A9, codenamed Eagle. Today, Texas Instruments is announcing that it is the first company to license the ARM Eagle core.
The announcement goes further. Not only is TI licensing the core, but it also helped define the specifications for the core. TI has been working on the design with ARM since  June 2009. As a result, TI expects to be the first to market with SoCs based on ARM’s Eagle core.
Unfortunately there’s not much to say about Eagle itself until ARM makes its announcement later this year. TI’s Cortex A9 based SoCs (OMAP 4) will be shipping in Q4, showing up in devices in early 2011. Based on that schedule I wouldn’t expect to see Eagle anytime sooner than 2012. 
Eagle’s performance is slated to be much more competitive with future derivatives of Intel’s Moorestown SoC, while power consumption should be similar to existing designs thanks to the 2x-nm manufacturing process it will most likely be built on.
We’re still waiting to hear more details about the Eagle architecture but with today’s announcement, something from ARM can't be too far away.
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  • iwodo - Monday, August 9, 2010 - link

    I could never understand them. I know it is not like Lego where things just add up. But why does it take so long to make an ARM CPU with some IO integrated? Do we need Out of Order? Will there still be Single Order ARM?
  • rembo666 - Monday, August 9, 2010 - link

    ARM only licenses the CPU part of the SoC stack. Manufacturers can integrate the CPU core with whatever else components they choose to, so IO does end up being integrated.

    Out-of-order architecture has great performance advantages over in-order. Think of 1.2Ghz Core 2 CPU being much faster than a 1.6 Ghz Atom. In-order architecture is a throwback to Pentium II if you compare with Intel x86 line of CPUs. It's a relic, but it's much cheaper in terms of CPU die space--all that branch prediction logic is complicated.

    I will be the first one in line for the new Eagle-based phones, since these should theoretically bring the performance to the next level.
  • Loki726 - Monday, August 9, 2010 - link

    "In-order architecture is a throwback to Pentium II if you compare with Intel x86 line of CPUs."

    The Pentium II was a derivative of the Pentium Pro (P6) architecture, which supported out of order execution. The original Pentium was the only Intel CPU with the Pentium name that used in-order execution (it was still 2-way superscalar though).
  • icrf - Monday, August 9, 2010 - link

    I thought the A9, being out of order, was supposed to "bring the performance to the next level." I'm more curious about the details of Eagle and what it is improving upon the A9.
  • fic2 - Monday, August 9, 2010 - link

    "Later this year ARM will officially announce the successor to the Cortex A9, codenamed Eagle."

    A9 == Eagle.
  • fic2 - Monday, August 9, 2010 - link

    I think I fail reading comprehension. I guess you are correct the successor (A10?) is codenamed Eagle.

    Maybe I should go back to not paying attention to cpu stuff.
  • Exodite - Monday, August 9, 2010 - link

    Regarding IO that's really down to the licensees, ie. Texas Instruments. ARM makes CPU cores, actual SoC design isn't their thing though.

    IIRC the A9 brings both OOO and a shorter pipe so I'd say yes, we need that. Both should provide noticeable performance increases per clock.

    I reckon the other ARM cores that get used for management functions would still be in-order for the time being as those don't need to be as powerful as the main CPU. I think ARM 7 is currently used for most such functions.

    My main gripe is really how long it takes from ARM releasing a new core until we see devices based on it, most A9 SoCs were announced in early 2009 and we might not see many phones based on them until early 2011. That's probably more due to TI, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Samsung, Nvidia or whatever licensee having to throughly test and fully implement their own SoCs based on those cores before we'll see any devices in the market though.
  • Manabu - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    The latest in order general purpose ARM CPU announced was Cortex A5. Intended to be manufactured in 40nm or less, and replace current 130~90nm ARM9 and ARM11 by 2012. It is ten times smaller than an Atom, showing a place where intel can't reach with x86.

    More on it:

    And the ARM ecosystem is trying to reduce this loooong time to market of new ARM architetures. Just look at the hard-macros, GloFo cooperation, and even this TI move to be ahead in manufacturing the Eagle. The other challenge is TMSC and GloFo close the gap in manufacturing technology compared to Intel, as they still lags behind. Nevertheless, ARM is looking very competitive with intel at least in smartphones and lower segments.
  • thedarknight87 - Monday, August 9, 2010 - link

    By the time we see the TI Eagle based SoCs(2012 at the earliest) Intel would have already moved on to a newer generation of SoCs, which would be manufactured using the best Silicon manufacturing process available at that time. I do not see how the Eagle based SoCs would be competitive with future Intel SoCs.
  • softdrinkviking - Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - link

    maybe, but we haven't actually seen the first moorestown chips in real device yet. what if they suck so much power they get sent back to the scrap heap with larrabee.
    maybe they will show up, but not until 2012.
    we just don't know yet.

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