ARM announces Cortex-A77 and Mali-G77 for premium smartphones in 2020

Xiaomi Mi 9.
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

ARM, the blueprint maker and instruction set designer for all the mobile chips we enjoy using in our smartphones today, has unveiled its latest set of premium mobile designs, slated to feature in 2020 devices. This includes two main components: the Cortex-A77 CPU core and the Mali-G77 graphics part.

The immediate highlight with the A77 is a 20 percent improvement in IPC (instructions per clock) performance, which should translate into a tangible acceleration in completing complex tasks. Most system-on-a-chip designs, from the likes of Qualcomm, Apple, and Samsung, operate with two or four beefy cores like the Cortex-A77 and then a smattering of more power-efficient cores alongside them for basic tasks. With each A77 core being that much more potent than its predecessor, ARM is providing more design flexibility, and we might see more high-performance chips with just two “power” cores inside them, making room for improving the other components of an SOC that now include bespoke AI and photo processing hardware.

ARM isn’t shy about boasting the Cortex-A77 has “performance comparable to today’s mainstream notebooks,” and it will be hoping more companies adopt it in expanding the offering of Windows on ARM laptops and portable computer options.

Slide: ARM

As to the new Mali-G77 GPU, there’s a brand new architecture called Valhall (reads like a typo, but apparently isn’t), which comes with a claimed 40 percent performance improvement. Energy efficiency gains from microarchitecture enhancements are said to amount to a 30 percent bump, and there’s 30 percent better performance density, allowing chip designers to pack more power into less space. Almost as an afterthought, the G77 chip adds in a 60 percent to machine-learning performance, “which significantly boosts inference and neural net (NN) performance for advanced on-device intelligence.”

Taken as a set, this announcement from ARM is all about maintaining its performance lead and momentum. There’s a lot going on at the company to facilitate the adoption of 5G, Internet of Things, AI, and autonomous driving tech, but it’s all got to be powered by the fastest and most efficient chips, and that latter part is what ARM is fleshing out now.

We can look forward to smartphones, tablets, and the occasional laptop featuring the new Cortex-A77 and Mali-G77 designs next year. Though one of the interesting questions will be whether Huawei will be back in ARM’s good books as a licensee, or whether it’ll remain frozen out as it is right now.

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