ARM launches a faster, more efficient chip design for smartphones

Nearly every single smartphone sold last year uses a processor originally designed by ARM. On Tuesday, the British company announced new processor designs that will likely end up in devices in 2016.

ARM announced a new CPU chip design and a new GPU chip design. The new CPU is going to be called the Cortex A72, and it should replace the Cortex A15 and Cortex A57 as the “big” CPU for high-performance smartphones and tablets.

Remember that ARM encourages its customers — chipmakers — to lay out its processor cores in what it calls a “Big.Little” configuration. Fast and power-hungry cores handle jobs when single-core performance is important, and other tasks are delegated to the “little” core, which uses less power. The A72 will be a “big” core for most of ARM’s customers, and will likely be paired with the A52 design as its “little.”

Currently, devices sporting ARM’s A57 design are just starting to hit the market, usually in devices with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chip. Many of last year’s high-end devices are using the A15. According to ARM, the A72 boasts performance 3.5 times better than the A15. More importantly for mobile devices, the A72 will use 75 percent less energy as the A15 on the same workload and will integrate with ARM’s other designs such as those for GPUs, display controllers, and video controllers.

“For our customers that do want to take all the pieces, it will all glue together and will be optimized in a very good way,” Ian Ferguson, ARM VP for marketing, said.

ARM says it’s optimized the A72 design to be fabricated on TSMC’s 16nm process, although other fabs — like Samsung, which is bragging about a new 14nm process — will also be able to produce the design. Ten chipmakers have already licensed the A72 design, including MediaTek, Rockchip, and High Silicon. The A72 is a 64-bit chip but 32-bit apps can run on it without modification.

ARM’s new GPU design is called Mali-T880, and it promises nearly double the performance of the Mali-T760, which is included in devices on sale today, while using 40 percent less energy on the same jobs. There’s also a new security feature called Trustzone, which eliminates backdoors for devices decrypting streamed 4K content.

“If studios are going to trust the streaming of data to these devices at the same time premium content is appearing in theaters, that content has to be secured,” Ferguson said. “With Trustzone, as the information comes down in encrypted form on the handset, it will go to the display without any backdoors to pull off that content and use it in other ways.”

ARM believes that mobile GPUs will soon be used for certain non-graphics computational tasks like speech recognition locally on smartphones. “We’re approaching the time for [general processing] GPU computing. That world is coming,” Ferguson said.

Unfortunately, although these new designs are available today, ARM hasn’t discussed specific technical details, but promises that information is coming in April.

Chip wars: LG’s own silicon could debut in January

“Selling finished goods with good pricing is an old strategy.”

Korea Times has inside word that LG will show off its own ARM-based chip(s armh) at next month’s Consumer Electronics Show. The first such chip is anticipated for web-based television sets and future chips could be used for LG smartphones and tablets. LG reportedly has 550 engineers working chip designs for mobile devices. Engadget notes that TSMC(s tsm) is reportedly making the chips for LG; good for the chip-maker, which could also make Apple’s mobile chips soon.

LG has long been a licensee of ARM chips and last year re-affirmed its use of such silicon with licenses for the latest ARM designs. Of particular note is a license for the Cortex-A15 design, which is just now rolling out: The next generation system-on-a-chip is used by Samsung for its $249 Chromebook.

apple-a5-featureWhy design chips and have someone else build them? It’s too much of an investment to build your own chip fabrication plant for starters. And by customizing a base ARM design, companies can create silicon that’s optimized for specific product features. Apple and Samsung both do this today and even HTC has gotten a little “chippy,” designing its ImageSense digital processing solution for its smartphone cameras.

While these custom chips are kept to in-house products for Apple(s aapl) and HTC, Samsung is generating revenue through sales of its chips; something that LG may smartly be considering in the future.

HP low-energy servers to press 64-bit Intel Atom into service

Server giant HP promised new low energy servers — under the Project Gemini code name — based on Intel’s 64-bit Atom Centerton chips, actually systems on a chip or SoC. The servers, due late this year, can be modified to handle new workloads.

Freescale chip paves way for LTE-Advanced, cheaper data

Freescale Semiconductor has succeeded in cramming an entire cellular base station onto a single chip. That’s not only an impressive feat of miniaturization, it could kick off the next-generation of LTE deployments, lower the costs of building mobile networks and cut the energy required to run them.