Compare the latest ARM quad-core CPUs made by Chinese semiconductor companies (AllWinner A31, Rockchip 3188, Action ATM7029, MT6589) to the quad-core CPUs made by Apple, Samsung, and nVidia
When people think about CPU, they probably think about Intel and AMD, but that’s for PC. Both Intel and AMD have missed the boat for smart phone and tablet market. In the smart device era, ARM is the queen, and there are 8 princes: Apple, Samsung, nVidia, FreeScale, MediaTek, Actions Semi, RockChip, and AllWinner .
You know Apple, Samsung, you probably heard of nVidia from their GPU, and maybe FreeScale (used to be Motorola), but have you heard of the other four? Maybe not.
Those four companies are all Chinese companies. MediaTek is from Taiwan, all other three, Actions Semi, Rockchip, and AllWinner , are from mainland of China. Some of them, like AllWinner , was not exist 5 years ago, but now they are competing with Apple, Samsung, and nVidia in the hottest smart phone and tablet MPU market, and their products are actually quit advanced.
All of those MPUs are ARM based. ARM has many variations and generations on their CPU: Cortex-A8, Cortex-A9, Cortex-A7, Cortex-A15. Cortex-A9 is one generation newer than Cortex-A8 as you can expected, but Cortex-A7 is more advanced than Cortex-A9, and it’s comparable with Cortex-A15.
Comparison : Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A9
In 2011, Cortex-A7 was introduced by ARM, and that is four years after Cortex-A9. When compared with Cortex-A9, Cortex-A7 design does have some improvements, as listed on ARM official website:
- Integrated L2 cache
- Lower L2 latencies (10 cycles)
- Improved OS support for L2 maintenance due to simplified software control
- Designed with a low power approach
- Improved branch prediction
- Improved memory system performance
- 64b Load Store path, improves integer and NEON performance
- 128b AMBA 4 buses improve bandwidth
- Increased TLB size (256 entry, up from 128 entry for Cortex-A9 and Cortex A5)
- Increased performance for large workloads like web browsing
- Seamlessly compatible with Cortex-A15 (big.LITTLE)
In ARM Cortex-A7, ARM transforms its design principle from improving the system performance by increasing frequency, to MPCore architecture that could bring improvements in performance, and at the same time, optimize the high power consumption and heat caused by high frequency of Cortex-A9.
These improvements may partly explain why the license fee of Cortex-A7 is much higher than those of its predecessors.
Comparison : Mainstream Quad-core Solutions
The following table provides a brief comparison among mainstream quad-core processors in current mobile device market:
|Allwinner A31||Rockchip RK3188||Action ATM7029||Freescale i.MX6Quad||Tegra3||Exynos 4412||MT6589|
|CPU||A7×4 (1.0 GHz)||A9×4 (1.8 GHz)||A9×4 (1.5 GHz)||A9×4 (1.5 GHz)||A9×4 (1.2–1.7 GHz)||A9×4 (1.4–1.6 GHz)||A7×4 (1.2 GHz)|
|Processes||40 nm||28 nm||40 nm||40 nm||40 nm||32 nm||28 nm|
|Cache||1MB L2||?||?||1MB L2||1MB L2||1MB L2||1MB L2|
|GPU||SGX544 MP2 (355 MHz)||Mali400 MP4 (533 MHz)||Vivante GC1000||Vivante GC2000||ULP Geforce (416–520 MHz)||Mali400 MP4 (400 MHz)||SGX544 MP1 (300–384 MHz)|
|RAM||2CH 64bits||?||?||1CH 64bits||1CH 32bits||2CH 64bits||?|
|NAND||2CH 16bits||?||?||?||1CH 8bits||1CH 8bits||?|
Both Rockchip RK3188 and MediaTek MT6589 are made with the most advanced semiconductor manufacturing technology – 28nm process. 28nm means the smallest feature in the chip is 28nm. Smaller feature means faster speed and consuming less power. Based on the hardware spec, you can see those Chinese made CPUs are comparable or in some case even better than the CPUs from Apple and Samsung.