Arm is prepared to take the fight to Intel with respect to PC compute performance, and to prove its point, the company has released its first forward-looking roadmap for CPU IP. While ARM is well known for its dominance of processors used in mobile devices, it hopes that consistent year-over-year performance improvements will have Intel shaking in its boots.
Qualcomm attempted to encroach into Intel territory with the Snapdragon 835-powered “Always Connected” PCs in 2017, and it will further that push with the Snapdragon 850 Mobile Platform in 2018, which promises a 30 percent overall performance uplift.
To help empower companies like Qualcomm, Apple and Samsung to deliver more powerful CPUs with low power consumption, Arm detailed Cortex-A76 earlier this year. Cortex-A76 is a brand-new design that represents a massive overhaul compared to previous Cortex efforts. Compared to Cortex-A75, Arm is touting a 35 percent uplift in performance, 40 percent increase in power efficiency and a 4x improvement in machine learning performance.
According to Arm’s projections, Cortex-A76 running at 3GHz will put its architecture at performance parity with Intel’s Core i5 series of processors while offering a superior power profile. Arm reckons that SoC designs based on Cortex-A76 will operate at less than 5 watts compared to 15 watts for an Intel Core i5-7300U pegged at its 3.5GHz Max Turbo frequency in single-threaded applications.
Looking forward, Arm has confirmed its 7nm Deimos CPU, which will bow in 2019. Hercules will hit the market in 7nm and 5nm iterations a year later in 2020. Intel hasn’t exactly been showing huge performance gains from one year to the next given that it has been “held up” at the 14nm process node for years. Arm, however, thinks that it can stick to a 15 percent year-over-year increase in performance going forward to counter Intel.
With that being said, Arm is focusing primarily on single-core performance while seemingly dismissing Intel’s strength in multi-core tasks. Arm’s roadmap doesn’t take into account Intel’s 8th generation processors that pack in even more cores, and Intel is aiming to bring its 10nm mainstream parts to market in late 2019.
Early benchmarks are suggesting that Snapdragon 850 might not exactly move the bar significantly ahead for Arm-powered devices in the Windows 10 notebook space, but there’s hope that Deimos and Hercules could provide a bigger boost.