Samsung uses ARM big.LITTLE design to unleash 8-core chip

Samsung Exynos 5

Samsung has been working on an 8-core mobile processor that uses ARM's big.LITTLE architecture, as the Korean firm fights to keep ahead of rivals Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm.

The Exynos 5 Octa will have two sets of four cores. A group of four low-voltage Cortex-A7 processors, designed to handle low-powered tasks such as calls, texting or music playback.

Meanwhile, four ARM Cortex-A15 chips will kick in to tackle high-powered tasks such as HD streaming, HD video recording and gaming.

Samsung claims the ability to share workloads between these processors will increase battery life by up to 70 per cent compared to its Exynos 5 Dual processor.

The firm hasn't announced clock speeds or the GPU that will accompany the processor, but the chip will be created using the 28nm lithographic process.

The Korean firm isn't the first manufacturer to use this type of workload-splitting implementation.

Nvidia included a quad-core configuration for high-end tasks and a single companion core for basic ones in its Tegra 3 chipset.

The processor was included in a number of high-end devices such as the HTC One X and Google Nexus 7, but it was plagued by poor battery life and was outperformed by even Intel's x86 based single-core Atom Z2460.

Nvidia has tinkered with this design and claims its latest Tegra 4 processor, which also packs a quad-core A15 configuration, will give twice the performance of the Tegra 3 and use 45 per cent less power.

It will be interesting to see if Samsung devices using the Exynos 5 Octa experience any battery life issues, as there is the potential that the multiple cores could burn through power.

Samsung's Exynos 4 processor topped our charts when benchmarked, beating out efforts from dedicated chip makers Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm. It wouldn't be a major surprise to see the Exynos 5 Octa continue this trend.

With Samsung's chip announcement at CES, reports have already started circulating that the Exynos 5 Octa will debut in the forthcoming Galaxy S4.

Khidr Suleman is the Technical Editor at IT Pro, a role he has fulfilled since March 2012. He is responsible for the reviews section on the site  - so get in touch if you have a product you think might be of interest to the business world. He also covers the hardware and operating systems beats. Prior to joining IT Pro, Khidr worked as a reporter at Incisive Media. He studied law at the University of Reading and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism and Online Writing at PMA Training.