TI has taken a “smart multicore” approach to offer industry-leading mobile user experiences with OMAP™ platforms since 2002, with each generation offering new processing cores to maximize performance and battery life.  It is a difficult balance to achieve, but our team has found innovative ways to continually meet the challenge.  My motivation for this blog is to highlight how yesterday’s announcement from ARM introducing big.LITTLE processing and the super energy-efficient Cortex-A7 processor opens up new opportunities for us to drive performance even higher, but at the same time, not compromise battery life.  I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but it should be clearer by the end of this blog.  Before I jump into the details, I think it is important to start with some history and where we are today in this complex balancing act of driving performance and conserving energy.


The drive for more cores… the value of “smart multicore”


The key mobile device constraint is a battery with a limited energy capacity, yet consumer expectations and daily usage of these devices continues to soar every year.  To meet the demand, the underlying processing has to become more energy-efficient in order to support longer usage times, higher performance and new features in the same energy budget as the previous year.  This trend is best illustrated by looking at the TI evolution of key processing cores through five generations of OMAP platforms.  The first platform only included an ARM9 processor, TI C55x DSP and security engines.  In subsequent generations, high-quality multimedia capabilities were added with specialized engines for graphics, video, imaging and audio for significantly higher performance and lower power.  As media resolutions, frame rates and bit rates increased over time, they demanded more efficient processing and new cores.  Mobile devices have evolved from PDA phones to superphones and media tablets, and on to true mobile computers which also demand increasing general-purpose processing to host more complex operating systems, user interfaces and applications.  There has been an 80x improvement in general-purpose ARM processing performance over five generations of OMAP platforms, yet staying within a 100’s of milliwatts mobile power budget.  The OMAP 4 and 5 platforms extend ARM processing to four cores with an innovative combination of Cortex-A and Cortex-M series processors.  Cortex-A processors provide the highest level of performance, while Cortex-M processors offload less-intensive processing from the Cortex-A processors, collectively improving responsiveness and energy efficiency. 


OMAP Generation

ARM® General-Purpose Processor(s)

Other Processing Engines



C55x DSP, Security



C55x DSP, Security, 2D/3D Graphics, IVA Video



C64x DSP, Security, 2D/3D Graphics, IVA Video, ISP Imaging


Dual Cortex-A9 + Dual Cortex-M3

C64x DSP, Security, 2D/3D Graphics, ISP Imaging, IVA-HD Video,  Audio Engine


Dual Cortex-A15 + Dual Cortex-M4

C64x DSP, Security, 2D Graphics, Multi-core 3D Graphics, ISP Imaging, IVA-HD Video,  Audio Engine


A key point is that “all cores are not created equal.  While the current market trend is to highlight number of cores and GHz speeds, this does not tell the whole story of how well a device will perform. There are many factors that influence the user experience beyond these points.  The OMAP smart multicore approach gives differentiated value and better user experiences to mobile phone users.  Applications load and run faster; the user interface is smoother and more responsive; multimedia is high-quality and battery life is improved.    


The importance of Cortex-A7 processor


We are excited about the new ARM Cortex-A7 core and support for seamless, big.LITTLE processing since it is a natural extension of our smart multicore approach.  It is complementary to our current ARM A+M series approach, expanding the dynamic range of our performance and power for application processing on top of our responsiveness advantage.  The innovation of the big.LITTLE processing is that the Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A15 processors offer the same features and appear the same to software, but have dramatically different performance and power points.  This ensures software compatibility and execution on the right processor for the workload.  For example, Web browsing can take advantage of the Cortex-A15 performance for faster page loads, and lower intensity tasks like background e-mail downloads, can take advantage of the Cortex-A7 energy efficiency.  This opens the door to higher on-demand performance A-series processors, since Cortex-A7 can do most of the other work.  Since big.LITTLE processing is transparent to users, they will get the experience they expect, but with improved battery life. 


The addition of the Cortex-A7 processor to our arsenal will allow us to enhance our smart multicore architectures, adding yet another dimension to the “best core for the chore” approach.


For more information…


ARM did a tremendous job to pull together industry leaders to support their launch yesterday.  We congratulate ARM on this key milestone that will allow us to provide even better solutions, and will benefit all mobile device users in the future.


You can check out this video of Deepu Talla, the OMAP Mobile Computing GM, talking further with ARM about the big.LITTLE and Cortex-A7 processor launch.


For more information you can also check out the ARM press release or view one of the several videos from their launch:


ARM Press Release

ARMflix YouTube Channel