Arm cements leadership in processor IP space

Article By : Stephen Las Marias

Winning three awards at the recent EE Awards Asia underscores Arm's dedication to developing the most powerful, highest efficient CPU IPs in the industry.

Arm has reinforced its leadership in the processor IP market by winning three awards at the recent EE Awards Asia: Best IP/Processor of the Year, Most Topical Product and Technology, and Featured IoT Chip Supplier.

Now in its second year, EE Awards Asia celebrates the innovation, creativity, and contributions of Asia’s engineering community that have made a difference in the way we work, live, and communicate over the past year. EE Awards Asia 2022 has gathered more than 400 entries from 137 companies around the world, vying for 22 award categories. Winning in three of these categories is a testament to Arm’s continuous drive toward innovation.

Award winners

Winning the Best IP/Processor of the Year is the Arm Cortex-X2, a CPU IP designed to deliver best-in class solutions for a wide range of consumer devices and bring the ultimate performance to laptops and great gaming experiences on mobiles.

A successor to the X1, Arm Cortex-X2 maximizes performance on single-thread/burst workloads, boasting a 30% performance improvement over today’s flagship Android smartphones. Its new NEON, the heart of DSP and ML workloads, enables faster responses in ML use cases shall, thanks to its 4x performance enhancement by Bfloat16 format support and pipeline enhancement.

“In addition to brute force performance, we wanted to build a CPU solution that was easily scalable across segments: from smartphones to laptops,” says CK Tseng, President of Arm Taiwan. “We achieve this goal by ensuring performance scaling with up to eight Cortex-X2 cores in a single DSU cluster and larger L3 cache support of up to 16MB. Cortex-X2 had taken the center stages of smartphones and laptops in our day-to-day life. So far, the high-performance and low-power Cortex-X2 has been widely adopted by many flagship smartphones.”

On top of these enhancements, security is not compromised as Cortex-X2 packs new security features such as Memory Tagging Extension, which protects devices from memory attack; Secure EL2, which isolates devices’ Trusted Execution Environment to prevent leakage; and Pointer Authentication and Branch Target Identifier, which dramatically reduce the gadgets that can be used for Return Oriented Programming and Jump Oriented Programming attacks.

“For you to save power in your mobile device, you need to have a really high-performance CPU. But you don’t want to use it every now and then,” explains Tseng. “You need to use it in the most critical moment. For example, the moment you turn on your Netflix, there is no need to wait for 2 seconds. Once you open the application, you should already be able to browse the movie list. So, it has to be like a burst—run this application, and then deliver that one load to other smaller CPUs. That will save the overall device battery power.”

Arm also received the Spotlight Award—Most Topical Product and Technology—for its Armv9, the first new Arm architecture in a decade. Armv9 builds on the success of Armv8, which today drives the best performance-per-watt everywhere computing happens. On top of that, the Armv9 roadmap introduces the Arm Confidential Compute Architecture (CCA), the goal of which is to secure the world’s data.

Confidential computing shields portions of code and data from access or modification while in use, even from privileged software, by performing computation in a hardware-based secure environment. The new capabilities in Armv9 will accelerate the move from general-purpose to more specialized compute across every application as AI, the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G gain momentum globally.

“Armv9 comprises three major elements: first is the continuous performance uplift—this is something that we will continue to invest in; second, we integrated an HPC type of machine learning technology, which is the Scalable Vector Extension Version 2 (SVE2)—and this is really important because this will boost your ML capability by 10X; and third, the Confidential Compute Architecture,” says Tseng. “These are the three key features of v9.”

Finally, Arm has garnered a Company Award, under the Featured IoT Chip Supplier category.

“Arm has been involved in embedded market for over 20 years and has built a comprehensive ecosystem,” says Tseng. “Our strengths include a comprehensive ecosystem for all Cortex-M CPU from hardware architecture, software platform, and toolchain, to provide a developer-friendly environment; a series of ultra-low-power processors to address the IoT market demand; a secure core to addressing security concerns in the IoT space; and advanced ML enhancements with companion NPU processors for AIoT application.”

The Cortex-M85, Cortex-M55, Ethos-U55, and Ethos-U65—launched by Arm over the past three years to extend the performance of its AIoT portfolio for endpoint devices—have been widely adopted by many customers in their IoT product innovations.

Leading technology innovations

At a rate of more than 100 billion devices shipped over the last five years, Arm-based chips are expected to soon process 100 percent of the world’s shared data—either at the endpoint, in the data networks, or the cloud. With such pervasiveness, the onus is on Arm to deliver higher performance and even stronger security.

In response to the global demand for ubiquitous specialized processing with increasingly capable security and AI, Arm’s Armv9 unlocks new experiences for the entire ecosystem, from AI-enabled interactive use cases designed for mobile to rich 8K content that will make you forget you are watching TV. All of this are built up from Armv9 Cortex CPUs.

“Take Arm Cortex-X series for example,” says Tseng. “The first Cortex-X custom CPU—the Arm Cortex-X1—has been a tremendous success, representing a major shift in our performance trajectory. It has been implemented in silicon as part of a tri-cluster CPU configuration in Samsung LSI’s Exynos 2100 SoC and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform. This ensures the delivery of peak performance on premium smartphone devices, including the new Samsung Galaxy S21 smartphone.”

While EE Awards Asia 2022 recognized Arm’s Cortex-X2 CPU, the company announced last year the Cortex-X3 to the market, which has 25% performance uplift from Cortex-X2.

“You can see that trend—we’re driving up performance level for our existing CPUs,” says Tseng. “It is necessary to provide the further step-change in performance through the flagship Cortex-X2 and Cortex-X3 to continuously provide the impressive improvements of performance for new smartphone devices. Arm Cortex-X2 is designed for ultimate performance, making it our most performant ArmV9 CPU. Cortex-X2 can deliver a 30 percent single-threaded performance improvement over today’s best Android flagship smartphones. The new Cortex-X3, Arm’s third-generation Cortex-X CPU, is the product of the Cortex-X custom program that allows participating partners to shape the final product design.”

The new Armv9 CPUs show Arm’s commitment to ‘Compute Performance Unleashed’. The new Cortex-X3 is designed to push the limits of peak performance and deliver exceptional sustained performance and efficiency.

“As part of a versatile CPU cluster, we aim to inspire partners and captivate end users by delivering outstanding user experiences on next-generation consumer devices,” notes Tseng. “Within the laptop space, Cortex-X3 delivers 34 percent improved single-threaded performance when compared with the latest mainstream laptops. Consistent performance and microarchitecture improvements have laid solid foundations for a strong portfolio of Cortex-X CPUs

Meanwhile, Arm’s big.LITTLE technology is now the most commonly used heterogeneous processing architecture for consumer devices worldwide, including smartphones, laptops, and DTVs.

“Our DynamIQ technology then combines the big and LITTLE CPUs into a single, fully-integrated cluster,” explains Tseng. “The flexibility of the big.LITTLE CPU clusters is perfect for multi-threaded workloads. The technology can adjust to the dynamic usage pattern across consumer devices, such as high-processing intensity for gaming and web browsing, and longer periods of low-processing intensity tasks for texting, email, and audio.”

As modern devices increasingly collect and transmit sensitive data, security is more important than ever. Through the second-generation Armv9 CPUs, Arm is introducing a brand-new Asymmetric Memory Tagging Extension (MTE) and Enhanced Privileged Access Never (EPAN) for improved access control.

According to Tseng, MTE detects and prevents memory safety vulnerabilities across the entire system, providing time-to-market benefits for application developers. MTE-enabled devices can quickly and effectively identify buffer overflows and heap corruption in the code.

“Asymmetric MTE offers improved flexibility between the speed, precision, and targeting of these security vulnerabilities. This benefits software development with more stable applications, while also enabling a broader rollout of MTE across the ecosystem,” he says. “At Arm, we take an approach where all hardware design efforts can be fully realized through software performance gains to support developers.”

Arm provides a fully featured, MTE-enabled Fixed Virtual Platform (FVP) for  Arm’s 2022 Total Compute Solutions (TCS22), alongside a complete Android software stack supporting the functionality. This gives developers a platform to validate that their applications are secure and stable before physical devices being available.

The Streamline performance analyzer, a component of Arm Development Studio, enables developers to easily visualize and compare performance as they migrate platforms to Armv9. Support for devices powered by these processors will also be available as part of Arm Mobile Studio in line with the availability of such devices. This enables application developers to optimize the performance and efficiency of their games.

Total solutions for diverse applications

“There are diverse market needs from premium smartphones and laptops, to DTVs and wearables. This forms the backbone of our new Total Compute Solutions that offer the latest Armv9 features at different levels of performance, efficiency, and scalability across multiple consumer device markets and use cases,” says Tseng.

The new Armv9 Cortex CPUs are the foundation of Arm’s wider Total Compute strategy. This takes a holistic system approach to SoC design to ensure Arm’s solutions can seamlessly and securely handle ever more complex and compute intensive workloads and use cases. This is particularly relevant with the proliferation of more consumer devices, use cases and ‘killer apps’ that require more powerful compute resources.

“We need to build the right CPU for the right workload required by diverse applications,” explains Tseng. “For all three Armv9 CPUs, we are building on three distinct micro-architecture paths that are unmatched in the industry. The Cortex-X series is designed to maximize performance on single-threaded and ‘bursty’ workloads. The pipeline in the microarchitecture is structured and provisioned to push IPC performance improvements. The Cortex-A700 series is prioritized for sustained multiprocessor workloads, with the best balance of efficiency and performance for workloads that require sustained performance within thermally constrained envelope.”

The Cortex-A500 series, meanwhile, is focused on lightweight workloads, with an efficiency first design focus, says Tseng.

“These ‘LITTLE’ cores are inspired, in part, by some of our previous bigger cores, with pre-fetch and predication now adopted as key microarchitecture features. The central theme across all three micro-architecture paths is bringing next-generation architectural features and use-case driven optimizations to our Armv9 CPUs.”

Adopting these solutions for the right workloads can help engineers optimize their cost and performance.

Unique propositions

One of the development initiatives for Arm is enabling “green computing” in line with the global effort to reduce carbon emissions. According to Tseng, the insatiable computing demand cannot come at the expense of using more and more electricity from the planet.

“To minimize the environmental impact of our technology, we aspire to leverage our expertise in low-power compute and do more per watt,” explains Tseng. “If we start to consider where and how we can make changes to reduce carbon impact across the technology stack, the possibilities are almost endless. For Arm, however, hardware design has a key role to play. For hardware designers, energy efficiency has long been an imperative. Delivering more and more compute performance, while simultaneously improving energy efficiency, is what our partners ask of us every day. But now we need to take that further. To have a substantial long-term impact, technology roadmaps can no longer focus on performance alone. Decarbonization must become a priority.”

Next, Arm’s ecosystem is more than just an ‘ecosystem.’

“Arm and its ecosystem are utilizing Arm IP to unlock efficiencies, maximize performance per watt, and reduce emissions, wherever compute happens,” says Tseng. “An ecosystem of over 300 software partners ready to help accelerate product journeys wherever compute happens—from the smallest, power-constrained endpoints to global compute platforms spanning the edge of the network, Arm and our global ecosystem of partners can meet all requirements.”

And finally, its never-ending quest to unleash higher and higher compute power. Apart from its leading position in consumer devices, Arm has been involved in the embedded market for over 20 years. Featuring unrivaled efficient processing capability, including AI-enhanced endpoint intelligence, end-to-end security and scalable solutions, Arm’s development platforms and tools for software developers make it easier and more efficient to create future devices.

On top of that, a common security language that the entire value chain can work toward helps ease security implementation, while reusable and consumable certifications encourage industry collaboration.

“As more customers adopt PSA Certified security requirement, it allows customers, cyber-security insurers and regulatory bodies to easily identify the security credentials of your product. PSA Certified is uniting the ecosystem under a common language, revolutionizing IoT security for all stakeholders in the IoT industry,” says Tseng.

Testament to leadership

Winning three awards at EE Awards Asia underscores Arm’s dedication to developing the most powerful, highest efficient CPU IPs in the industry.

“It is an honor for Arm to be able to receive the awards from EE Times Asia,” comments Tseng. “Arm has been investing in tremendous resource in creating solutions for consumer devices, IoT, and embedded designs. This award is an excellent recognition by a leading professional media for our efforts to be a leading solutions and technologies provider in the semiconductor, IoT, and technology industry. It also encourages us to continue investing in this fields to make more contribution to the industry.”

But as they say, one cannot rest on its laurels. And amid the continuous trend toward green sustainability, Arm will continue to deliver tangible benefits across the core areas of performance, compute, and software, to serve as the catalyst for the future of decarbonized compute on Arm.

“Connectivity cannot come at the expense of our planet. To minimize the environmental impact of our technology, we aspire to leverage our expertise in low-power compute to do more work per watt, providing a unique opportunity to drive up connectivity while driving down carbon consumption,” says Tseng.


While the overall semiconductor industry is seen to experience slowing down this year, Tseng believes the long term for the market is bright.

“The short term would still be challenging, but now that the borders have been opened, and people have been doing more outdoor activities, overall, we see a huge demand for electronics, whether it is AI, or a better car, or better-integrated smart building. The overall semiconductor industry for the years to come is really promising,” says Tseng. “The negative impact could be short-term, maybe six months. But it is really hard to predict for the short term, but for the long term, there is no question—the demand is huge.”

According to Tseng, it is not just the IPs but the overall reduction in cost for the whole supply chain that Arm provides.

“Our continuous investments in open standards and open source would smooth out the development cycle for our customers, and customers’ customers. This is the value that Arm would continue to provide to the market,” says Tseng. “And even though there are competitors in the market today, as it was 32 years ago, the point that we would continue to drive and commit is to make sure we have a complete ecosystem that supports our customers, supports our customers’ customers, and the developers. When they choose Arm, they will be able to cut either their cost or their design cycle, so that they are able to push their product to the market way faster than using other solutions.”


Stephen Las Marias is the editor of EE Times Asia/India and EDN Asia. He can be reached at


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