Cortex-A Series

Cortex-A Series  Image
The ARM® Cortex®-A series of applications processors provide an entire range of solutions for devices hosting a rich OS platform and user applications ranging from ultra-low-cost handset through smartphonesmobile computing platforms, digital TV and set-top boxes to enterprise networking, printers and server solutions. The newly introduced Cortex-A17 processor, the mature Cortex-A15 processor, the versatile Cortex-A12 processor, the widely shipped Cortex-A9 processorCortex-A8 processors, and the high-efficiency Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A5 processors all share the same architecture and therefore full application compatibility, that includes support for the traditional ARM, Thumb®  and high-performance and compact Thumb-2 instruction sets.

The new Cortex-A17, Cortex-A15, Cortex-A12, and Cortex-A7 processors all support an extension to the ARMv7A architecture that brings support for large physical address reach and hardware virtualization. Cortex-A17 and Cortex-A15 processors support AMBA4 ACE coherency enabling big.LITTLE™ processing. Combining the benefits of high-end performance of these cores (big) with the very efficient Cortex-A7 (LITTLE) to provide better user experience.

Application Examples for Cortex-A Processors


Industry Standard

Cortex-A processors, used in applications that have high-compute requirements, run rich operating systems and deliver interactive media and graphics experience from the latest technological mobile internet must-have devices such as handsets and ultra-portable SmartBooks to automotive infotainment systems and next generation digital TV systems.

Cortex-A processors are geared towards providing the full internet experience, but are used in a wide variety of applications including:

Product Type Application
Computing Smartbook, Tablet, eReader, Thin client
Mobile Handset Smartphones, Feature phones
Digital Home Set-top Box, Digital TV, Blu-Ray player, Gaming consoles
Automotive Infotainment, Navigation
Enterprise Laserjet printers, routers, wireless base-stations, VOIP phones and equipment
Wiresless Infrastructure Web 2.0, wireless base stations, switches, servers

The success of the Cortex-A processors is built on the success of our partners who have licensed these processors and developed a wide array of success stories in various markets.

Click here for a list of the currently public Silicon Partners.

Ideal for Mobile Internet

  • Native support for technologies like Adobe Flash
  • High performance NEON engine for broad support of media codecs
  • Low power design enables all-day browsing and connection

High Performance

Cortex-A devices provide a scalable range of power-efficient performance points for their target applications. Some illustrative examples are:
  • Cortex-A17 processor most efficient mid-range solutions, delivering a new mid-range performance point for any screen - from Mobiles to Smart-TVs
  • Cortex-A15 processor highest performance solutions for current mobile and demanding wireless infrastructure applications
  • Cortex-A12 processor high performance mid-range solutions targeted at mobile smartphone and tablet devices
  • Cortex-A9 processor implementations delivering 800 MHz - 2 GHz typical frequency and delivering 5000 DMIPS of performance per core
  • Cortex-A7 processor implementations in standalone, multi-core configurations delivering 800 MHz - 1.2 GHz typical frequency, or in combination with Cortex-A15 processor for big.LITTLE processing
  • Cortex-A5 processor in low-cost implementations from 400- 800 MHz delivering over 1200 DMIPS of performance

Multicore Technology

The Cortex-A5, Cortex-A7, Cortex-A9, Cortex-A12, Cortex-A15 and Cortex-A17 processors support ARM's second-generation multicore technologies.
  • Single to quad-core implementation for performance orientated applications
  • Supports symmetric and asymmetric OS implementations
  • Coherency throughout the processor exported to system via Accelerator Coherency Port (ACP)

The Cortex-A7, Cortex-A15, and Cortex-A17 processors extend multi-core coherence beyond the 1~4 core cluster with AMBA4 ACE (AMBA Coherency Extension).

Advanced Extensions

Apart from binary compatibility with prior generation Classic ARM and Thumb® architectures, the Cortex-A class processors provide additional benefits through the following technology extensions:
  • Thumb-2 for optimal code size and performance
  • TrustZone® security extensions for trusted computing
  • Jazelle® technology for accelerating execution environments such as Java, .Net, MSIL, Python and Perl

Industry Standard

The Cortex-A5, Cortex-A7, Cortex-A9Cortex-A12Cortex-A15 and Cortex-A17 processors are all used in a wide variety of performance applications. However while all support the same excellent base ARMv7-A ISA capabilities and full software compatibility, these processors offer significantly different power and performance characteristics to ensure the right-fit for tomorrow's advanced embedded solutions and wide variety of mobile and consumer applications.

Cortex-A Comparisons

All Cortex-A series processors share a common architecture and feature set. This makes them the best solution for open platform design where compatibility and portability of software between designs is of upmost importance:

Together, the range of Cortex-A processors provide design flexibility by providing the required peak performance points and scalability and delivering the desired power efficiency and silicon cost while maintaining full software compatibility.

Core Cortex-A5 Cortex-A5
Cortex-A7 Cortex-A9 Cortex-A9
Cortex-A12 Cortex-A15 Cortex-A17
Architecture ARMv7 ARMv7+MP ARMv7+MP
GIC-390 Integrated- GIC GIC-400 GIC-390 Integrated- GIC GIC-400 Integrated-GIC GIC-400
L2 Cache
L2C-310 L2C-
Integrated L2C-310 L2C-
Integrated Integrated Integrated


The ARM Cortex-A17 processor is the most efficient mid-range solution targeted at smartphones and tablets, and delivers today’s premium user experience in tomorrow’s mid-range mobile and consumer devices.

Cortex-A17 processor offers premium performance and a high-end feature set making it an ideal fit for every screen – from smartphone to tablet, to Smart TVs and Over-the-top devices. Cortex-A17 processor is architecturally aligned with the broadly deployed Cortex-A7 processor, enabling next-generation mid-range devices based on big.LITTLE technology.

Cortex-A17 processor benefits include:

  • Highest efficiency mid-range solution with premium performance and high-end feature-set
  • ARM big.LITTLE enabled – AMBA® ACE coherency across CPUs and GPUs
  • 1TB addressable memory space – supporting future needs of mobile software
  • Virtualization and TrustZone – Security enabling new use cases like BYOD for your mobile device


The ARM Cortex-A15 MPCore processor delivers unprecedented processing capability, combined with low power consumption to enable compelling products in a wide range of new and existing ARM markets ranging from mobile computing, high-end digital home, servers and wireless infrastructure.

Mobile configurations of the Cortex-A15 processor deliver over five times the performance of today’s advanced smartphones. In advanced infrastructure applications, the Cortex-A15 processor running at up to 2.5GHz will enable highly scalable solutions within constantly shrinking energy, thermal and cost budgets.

Cortex-A15 processor benefits include:

  • ARM big.LITTLE enabled – AMBA ACE coherency across CPUs and GPUs
  • 1TB addressable memory space – supporting future needs of mobile software
  • Virtualization and TrustZone – Security enabling new use cases like BYOD for your mobile device
  • Efficient hardware support for data management and arbitration


The Cortex-A12 processor is a high-performance mid-range mobile processing solution designed for mobile applications like the use in smartphones and tablets devices. The Cortex-A12 processor is the successor to the highly successful Cortex-A9 processor and is optimized for highest performance at lowest power consumption.

The Cortex-A12 processor, and its high-end feature set, unlocks many new use cases available exclusively in Premium devices today. Mid-range devices can finally build on the success of high-end devices and continue driving the fastest growing market segment in mobile.

Cortex-A12 processor benefits include:

  • High-performance mid-range solution ideally suited for standalone use cases
  • 1TB addressable memory space – supporting future needs of mobile software
  • Virtualization and TrustZone – Security enabling new use cases like BYOD for your mobile device


The Cortex-A9 processor is available as either a single-core or 1-4 core multicore synthesizable processor each offering 2.5 Dhrystone MIPS per MHz per CPU. In its single-core implementation an area optimized implementation of the processor provide a minimal footprint and exceptional energy efficiency for traditional embedded designs, while a speed optimized multicore implementation offers up to four time the total performance with the additional advantages of cache coherence, integrated peripherals and advanced bus interface options.

A dual-core multicore solution is also available as a hard macro that can achieve over 2 GHz typical performance having leveraged the ARM high performance Physical IP within its implementation.

Cortex-A9 processor benefits include:

  • Mature processing solution with up to four cores operating
  • Leverages substantial multicore ecosystem with advanced OS support from major vendors
  • Full scalability of solutions from minimal single-core through to MPCore with NEON

Cortex-A9 Hardmacro Implementations

The Cortex-A9 processor has also been hardened to the TSMC 40G/GL process as a fully configured dual-core hardmacro. Offering performance over 2GHz when selected from typical silicon. This macro provides the silicon manufacturer a low-risk, and accelerated path to delivering the ARM low power solution for various high performance markets.


The Cortex-A5 processor is the smallest, lowest power ARM multicore processor capable of delivering the Internet to the widest possible range of devices: from ultra low cost handsets, feature phones and smart mobile devices, to pervasive low power embedded solutions with a high performance and rich UI requirements, consumer and industrial devices. The Cortex-A5 processor is fully application compatible with the Cortex-A8, Cortex-A9 and Cortex-A15 processors, enabling immediate access to an established developer and software ecosystem including Android, Adobe Flash, Java Platform Standard Edition (Java SE), JavaFX, Linux, Microsoft Windows Embedded, Symbian and Ubuntu.

The Cortex-A5 processor benefits include:

  • Full application compatibility with the Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 processors 
  • Provides a higher performance and lower silicon cost migration path for the large number of existing ARM926EJ-S and ARM1176JZ-S processor licensees
  • One-third the power and area of Cortex-A9 processor, with full instruction set compatibility


The Cortex-A7 processor is similar in power and area to the ultra energy-efficient Cortex-A5 processor, but brings a 15~20% performance increase as well as full architectural compatibility with the Cortex-A17 processor and high-end Cortex-A15 CPU. The advanced features include large physical address extensions (LPAE), hardware virtualization support, and AMBA4 ACE (AMBA Coherency Extension). The small and power efficient Cortex-A7 processor is ideal for the latest low-cost smartphone and tablet applications as a standalone CPU. The Cortex-A7 processor can also be combined as a small energy-efficient CPU with either the Cortex-A17 or Cortex-A15 processors in a big.LITTLE processing configuration.

Cortex-A technologies

The Cortex-A processors share a number of key technologies that make them ideal for portable media-rich devices.

RISC Processor Core Instruction Set Architecture
  • High performance 32-bit & 64-bit cores
  • 15-stage+ pipeline technology
  • 1.5-3.5+ DMIPS/MHz per core
  • Advanced branch prediction
  • ARM and Thumb ISA for ensuring binary compatibility
  • Thumb-2 for optimal blend of code density and performance
  • NEON™ / DSP extensions for advanced DSP and media performance
  • VFP for high-performance single and double-precision floating point
  • Jazelle®-DBX and RCT support
Media Acceleration Multicore Technologies
  • NEON integer and floating point SIMD Engine for enhanced media performance
  • Jazelle technology for accelerated execution environments
  • 1-4 cores
  • Full L1 cache coherency
  • Advanced Coherency Port
  • Snoop Control Unit
Advanced Memory System System Extensions
  • 1-2 cycle cache access
  • Pipe-lined loads and stores
  • Tuned for memory streaming
  • Integrated or closely-coupled optional level-2 caches

ARM MPCore Technology

The ARM MPCore technology allows for design-configurable processors supporting between one, two, three or four CPUs in operate in an integrated cache coherent manner. These multicore processor clusters are fully coherent at the level-1 cache boundaries and in addition can be configured to extend limited coherency into the rest of the System on a Chip (SoC) through an Accelerator Coherence Port (ACP). The ACP permits system-mastering peripherals and accelerators with a non-cached view of memory, such as a DMA engine or cryptographic accelerator core, to share the processor caches in a fully cache coherent manner. The multicore cluster includes a Global Interrupt Controller (GIC) architecture compliant integrated interrupt and communication system with private peripherals for increased performance and simplified software portability. This GIC can be configured to support between 0 (legacy bypass mode) to 224 independent interrupt sources providing a low latency interrupt path to a large number of devices.  The processor can support either a single or dual 64-bit AMBA® 3 AXI™ interconnect interface with the option for full speed filtering between different address space within the SoC.

The intelligence of the MPCore technology comes from the Snoop Control Unit (SCU) which  is responsible for managing the interconnect, arbitration, communication, cache-2-cache and system memory transfers, cache coherence and other multicore capabilities for all MPCore technology enabled processors.  

ARM MPCore technology allows for very efficient, scalable multi-processing CPU clusters which give a very high-range of performance possibilities with very low software overhead. In Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) mode, the OS scheduler handles all allocation of threads to the processing cluster making it transparent to applications running. Most current high-level operating systems have built-in support for this mode of operation.



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