Samsung’s octo-core processor is ‘ready for prime time,’ says ARM strategist

Will the Samsung Galaxy S4 be the first eight-core handset?

The lead mobile strategist for British processing giant ARM tells T3 that Samsung's big.LITTLE processing tech is ready to go, but is unsure whether Samsung will unleash it in the Galaxy S4.

The tech world wants to know whether the Samsung Galaxy S4 handset will see the inclusion of a world-first (for a smartphone) octo-core processor.

Speculation has suggested that the company will debut ARM's much-vaunted big.LITTLE tech in the S4 during the launch event on Thursday, while other purported leaks have claimed the company will stick with a quad-core offering.

We spoke to the lead mobile strategist at ARM James Bruce, in order to get the inside scoop. He told us he was not sure whether the S4 would be the first eight-core beast, but assured us that the ARM Cortex-powered octa-core technology explained at MWC last month is good to go.

He told T3: “It is ready for prime time. There are always things that you can optimise and do better, but certainly as we showed at MWC, if you were to take a big.LITTLE system today and run typical use cases like web browsing and MP3, you would definitely see a power saving benefit.

“I have no idea [if it'll be in the S4]. I think that's a question for Samsung.

“I do think it will arrive this year. We were already demonstrating, on our booth at MWC, a demonstration platform showing big.LITTLE working, so I think it's very much a technology you're going to see rolled out this year and then in 2014 it'll become a very pervasive technology in smartphones.”

The Samsung Exynos 5 Octa processors, based on ARM's big.LITTLE architecture, feature four powerful ARM A15 chips (running at 1.8GHz) aimed at handling the big tasks like rendering web-pages and watching video, while four smaller ARM A7 processors (running at 1.2GHz) will take over for less arduous activity like reading the web, making the handset much more energy efficient and conserving that crucial battery life.

Bruce added: “One of the challenges in designing processors is the higher performance you make a processor, the more fundamentally inefficient it becomes, and that's a challenge for the architecture.

“The beauty of big.LITTLE as it allows you to tune the big core for high performance and turn the small core for ultra efficiency.

“In terms of browsing the web, the task is split into two parts. The first when you're actually rendering the web page, you would use the big core, the Cortex A15, when you're reading the web page and just scrolling through it, you could go back to the Cortex A7 and it's all about power saving.”

So there you have it. The octo-core era is ready to go, according to the company powering the system. Will Samsung unleash it on Thursday? Tune in to our live coverage of the Unpacked event in New York.