ARM launches Sparrow multi-core CPU for netbooks


Chip maker ARM has a pretty strong track record making CPUs for cellphones and PDAs. And now the company is breaking into the netbook and low power computer market. We’ve already seen a handful of companies announce plans to develop netbooks around ARM-based chips like the Freescale i.Mx515 chip which is based on ARM Cortex A8 technology. But today at Mobile World Congress in Spain, ARM launched the new Sparrow processor which is built around the company’s Cortex A9 CPU architecture.

What sets Sparrow apart from existing chips like those used in smartphones like the Phone or the upcoming Palm Pre is that it supports multi-core configurations which provide enhanced performance while still consuming significantly less electricity than low power chips from competitors Intel and VIA.

Cortex-A9 can support up to 4 separate cores and should provide three times the processing power of the chip currently used in the iPhone. It should be plenty fast enough to run a full fledged Linux distribution like Ubuntu or a custom distro like Xandros. But since Windows and OS X aren’t designed to run on ARM processors, you won’t see any ARM powered netbooks running Windows 7 or OS X anytime soon.

It sounds like the ARM Sparrow chip won’t actually hit the market until 2010, so it could be a while before we see any dual or quad core netbooks with ARM processors.

via Engadget

  • Stevjosco

    Don't be so sure that Mac OS X won't run on the ARM platform. The iPhone and iPod Touch run a cut down version of OS X on their ARM processors.And we all know how secretive Apple can be; when the switch to Intel was announced, Steve Jobs revealed that there had been an Intel port of OS X since its inception.

    I believe that if Apple do make a netbook they will use ARM processors (don't forget they bought PA semi, a company very familiar with ARM architecture, so I'm sure they knew what the future of ARM held in store) and they will proudly claim that their netbook has more power and 20 times the battery life of any other netbook. And now with the launch of Sparrow that might not be too far away. I just hope Apple don't charge too much of a premium for it.


    If there is going to be a market for ARM based netbooks they need to start selling them now, not next year. Give Intel a year notice and they will ramp up the ability of the Atom (or it's replacement) and drop the price. Windows 7 will be out and it will be hard to get any traction in the marketplace. Bring on the ARM based netbooks now!

  • Pixel Qi fan in waiting

    Power saving chips like these will be perfect with a new power saving Pixel Qi screen (rocking and sock'en). Give it a 3 cell battery, and if you get 12-15 hours of battery with HD speed video, etc. It will be really nice.

    Bring it on.

  • brian

    Nothing really new here. Cortex a9 has been on the roadmap for 2010 for a few years now. ARM moves very slowly with their IP. Yes, at this rate intel will crush them in the netbook arena.

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  • foo

    Intel's real-world power usage is still WAY higher than ARM-based systems, so even if ARM develops slower they've still got an enormous advantage for portable computing.

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