Chip maker Freescale plans to launch a new line of low power, ARM-based chips in the coming months. The i.MX 6Solo, i.MX 6Dual, and i.MX 6Quad will all be based on ARM Cortex-A9 architecture, but as you probably guessed fromt he names, the chips will be available in single, dual, and quad-core versions.

While the 6Solo will be the cheapest of the three chips and the 6Quad the most expensive, the price difference isn’t expected to be all that great. Freescale tells me the single core chip will be available to device makers for under $10, while the quad core will cost more than $20, with the dual core model falling somewhere in between. Sure, that means the quad-core chip will cost more than twice as much as the single core chip, but we’re still not talking about a lot of money here.

Freescale is targeting these chips at tablets and similar low power devices. While you hear a lot more about consumer tablets powered by Qualcomm, NVIDIA, and Samsung chips, Freescale’s low power chips are actually available in nearly a dozen tablets from white box Chinese vendors today, and the company’s low power chips power the majority of E Ink eBook readers on the market.

The company has been a bit behind the curve in the dual core chip space, but by launching new single, dual, and quad-core chips at the same time, Freescale will be among the first companies to make quad core ARM-based chips available. All three new chips will begin sampling in the second quarter of 2011, and the company expects devices using the new chips to hit the market before the end of the year.

While you might think that the quad-core chips will sap battery life like nobody’s business, they’re actually designed so that under some circumstances you could get better battery life from a quad core chip than a single or dual core model. That’s because total power consumption comes from a combination of clock speed and voltage.

You can run 4 processor cores at 300MHz at a low voltage and achieve the same kind of performance as you’d expect from a 1.2GHz processor which is using much more energy. Of course, you could also ramp up the speeds on those 4 processor cores to perform resource-intensive tasks that might not even be possible on a single core chip, which will eat into battery life. It may take some more software advances before we actually see operating systems and mobile applications designed to fully take advantage of this technology, though.

All three of Freescale’s new chips will be able to support 3D graphics and HD video. The quad-core chip should even be able to perform seriously heavy-duty tasks such as recording stereoscopic 3D video.

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3 replies on “Freescale introduces new single, dual, and quad core chips”

  1. BTW is it known yet if they will have these 850 milliwatts or less Mali T604 Gfx included in the Freescale quad A9 this year ? or just the generic Mali 400 as now seen on many old ARM A8
    “Mali T604 will be compatible with Microsoft’s DirectX 11 and with OpenCL 1.1, both programming frameworks for parallel processing over multiple cores. The inclusion of DirectX 11 aroused speculation that this programming technology would soon be supported fully in Windows Phone 7. Currently, full compatibility with DirectX 11 is only seen in Windows 7, but that does not run on ARM processors (though its ties to the Intel x86 design may be broken at last if ARM moves up to servers).

  2. heres some more detail of those quad cores , it seems the telegraph a UK rag doesn’t want to allow the full spec to be known there (which is odd given ARM are British too) as they deleted the detailed post i linked there including this liliputing page…the first time around.
    “The i.MX 6 series is Freescale’s first ARM-based multicore SoC and first Cortex-A9 model. The processor advances the i.MX family with dual-stream 1080p video playback at 60 frames per second (fps), 3D video playback at 50Mbps, desktop-quality gaming, augmented reality applications, and novel content creation capabilities, says Freescale.

    The SoC is also touted for being one of the first applications processors to offer hardware support for the open source VP8 codec.

    VP8 drives the related WebM (MKV) open container format, both of which are supported in the most recent Android 2.3 release….”

    “the SoC is claimed to enable 1080p video (single stream) with only 350mW consumption.

    As a result, the i.MX 6 series can deliver up to 24 hours of HD video playback and 30-plus days of device standby time, claims the company.”

    “All three i.MX 6 models are clocked to 1.2GHz, and offer the ARMv7 instruction set with Neon multimedia extensions, VFPvd16 (vector floating point graphics), and Trustzone support, says Freescale.

    While the single-core i.MX 6Solo offers 256KB of L2 cache, the dual and quad versions are each said to offer 1MB of L2 cache.”

  3. It was really high-time they joined the fray, as the article says, they got fallen behind pretty much lately.

    As far as I understand, Freescale has been the SOC provider for a lot of low-cost tablets and smartbooks. These were not really successful because they were pretty much under-performing (Cortex-A8-level, single core, up to 1Ghz SOCs) so they couldn’t touch even the Intel Atom based netbooks. Just remember the Sharp Netwalker!

    It would be nice to see some low-cost but snappy (dual or quad-core tablets/smartbook at 1.2Ghz) tablets.

    Their reference designs were touted as $200 machines. Now, I would happily pay $300 for a quad-core Cortex-A9 tablet or smartbook with 1GB of 800Mhz DDR2 RAM. (In fact, I would be ecstatic)

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