ST-Ericsson’s future is pretty uncertain, as it’s about to run out of cash this year, but it’s going to make one final push with their new quad core 2.5 Ghz Cortex A9 chip, called NovaThor L8580, which they say is the fastest mobile processor with LTE built in, and that it uses half the energy as other mobile chips at the same performance level.
It’s hard to say whether that’s true or not, and of which chips they are talking about. Are they talking about other Cortex A9 chips, or the dual core Cortex A15 in the Nexus 10, or about the new upcoming chips like Tegra 4 and Samsung’s Exynos 5 Octa?
When new chips appear, pretty much every chip maker is a little misleading when they say “this new new chip is 50% more efficient than the previous one”. It’s actually true, so they aren’t lying when they’re saying that. However, it becomes misleading when they don’t explain the context. Because when that’s all they say about it, then people will take it to mean “my future phone will last twice as much!”.
But that’s not really what the chip makers mean. They mean “this new chip is twice as powerful using the same energy”. And some of them may even decide to go past the previous maximum consumption levels, because they think you won’t maximize the new chip’s performance (at least not initially, when there isn’t any content for that). But as soon as you get that type of advanced content, then the chip and the device itself, does use more power than the previous one.
But again, it’s hard to tell what ST-Ericsson really meant here, as chip makers always tend to give half-truths to confuse the public, and in the end make them think it’s better than it really is. One thing is very likely – this chip is not going to be the fastest on the market, as that honor will be reserved to all the Cortex A15-based chips out there, and Cortex A9 by itself will be a hard sell for flagship devices in 2013.
And speaking of Cortex A15, ST-Ericsson was supposed to make a dual core Cortex A15 for this year, but I think it got delayed too much, probably because they waited too long for Imagination’s PowerVR600 series GPU’s, and then they may have scrapped it, as we haven’t heard anything new about it in about a year. Without having one of the most powerful chips on the market, 2013 doesn’t look too good for ST-Ericsson.