Behind all of the Snapdragons, the Exynos CPUs and those fancy NVIDIA Tegra processors is ARM, the company that designs the architecture that all of these mobile processors use in chips like the Snapdragon 810 and NVIDIA Tegra K1. ARM is a British company that creates core designs for processors that manufacturers tinker with and produce their own overall processor design. For some time now, ARM has been pushing the big.LITTLE configuration of processing cores which is often found in octa-core processors like the Exynos series and for the first time this year, in Snapdragon processors.
big.LITTLE is all about delivering a balance between performance and efficiency. How ARM do this is by using a set of more efficient, less power-hungry processors – like the Cortex-A53 in the Snapdragon 810 – to perform everyday tasks that don't need a performance-focused processor. They then pair this set of processing cores with more powerful, performance-focused cores like the Cortex-A57. The two then work together, with one or the other effectively going to sleep when it's no longer needed. This allows the device with a big.LITTLE processor to sip power when doing menial everyday tasks using the Cortex-A53 cores and get things done quicker with the more powerful Cortex-A57 cores when needed.
All of this can be a little confusing, especially if you're unfamiliar with the whole processing cores thing, but it can be relatively easy to explain, as ARM showed us some time ago. The video below, from ARM, neatly explains what big.LITTLE is and what it means for your smartphone or tablet. For some time, it was only MediaTek and Samsung who were producing octa-core or hexa-core CPUs that made use of the big.LITTLE configuration, but this year Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 has joined the club and there's a good chance that any high-end device you buy this year will be powered by a processor that makes good use of the big.LITTLE configuration. So, it's perhaps a good idea to figure out just what that means. The video below does a very good job of just that.