Cortex A9 dual-core vs Atom demo side-by-side
Earlier, I wrote about the relative performance of Intel’s Atom and the upcoming smartbook processors based on ARM’s Cortex A9 here.
Continuing this line, I have found a demonstration video which shows a 1.6 Ghz Atom (likely the 270) and a 500Mhz Cortex A9 development board side by side. Both of the machines run at the same screen resolution, same memory and same operating system (looks like a stock Ubuntu with Gnome).
The video demonstrates web browsing performance with typical websites. The Cortex A9 board seems a little bit slower but not significantly, and at still a perfectly acceptable speed.
Now, the most astounding part is, that the A9 board runs only at 500 Mhz which means that its performance is throttled back for ultra-low power consumption. Cortex A8 level SOCs – the current generation – are known to run at 1 Ghz (Snapdragon, OMAP3, Armada) and the Cortex A9 Sparrow demo chip runs at 2Ghz (produced on the 28nm GlobalFoundries process).
This means that a completely doable Cortex A9 at 1.5 Ghz would have about 3 times the performance of the demo 500Mhz development board and still consume much-much less than the Atom. It would definitely leave the Atom 270 and N450 in the dust.
Moreover, the development board had no graphics accelerator at all, while finalized OEM SOCs will definitely have GPUs built-in (for example the Tegra 2 will include a Geforce GPU coupled with the two A9 cores).
The Cortex A9 at 500 Mhz is an ultra-low-power configuration and it is safe to say that it would take 1/10 – 1/5 of the consumption of the Atom which means much-much better battery runtimes.
In theory, the 1.6 Ghz Atom puts out ~4000 DMIPS and the dual-core, 500 Mhz A9 puts out only 2500 DMIPS raw power. This means that the A9 also has an architectural advantage somewhere. This may be the two real cores of the A9 versus the one-core-with-hyperthreading of the Atom. Since web browsers are by nature heavily multithreaded, the dual-A9 may support this type of application much better.
I can’t wait to see some prototype A9 devices displayed at CES.