ARM – Processor Family

ARM architectures comes with different versions such as ARMv1, ARMv2, etc. Each of the version has its own advantages and disadvantages. In the embedded product development segments, we commonly come across processors from ARM Cortex family. ARM cortex family processor is based on ARMv7 architecture.

Within each of the architecture, there are 3 profiles that we need to know about.

1. A Profile – Applications

→ High Performance

→ Capable of running complex OS such as Linux or Android

2. R Profile – Real Time

→ Focus on systems performing real time operations

→ Targets networking solutions or embedded control systems

3. M Profile – Microcontroller

→ Focus on smaller Low Power Devices

→ Popular in IOT space

ARM processors can be classified into 3 types

1. Classic Processors

2. Embedded Processors

3. Application Processors

Classic Processors

ARM Classic processors include ARM7, ARM9 and ARM11 families and ARM7TMDI is still the highest shipping 32-bit processor. ARM7 based processors are still used in many small and simple 32-bit devices.

Even though ARM7 or other classic ARM Processors can be used for small scale embedded systems, newer embedded systems are built using the advanced ARM embedded processors.

Embedded Processors

The embedded processors are advanced in terms of power consumption and real time processing capabilities. The ARM Cortex-M Processors have a Microcontroller profile while the Cortex-R Processors have a Real time profile.

ARM Cortex-M Processors are energy efficient, simple to implement and are mainly developed for advanced embedded applications. ARM Cortex-M Processors are further divided into several processor cores like Cortex-M0, Cortex-M0+, Cortex-M3, Cortex-M4 and Cortex-M7.

ARM Cortex-R Series of processors provide solution for real time embedded systems. They provide high reliability, high fault tolerance and real time responses. Cortex-R series of processors are used in systems where high performance is required and timing deadlines are important. The Cortex-R family includes the processor cores like Cortex-R4, Cortex-R5, Cortex-R7 and Cortex-R8.

Application Processors

ARM Cortex-A Series of processors are the highest performance processors from ARM. They are used in powerful mobile devices, compelling technology products like network devices, consumer appliances, automation systems, automobiles and other embedded systems The Cortex-A Processors are again divided into high performance, high efficiency and ultra-high efficiency type processors. Each sub division has several types of processor cores.

High Performance – Cortex A processors

→ Cortex A73

→ Cortex A72

→ Cortex A57

→ Cortex A17

High Efficiency – Cortex A processors

→ Cortex A53

→ Cortex A9

→ Cortex A8

Ultra-High Efficiency – Cortex A Processors

→ Cortex A35

→ Cortex A32

→ Cortex A7

→ Cortex A5

Different SOC manufacturers license the ARM architecture for their SOC based on the target market and the use case they want to serve. To give couple of examples

1. NXP – Their IMX6 SOC is based on ARM Cortex A9 architecture

2. NXP – Their IMX8 SOCs are based on below architectures. They are used for CPU, GPU and DSP implementation.

a. IMX8X – 4 cores of ARM Cortex A35 and 1 core of ARM cortex M4F

b. IMX8 – 2 cores of ARM Cortex A72, 4 cores of ARM Cortex A53 and 2 cores of ARM cortex M4F.

3. Nvidia – Their Nano SOM is based on 4 cores of ARM Cortex A57 processor.

The SOC makers select the ARM architecture based on the use case they want to target with the design. We, at Regami, shall be able to assist you with the selection of the right SOC for your use case.

Please feel free to get in touch with us in case of any queries.


Sarvesh Rajagopal

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