The ARM X3 CPU gets a 25% speed boost, but should still be slower than a 2021 iPhone

The Arm Cortex X3 brings some modest improvements.
Enlarge / The Arm Cortex X3 brings some modest improvements.


Fresh off a dramatic path of not being bought by Nvidia, Arm announced its latest flagship CPUs. We have the Cortex-X3 and Arm Cortex-A715 CPUs coming soon for your 2023 Android devices.

As usual, these designs will be part of a system-on-chip CPU cluster. Assuming the normal layout, Arm’s proposed design would have a 2023 SoC with a large Cortex-X3 core, three mid-core Cortex-A715 CPUs, and four small Cortex-A510 cores, returning from the current generation.

Arm promises the X3 CPU a 25 percent increase in performance over the X2, while the Cortex A715 claims a “20 percent increase in energy efficiency and 5 percent increase in performance” compared to the current-gen Cortex A710. Arm claims the A715 is as fast as 2020’s Cortex X1 CPU. The A715 also forgoes 32-bit support, making it the final part of our theoretical flagship SoC to only support 64-bit. The smaller A510 CPU returns, but Arm says it’s “an updated version” with a 5 percent reduction in performance.

A 25 percent year-over-year improvement for just the biggest CPU isn’t going to set benchmark charts on fire. For reference, our testing showed that Apple’s A15 is around 38 percent faster (in both single- and multi-core tests) than the best Android phones, and just a 25 percent increase in single major CPU means 2023 Android -Phones will still be much slower than a 2021 iPhone. Apple uses the ARM architecture but not Arms Designs as Apple seems to be a better ARM chip designer.

The Arm Cortex X3 brings some modest improvements.
Enlarge / The Arm Cortex X3 brings some modest improvements.


An arm’s length away from actual products

Arms announcement is only from drafts that other companies can use for a real consumer chip, and that mostly means Qualcomm or Samsung SoC. The distance between Arm and an end product means you have to take the company’s projected performance claims with a pinch of salt, as they still need to be filtered through someone else’s execution of Arm’s design. Last year none of Arm’s X2 projections really came true. The company promised a “30 percent faster” CPU, when in reality the X2-based chips on the market were slower or on par with last year’s X1 chips.

There are already rumors that Qualcomm will not use Arm’s proposed SoC design layout for its 2023 chip, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC. The rumor has it that Qualcomm’s layout would consist of one Cortex X3, two Cortex A720, two current-gen A710 CPUs, and three A510 CPUs. That justification That’s because Qualcomm doesn’t want to drop 32-bit support for the Chinese market entirely just yet, and pulling two A710 CPUs from 2022 into next year would keep the 32-bit train going.

Arm also announced a new GPU design not typically used by most vendors. Qualcomm has its own GPU division, Adreno, and Samsung now makes GPUs with AMD. Your best chance of seeing a flagship arm GPU in a product is with a rare flagship Mediatek SoC. For what it’s worth, the new ARM GPU has new branding called “Immortalis GPU”. The Immortalis-G715 is Arm’s first GPU with hardware ray tracing (Samsung and AMD announced a similar feature last year). Arm claims the GPU is 15 percent faster than last year.

Arm tells his partners to go crazy with big M2-fighting chip designs, but we're not sure anyone is listening.
Enlarge / Arm tells his partners to go crazy with big M2-fighting chip designs, but we’re not sure anyone is listening.


Arm also hopes vendors will scale Arm chips with SoC designs for laptops and desktops. The company unveiled a new configuration that would include eight X3 CPUs, four A715 CPUs, and zero small cores. Arm tried to float the same idea last year when it proposed a chip with eight X2 CPUs, but we don’t think the company took up the offer. Qualcomm plans to eventually hit the laptop market with chips developed by its Nuvia acquisition in late 2023.

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