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Cortex-A78C Improves Security

November 10, 2020

Author: Aakash Jani

Cortex-A78C is Arm’s newest CPU for the PC market, boosting the core count, expanding the L3 cache, and improving security. These system-level changes target the CPU for the midrange PCs and mobile gaming. We expect devices that feature the new CPU to ship in 2H21. Qualcomm plans to use the A78C for its Snapdragon 8cx product line.

Excluding these modifications, the new design is identical to its predecessor, Cortex-A78. Scalability is the main selling point: the A78C features the latest iteration of the DynamIQ shared unit, Arm’s on-chip network for multicore configurations. Designers can implement up to eight A78Cs, twice as many big cores as previous generations.

Arm cores are more power efficient than their x86 counterparts, increasing core-count scalability. This characteristic will enable new devices to outperform current Arm laptops while staying in a lower power envelope than x86-based competitors. But these new devices will lag in single-threaded performance, a paramount metric in the PC market. Intel’s Atom-powered Gemini Lake faced similar headwinds until it finally found a safe haven in Chromebooks.

Although greater performance makes headlines, improved security avoids them. Arm’s new pointer authentication substantially reduces the avenues of attack on mobile PCs. Cortex-A78C’s balance of performance and security adds value with minimal architectural changes.

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