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Neoverse V1 Updates Cortex-X1

May 4, 2021

Author: Linley Gwennap

Arm continues to reuse its smartphone microarchitectures for its latest Neoverse CPUs, the V1 and N2. Although it employs a new brand for these cores, which target servers and network infrastructure, the V1 is similar to Cortex-X1, the flagship smartphone CPU that arrived last year. The Neoverse model adds several instruction-set (ISA) upgrades, including the Scalable Vector Extension (SVE), while maintaining the same number of decode units, function units, instruction-reorder slots, and pipeline stages. Arm made a more limited N2 disclosure but stated that microarchitecture derives from the next-generation Cortex-A CPU, known as Matterhorn, and introduces the Arm v9 ISA.

Both new cores provide substantial performance improvements over the original Neoverse N1, which was essentially a rebranded Cortex-A76. On SPECint2017, Arm expects the N2 to gain 34% and the V1 up to 45%. To push performance that far, however, both new designs are less power efficient than the N1. The V1 in particular emphasizes performance at the cost of efficiency. Despite these gains, however, the new designs fall short of the leading x86 CPUs in single-thread and per-core performance.

The Neoverse V1 complies with the Arm v8.4 ISA plus other extensions. It’s the first Arm CPU to implement SVE, which more efficiently issues vector operations while adding new instructions that double AI inference throughput. Other new extensions improve security and reliability in cloud applications. The primary addition in Arm v9 is SVE2, which merges Neon and SVE features to simplify porting of older Neon-based applications. The company released V1 RTL to lead customers in late 2019; the first product is likely to ship later this year in the Rhea supercomputer processor. Neoverse N2 RTL shipped in late 2020, and initial processors should enter production next year.

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