In a move that’s going to wiggle the mobile world a little bit, LG Electronics have announced they will begin manufacturing their own ARM processors for their mobile phones, tablets and other internet-connected devices. This is a big jump up from what the company used to do, which was buy out a chipset from Qualcomm and customise parts of it to suit their needs. Now the company is using the big.LITTLE design from ARM (just like Samsung’s Exynos) and this is going into all of their products coming in the future.
LG’s new baby is called Nuclun. It features built-in 4G LTE and eight ARM cores – four are of the Cortex-A15 variety clocked at 1.5GHz for heavy workloads, while the other four are Cortex-A7 processors at 1.2GHz for low-end grunt work while idle. The benefit here is that the underclocked cores save power whilst not letting go of too much performance. There’s a threshold for processors where they can be underclocked as much as you want, but the minimum amount of power draw stays at the same level, so having cores that are physically designed to use less power helps out a bit here.
Its important to note why this was LG’s decision. With devices that are highly customised to meed their design standards like the G3 and G3 Beat, some sacrifices need to be made in the areas of battery size and compute performance to keep heat and power usage down. But while that’s been possible to a point with Snapdragon hardware, any further customisation needs to be done by LG themselves if they want to stay with the pack.
Taking out a license with ARM seems like a good fit if they want to further differentiate themselves from the rest. Already there are several high-end mobile phones that utilise the Snapdragon 801 chipset, but the 805 chipset came out a little too late for inclusion into devices for late 2014. Having their own processor design and rollout schedule benefits LG in every single way, because now they can speed up every other part of the process of releasing a new mobile phone.
The only waiting they have to do is on the chip fabrication side, which they’ll probably get Samsung to do. Because they’re using big.LITTLE technology, it’ll also be a part of Google’s early rollout and certification process for Android, so more Nexus-style devices from LG could surface in the future.
For now, Nuclun will first power the LG G3 Screen, a 5.9-inch phablet only to be sold in South Korea. It will later spread to other high-end devices and will surely go on to power a range of smart devices like printers, internet-connected fridges and other appliances that form the internet of things.
My question now is, will LG go even further and design a custom graphics chip? That would be interesting to see.