When dealing with computing hardware, there’s a dangerous temptation to reduce complicated systems down to a single number for easy comparison. It happened with number of bits on the bus, it happened with clock speed, and it could very well happen again with core count. That’s dangerous because processing power neither scales linearly with the number of additional cores, nor do all chips deliver comparable performance per core. A GPU, for instance, may have ten cores, but they aren’t the kind of general-purpose chip useful for building a computer around. Even with this reminder fresh in our heads, it’s hard not to get a little excited upon hearing the news that Adapteva is releasing a 64-core RISC co-processor that could soon find its way into smartphones.
The chip, called Epiphany-IV, won’t replace your phone’s main SoC, but would allow that chip to offload processing requests to it. Just as a normal multi-core SoC can activate additional cores on-demand, a phone using an Epiphany-IV could pass it tasks to tackle on an as-needed basis. All those 64 cores can run at up to 800MHz, resulting in the raw number-crunching power of about 45 Apple A5 chips.
We don’t even know yet how well quad-core components will work with current smartphone operating systems and apps, so it’s a bit overwhelming to consider 64-core performance, but it’s nevertheless exciting to think that we could have smartphones with such chips in the near future; the chip will start sampling sometime early next year.