big.LITTLE is ARM's solution to a particularly nasty problem: New process nodes no longer deliver the kind of overall power consumption improvements that they did prior to 2005. Prior to 90nm, semiconductor firms could count on new chips being smaller, faster, and drawing less power at a given frequency. Eight years ago, that stopped being true. Tighter process geometries still pack more transistors per square millimeter, but the improvements to power consumption and maximum frequency have been falling every single node. Rising defect densities have already created a situation where -- for the first time ever -- 20nm chips won't be cheaper than the 28nm processors they're supposed to replace. This is a critical problem for mobile, where low power consumption is absolutely vital. big.LITTLE is ARM's answer to this problem...
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