ARM Based Solution

Why ARM Based Soluation? What makes ARM-based chips relatively power efficient?

Generally, there are four design features that give ARM processors most of their performance per watt advantage over x86 processors: they're slower, smaller, spend more time sleeping, and don't have a bunch of legacy cruft to support (circa 1970). The take-away is that there's less hardware to generate heat, but the binaries are larger.

They're slower: Since low-power operation is usually more important than raw performance, lower-speed transistors can be used, which offer improved current leakage and lower minimum voltage. The result is a significantly lower-power part, despite using fabrication technology that lags behind modern x86 by a generation or two.

They're smaller: Fewer transistors are used, partly because ARM is a Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) architecture. This means that large operations are processed in small, simple, chunks, at the expense of more machine code (this doesn't make programmers' lives harder, unless they don't use a compiler). This means that ARM has fewer single-use parts that suck power while not being used, and are smaller/less expensive.

They can go to sleep: Some modern ARM processors have a clock-less core design; the processor saves power by stopping the core until it receives instructions to do something (interrupt driven, from the outside). X86, currently, only supports reducing the core frequency to operate at lower voltage, and shutting off periphery parts of the processor.

Minimal legacy: The instruction set is simple, versatile, minimally esoteric, and will likely stay that way; extending the instruction set is done through co-processors that are interacted with like memory.


To be fair, x86 designers have realized enormous efficiency gains in the last 10 years by driving development of new techniques for fabricating low-power transistors, and by adopting a RISC-like core design. Modern x86 processors are essentially a RISC core in a Complex Instruction Set Computing (CISC) wrapper. Power consumption for future generations of x86 and ARM processors will begin to differ less and less; x86 legacy support takes very little real-estate at this point; as ARM is being pushed to compete directly with x86, the voltage/power levels may migrate up to increase transistor performance.

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