Rockchip RK32xx quad-core Cortex A12 SoC CPU for 2014

rk32xxChinese ARM chip maker Rockchip has let slip that its working on a new Rockchip RK32XX SoC CPU, expected to hit the market sometime around June 2014.┬áThe new chip will feature four of ARM’s new Cortex A12 cores in conjunction with its Mali-T624 graphics engine, although details on how many GPU cores the chip will have are not available at this stage. The Mali-T624 was announced in late 2012 while the Cortex A12 design was only announced earlier this year. found the information from a recent internal Rockchip document released onto the web.

Right now, Rockchip relies mostly on the original ARM Mali-400 MP4 quad-core design. ARM itself rates the new eight-core Mali-T628 as being twice as fast as the Mali-400 MP4, so that’d likely put the Mali-T624 somewhere between 30 and 50% faster on a rough core-for-core scale.

The Cortex A12 itself is a mid-range follow-up to the Cortex A9, currently used by Rockchip in its popular RK3066 dual-core and RK3188 quad-core CPUs but has support for ARM’s big.LITTLE dual-CPU technology similar to the Cortex A15. That’s where the high-performance core can be paired with the lower-power Cortex A7 core to handle less-performance hungry functions and reduce overall power consumption. The Cortex A12 is also said to be 40% faster than the Cortex A9 and a performance/battery-life compromise between the A15 and A7 designs.

The other interesting feature is its media decoding with support for accelerated 4K video playback. And in keeping with that, it will output to 3840×2160-pixel (4K) displays through a number of display transmission standards including HDMI.

One thing it does suggest however, is that we’re unlikely to see any new Rockchip-based mini PC designs until the RK32xx SoCs begin to arrive in that ‘Q2 2014′ time frame. Rockchip will no doubt be engineering the chip to perform well across the booming tablet market. However, it’ll be interesting to see what needs to be done to get it into a mini PC design. Will USB stick-style mini PCs still be possible? How much heatsink cooling will be required compared with its current RK3188 quad-core Cortex A9 design?

Rockchip hasn’t discussed what production scale the RK32xx will be produced at, but given its recent deal with GlobalFoundries, it’s likely they’ll be manufactured using the chip maker’s new 28-nanometre High K Metal Gate (HKMG) production process.

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