ARM: Who needs 128-bit chips?

It started with the Korean Herald quoting an unnamed ARM official who, allegedly, “predicted that a 128-bit processor could hit the market in the next two years.” Now, it seems that ARM is adamant that it has no immediate plans for a 128-bit chip. 

Ian Drew, ARM’s EVP for Business Development and Chief Marketing Officer, rebutted the claims as strongly as he could.

“There are absolutely no plans underway for 128 bit ARM-based chips because they simply aren’t needed. Rumors to the contrary are simply incorrect.”

We can, as always, blame Apple for everything. The company kicked off the bit wars (made up name) by putting the 64-bit A7 processor in the iPhone 5S. Flurry of activity. Brief flutter of headless chickens in the Android camp, and Samsung is going to be out with its own 64-bit chips in 2014 for Android. 

The ARMv8-A 64-bit architecture has been around for more than two years ago and it is expected that ARM will be pushing more 64-bit designs into everything from phones to servers. So, 64-bit is good, but 128-bit ain’t happening anytime soon.

Because? Because we probably don’t need it right now. In PCs 64-bit processors allowed you to use more than 4 GBs of RAM. Remember when game developers were excited because they could store more textures in memory and improve frame rate throughput. More RAM, more power, more fun. 



Well, you can’t get 4GB of RAM into a phone. And Android is kind of optimized for 512MB of RAM because it wants to work in cheaper phones, and none of that let them eat cake Apple hardware type stuff. So, what’s the point?

Encryption is faster. Anything that requires greater computational power for big number crunching should be faster on 64-bits versus 32-bit. And heck, you probably can get more memory in to phones and applications can take advantage of it. It’s not a bad thing, but the drive to 128-bits? Nope. Not just yet.

There is a pretty good Reddit thread about 32 bit versus 64 bit.