Today’s hottest and best-selling tablets and smartphones have one thing in common: they are powered by ARM processors. Offered in such variations as NVIDIA’s Tegra, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, Samsung’s Exynos and Apple’s A6, ARM processors dominate the leading edge of mobile products. At LG’s recent announcement of its clever and well-appointed G2 smartphone, much was made of it being the first globally launched phone to include Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800; Android, in contrast, wasn’t mentioned once. And the long reach of ARM extends far beyond the bleeding edge. The Hisense Sero 7 Pro — recently cut to $129 just a few weeks after its launch — has a Tegra 3 processor while ARM chips from Rockchip and MediaTek power Android tablets at even humbler price points.
For years, Intel has promised it would be competitive with ARM in terms of performance per watt (if not in price). It has made great strides both in its smartphone-focused Atom chips and its performance-oriented Core chips (including Haswell, the CPU behind the MacBook Air’s huge gains in battery life), but those in the ARM camp have kept their processors’ competitive heat up while keeping their generated heat down.