What's an ARM processor? - thebytewise

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

Have you ever came across the phrase "ARM" not in human body parts terms though, this might have happened when you were talking to that one over geeky friend of yours. Anyway did you ever wondered what exactly is an ARM processor? Well if you did no worries in this article we are gonna discuss the same!

Well in Oogie-boogie nerd words, "ARM processor is a CPU that is built on the RISC-based architecture" developed by Acorn Computers in the 1980s which is now developed by Advanced RISC Machines (ARM the company).

Well, I don't think this definition was quite helpful if you don't actually know what any of that actually means. No worries!

Let's break it down to chunks and then explain each bit individually.

What is ARM?

ARM, Ltd. is actually a company in England that develops and designs processor architecture. The abbreviation for the design point stands for "Acorn RISC Machine" and for the company point its "Advanced RICS Machines", confused? No worries, nowadays you can interchange both of these. The company ARM (Advanced RISC Machines) designs and develops a method to build ARM (Acron RISC Machine) processors.

Most of the devices which comes in a small form factor and needs a battery and a processor uses an ARM processor (not necessarily, discussed further). Companies like Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm license the ARM architecture to build their own custom processor.

What is RISC?

RISC stands for "Reduced Instruction Set Computer". Unlike the processor, you find in your laptop or Desktops that are likely to be a CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computer) processor. The RISC processors are designed to run a smaller amount of instructions than a CISC processor. Although they can process fewer instructions but they can have a higher frequency that means it can perform more MIPS(Millions of instruction per second) than a CISC processor.

As the reduced number of instruction the processor's internal circuit can be simplified, which means it will use fewer transistors resulting in a smaller form factor and lesser power usage.

This small, fast, and simple design means that it will be more suitable for devices like mobile phones. As mobile phones are generally not used to perform extreme tasks like building 3D models, scientific calculations unless of course you are a psychopath!

In a mobile phone, both the hardware and the software are developed and optimized for that RISC ARM processor.

BUT!!! This doesn't mean ARM processors are not powerful, ARM has a great PPW ratio (Performance-Per-Watt Ratio), when the software is coded properly it can perform more per watt of electricity used on an ARM processor than a CISC processor. This makes it easier to scale ARM CPUs for applications like Supercomputer and Servers. As hundreds of these low power consuming ARM processor can be used to perform a task more efficiently.


It the end, a single instance of an ARM processor won't be as powerful as an Intel Core i9 9th gen that you will find in a gaming PC. There isn't an answer to which is a better processor, both have its own applications and use case scenarios. Although the CISC processors can have a hell lot of performance packed into it but at the same time it requires multiple times the power required by an ARM processor and also cant be fit into a phone body, and of course it needs active cooling!!

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