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Samsung will tear the wraps off an eight-core ARM processor in February although half of the chip will spend most of its life asleep.

The architecture is called big.Little, which ARM presented in October last year. Four cores run software all the time if they can, and the other four are only powered up when the user launches a 3D game, starts editing video, or does something equally processor hungry.

The big.Little concept uses two quad-core blocks: one is a Cortex-A7 design, and is used for normal operations. The other is a Cortex-A15 block, which is ramped up when needed and turned off when it's not - primarily to extend battery life between charges.

Samsung will show off the system-on-a-chip in February, according to EE Times.

The pair of 32-bit quad-core blocks will be squeezed onto a single 28nm-process die. The A7 quad-core block runs at 1.2GHz, which is fast enough to take care of the basic functionality. The A15 side will run at 1.8GHz for bigger jobs and have a 2MB level-two cache. The complete package is likely to rear its head at the International Sold-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in February and appear in devices in late-2013.

The South Korean chip maker wants to expand its operations in silicon, and won't be making processors for Apple forever. The A6 used in the iPhone 5 is fabricated by Samsung, but with such animosity between the two companies, Apple is expected to end that relationship as soon as it can.

Samsung is also developing its own radio electronics for its latest Galaxy smartphones to boot out rival Qualcomm's silicon. Market analyst biz ABI Research dismantled a Galaxy S III from South Korea and discovered that the handset lacks the Qualcomm components common to the rest of the range. By taking apart the SHV-E210s, as the country's variant is known, ABI found a Samsung chip handling LTE, HSPA and GPRS connectivity, where previously Sammy had only provided LTE hardware.

Intel isn't planning anything exciting at next year's ISSCC, but will talk about its new 1Tb/sec scalable inter-chip bus. ®

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