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First ARM Cortex-A57 processor taped out by TSMC, ready for fab

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Your current smartphone just took another spin backwards on the obsolescence cycle thanks to a new landmark from ARM and TSMC: the first Cortex-A57 has reached the "tape out" stage, meaning it's ready for mass production. The new chip will use TSMC's 16nm FinFET technology (though the transistors will be 20nm for the A57) and will bring up to three times the CPU power of current chips for the same battery life -- or a maximum of five times the battery life at the same speed. The companies said they ramped the chip from design to tape out in a mere six months, though there's no timetable for its arrival in specific devices. When it does start hitting next gen phones and slates though, expect the performance charts to get singed.

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ARM and TSMC Tape Out First ARM Cortex-A57 Processor on TSMC's 16nm FinFET Technology

Hsinchu, Taiwan and Cambridge, UK – April 2, 2013 – ARM and TSMC (TWSE: 2330, NYSE: TSM) today announced the first tape-out of an ARM® Cortex™-A57 processor on FinFET process technology. The Cortex-A57 processor is ARM's highest performing processor, designed to further extend the capabilities of future mobile and enterprise computing, including compute intensive applications such as high-end computer, tablet and server products. This is the first milestone in the collaboration between ARM and TSMC to jointly optimize the 64-bit ARMv8 processor series on TSMC FinFET process technologies. The two companies cooperated in the implementation from RTL to tape-out in six months using ARM Artisan® physical IP, TSMC memory macros, and EDA technologies enabled by TSMC's Open Innovation Platform® (OIP) design ecosystem.

ARM and TSMC's collaboration produces optimized, power-efficient Cortex-A57 processors and libraries to support early customer implementations on 16nm FinFET for high-performance, ARM technology-based SoCs.

"This first ARM Cortex-A57 processor implementation paves the way for our mutual customers to leverage the performance and power efficiency of 16nm FinFET technology," said Tom Cronk, executive vice president and general manager, Processor Division, ARM. "The joint effort of ARM, TSMC, and TSMC's OIP design ecosystem partners demonstrates the strong commitment to provide industry-leading technology for customer designs to benefit from our latest 64-bit ARMv8 architecture, big.LITTLE™ processing and ARM POP™ IP across a wide variety of market segments."

"Our multi-year, multi-node collaboration with ARM continues to deliver advanced technologies to enable market-leading SoCs across mobile, server, and enterprise infrastructure applications," said Dr. Cliff Hou, TSMC Vice President of R&D. "This achievement demonstrates that the next-generation ARMv8 processor is FinFET-ready for TSMC's advanced technology."

This announcement highlights the enhanced and intensified collaboration between ARM and TSMC. The test chip was implemented using a commercially available 16nm FinFET tool chain and design services provided by the OIP ecosystem and ARM Connected Community partners. This successful collaborative milestone is confirmation of the roles that TSMC's OIP and ARM's Connected Community play in promoting innovation for the semiconductor design industry.

In this article: A57, ARM, Cortex, cortex-a57, CPU, FinFET, tsa, TSMC
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