First 64-bit ARMv8 Cortex-A57 chip built on the 16nm FinFET technology taped out by TSMC

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ARM chips using the 32-bit ARMv7 instruction set on Cortex-A5, A7, A8, A9 & A15 core designs will soon be driven into obsolescence thanks to the introduction of the first 64-bit ARM SoCs using the new ARMv8 instruction which is a huge step forward from its predecessor.

The Cortex-A57 along with the Cortex-A50 are the next step in the Cortex-A family, it represents an evolution of the classic ARMv7 SoCs to a more robust 64-bit architecture. It is the fastest ARM chip to date and it can handle compute intensive applications beyond phones and tablets. The first Cortex-A57 was recently taped by world’s largest dedicated semiconductor foundry TSMC, the chip is based on TSMC’s 16nm FinFET & will use 20nm transistors & revolves around the ARM big.LITTLE processing and ARM POP IP.

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Cortex-A57 at a Glance:

– Out-of-Order ARMv8 32/64 Core
– Up to Quad-Core Design
– 44-bit Virtual Memory Address
– Up to 16TB RAM (LPDDR3 to DDR4)
– 48KB L1 I-Cache (w/DED parity)
– 32KB L1 D-Cache (w/ECC)
– NEON SIMD Engine
– FPU
– 128KB – 2MB L2 Cache (w/ECC)
– 128-bit CoreLink Interconnect (CCI-400 and CCN-504)

This is the first milestone in the cooperation between the two companies to optimize the 64-bit ARMv8 processor series using the FinFET process technology (Tri-Gate, so called 3D transistors). From RTL to tape-out of the new processor was completed in six months according to the companies.

During the process, ARM and TSMC used ARM Artisan physical IP, TSMC memory macros, and RDA technologies that were enabled by the TSMC Open Innovation Platform design ecosystem. It looks like TSMC and ARM are getting serious about 64-bit CPUs, the impact on mobile devices & tablets will likely result in significant performance while being more 5 times more battery friendly than current chips!

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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 vp and general manager of ARM’s processor division.
TSMC believes the FinFET process is ready for the new chip, although it might take quite a bit of time before production kicks in. – But we can confidently expect the first A57 product to land in the second quarter of 2014.

It should be noted that this current 64-bit implementation is backwardly compatible with the current ARM 32-bit ecosystem.