TSMC can now manufacture dual-core ARM Cortex A9 processors clocked at 3.1GHz

May 8, 2012
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ARM TSMC Cortex A9

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest dedicated semiconductor foundry, has recently announced that it now has the ability to manufacture dual-core Cortex-A9 processors clocked at no less than 3.1GHz. This is possible thanks to a new 28 nm technology called HPM (for High Performance Mobile Computing), a combination of the 28HP technology that TSMC uses to manufacture graphic chips for NVIDIA and the 28HPL tech that TSMC uses to manufacture Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 systems on a chip.

ARM processors are not currently known for running at clock frequencies this high, as their power-efficient architectures usually tend to the smartphone and tablet market. But given that Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 will be released in an ARM-compatible version as well, one can foresee a necessity arising for ARM processors that offer the maximum possible processing power.

Most likely, the systems that will use the dual-core Cortex A9 processor clocked at 3.1GHz will always be connected to a power supply (as in non-mobile). Fortunately, though, the 28HPM technology will also be used to manufacture dual-core ARM Cortex A9 processors clocked between 1.5GHz and 2.0GHz, processors that are more suited to go into mobile devices.

“TSMC’s high performance 28HPM process is suitable for a wide range of advanced ARM-processor based applications, extending from high-frequency, performance-orientated computing devices to power sensitive applications,” said Jim Nicholas, Vice President of Marketing, Processor Division, ARM. “The collaboration between ARM, TSMC and our ecosystem partners has delivered an extensible implementation platform that enables flexibility in performance and power management tradeoffs for next generation products.”

Despite the fact that the Cortex A9 architecture is not a new design, it’s still used as the base for the quad-core Exynos processor inside the Galaxy S3, as well for the quad-core Tegra 3 SoC from NVIDIA. The general transition to Cortex A15, the newest, fastest (and currently the most expensive) architecture from ARM is likely to come by the end of 2012 / early 2013.

On a personal note, I’m more than eager to find out how a 3.1GHz dual-core ARM Cortex A9 processor stands up against Intel products. As soon as benchmarks surface onto the web, we’ll be here to report. Until then, you can drop us a line in the comment section below and share a thought!

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