TSMC ARM Cortex-A9 chip hits 3.1GHz high

May 4, 2012 // 10:39 a.m.

Tags: #28nm #40nm #arm #arm-cortex-a9 #cortex-a9 #fab #foundry #taiwan-semiconductor #tsmc

Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) may be having a few problems with its 28nm process, but that hasn't stopped the company announcing the release of the first 3.1GHz ARM-based processor.

Built on the company's 28nm process - despite admitted capacity problems at the node, which has led to customer Qualcomm looking elsewhere for spare capacity - the test chip is based on ARM's Cortex-A9 dual-core IP, but running at a speed hitherto unheard-of for the design.

Typical Cortex-A9 dual-core processors run at between 1GHz and 2GHz, making TSMC's latest creation the fastest ARM processor on the planet.

'At 3.1GHz this 28HPM dual-core processor implementation is twice as fast as its counterpart at TSMC 40nm under the same operating conditions,' claimed Cliff Hou, vice president of research and development at the foundry giant. 'This work demonstrates how ARM and TSMC can satisfy high performance market demands. With other implementation options, 28HPM is also highly suited for a wide range of markets that prize performance and power efficiency.'

Sadly, as Hou's comments suggest, TMSC won't be releasing the 3.1GHz part into the market any time soon. Rather, it's using the test chip platform as a demonstration of its capabilities in the hopes that ARM's multitudinous licensees will beat a path to its door, eager to get their hands on the company's secret-source for their own chip designs.

'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,' boasted Jim Nicholas, vice president of ARM's processor marketing department, of TSMC's achievement. 'The collaboration between ARM, TSMC and our ecosystem partners has delivered an extensible implementation platform that enables flexibility in performance and power management trade-offs for next generation products.'