What do you get when you put a 6-core ARM A57 on TSMC’s 16nm FinFET process? A lot of pretty pictures and a really big bunch of test chips to play with too.
At MWC last week, SemiAccurate spotted a nice A57 wafer hidden away in the ARM booth. Not much was said about it other than 16nm, TSMC, and A57 cores all of which, “Taped-out February, 2014”. That means it is as fresh tasting as it is pretty.
If you look at the wafer below, it is pretty obvious that there are six cores on the die plus a bunch of other test structures. This is a test chip after all, and the purpose is to optimize the A57 core for the upcoming process, and given the time from tape-out, it is hot from the oven. This means the work on the process is still ongoing and likely far from done.
Pretty, shiny FinFETs make big cores from small transistors
Why would you do something as complex as a multi-core A57 SoC that will never actually be a product? Remember ARM’s PoP IP? It takes a lot of work to get to the point of having an almost turnkey solution for licensees, and if a foundry does it right, it is a serious competitive advantage for them. In short this kind of thing is the homework that makes a licensee’s life easier. For the rest of us we get pretty pictures and SoCs with new cores faster. Hard to argue that one.S|A
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