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TSMC and ARM’s Next-Gen 64-Bit 16nm Processor Looks Apple-Worthy

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Apple’s A8 chip manufacturing partner, TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) and ARM have announced the result of their joint effort: they’ve created a new 16nm processor that Apple could adopt for its next generation iDevices.

The new processor is the result of a key FinFET (FF) silicon validation of the ARM big.LITTLE implementation using ARM Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53 processors on TSMC’s 16nm process technology.

As already stressed by the two participating parties, the first performance results are good:

Silicon results on 16FF show the “big” Cortex-A57 processor achieving 2.3GHz for sustained mobile peak performance, as well as the “LITTLE” Cortex-A53 processor consuming only 75mW for most common workloads. The performance improvements are a result of the collaboration between ARM and TSMC to jointly optimize the 64-bit ARMv8-A processor series on FinFET process technologies and build on the successful tape-out of the Cortex-A57 processor on TSMC’s 16FF process last year.

Ongoing collaborative efforts are focused on TSMC’s 16FF+ process technology which will deliver an additional 11% gain in performance for the Cortex-A57 at the same power as the 16FF process, along with a further 35% power reduction for the Cortex-A53 when running low-intensity applications. This further increases the dynamic performance range and power savings for big.LITTLE platforms. 16FF+ is scheduled to be delivered by Q4 2014. Early big.LITTLE implementations of Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53 processors on 16FF+ are supported by ARM POP™ IP technology.

Patently Apple speculates that Apple may be tempted to use this processor, as its A8 chip is incorporated into the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and is also likely to be used in the iPad Air 2 and next generation iPad mini with Retina display.

16FF+ is scheduled to be delivered by Q4 2014, though don’t expect chips to hit the market during that quarter.

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