ARM unveils 28nm SoC chips

February 25, 2010 | 12:26

Tags: #28nm #arm-cortex #cortex #cortex-a9 #gate-first #hkmg #processor #risc #soc #system-on-chip

Companies: #arm #globalfoundries

ARM chips might already rule the roost when it comes to energy efficient computing, but a move to a 28nm manufacturing process looks set to make the chips even more impressive.

As reported over on DigiTimes, the company has partnered with AMD's fab spin-off Globalfoundries to produce a range of system-on-chip devices based around the ARM Cortex A9 processor using a 28nm gate-first high-k metal gate manufacturing process - allowing twice the gate density compared with the more usual 40nm process used by the company's competitors.

The process shrink allows for some pretty impressive features: the company claims that the new SoC chips will have around a 40 percent boost to their performance, a 30 percent decrease in power consumption, and a fairly amazing 100 percent increase in battery life while on standby. Better still, all these improvements come without an increase in the chip's heat output - meaning that customers already designing products around ARM's existing chips should be able to upgrade to the 28nm versions without a complete redesign.

According to Engadget, the companies are looking toward mass production of the new chips by the second half of this year - making them the first chips to be produced by Globalfoundries' new 28nm production line in Dresden, Germany.

Interestingly, the companies plan two different versions of the processors: a super low power edition for mobile devices where battery life is king alongside a high performance edition for embedded devices that need a bit more grunt.

Globalfoundries CEO Chia Song Hwee describes his company as "working closely with ARM to optimize the physical IP and implementation of the Cortex-A9 processor with our proven manufacturing experience in high-volume, advanced technology products, to deliver a fully integrated platform for leading-edge wireless products and applications," while ARM president Tudor Brown states that the new chips represent "a powerful integration of processing, graphics and power efficiency." So far neither company has released details of any OEMs or ODMs planning on using the new silicon, but with mass production starting so soon it won't be long before products begin to appear.

With more companies looking to move the ARM processor out of the smartphone market and into other devices - and the rumour that even Microsoft is switching on to the possibilities in ARM's technologies - the new higher performing 28nm chips could cause some sleepless nights for rivals Intel and AMD.

Are you hoping that your next smartphone will be powered by one of the SLP 28nm chips, or are you wondering what a nettop equipped with the high-performance edition could do? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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