6-core 16nm FinFET ARM Cortex-A57 chips spotted in the wild

MWC 2014: Not just one, a full wafer of them fresh from the oven

ARM logoWhat 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.

TSMC 16nm ARM Cortex-A57 wafer

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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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also a council member with Gerson Lehman Group. FullyAccurate