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TSMC zaps 3.1GHz ARM processor with 28nm shrink ray

Dual-core Cortex-A9 turbocharged for microservers

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If you thought there was pressure on chip foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp (TSMC) up until now - with Nvidia and AMD leaning on the fab to crank out more GPUs and in the case of AMD, more hybrid CPU-GPUs - wait until the army of designers and sellers catch wind of its 28nm Cortex-A9 ARM RISC processors.

TSMC has put a dual-core 32-bit Cortex-A9 processor test chip through the fab dryer and brought it down from 40nm using its latest process (known as 28HPM). The silicon biz was able to crank up the clock speed on the A9 to a comfortable 1.5GHz to 2GHz in a thermal and power-draw band suitable for smartphones and tablets, and pushed the clocks up as high as 3.1GHz for other "high performance" and unnamed uses under "typical conditions" - like perhaps microservers, for instance.

TSMC said that the 28nm part was "twice as fast" as its 40nm sibling "under the same operating conditions", by which we presume it sucked on the same amount of juice and emitted the same amount of heat as a dual-core Cortex-A9 implemented in 40nm and running at 1.5GHz.

It is not clear how much less current the 28nm part will burn at 1.5GHz and 2GHz compared to 40nm equivalents, but perhaps an updated version of the iPad 2 can shed some light on the situation.

As El Reg previously reported, Apple also shrank its A5 processor, manufactured by Samsung Electronics in its Austin, Texas wafer baker. The original A5, a variant of the dual-core Corex-A9, was implemented in 45nm processes and ran at 1GHz. Samsung has shrunk this down to 32nm and delivers anywhere from 16 to 29 per cent better battery life. ®

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