GlobalFoundries tapes out 20-nm ARM test chip

When it's not busy cranking AMD processor silicon out of its fabs, GlobalFoundries is getting busy with its other customers and partners—and that includes ARM. Earlier today, GlobalFoundries announced that it's taped out a 20-nm Technology Qualification Vehicle for system-on-a-chip devices based on ARM's Cortex-A9 design.

What does this Technology Qualification Vehicle do, you might ask? We'll let GlobalFoundries answer that one:

The two companies worked closely together to develop a TQV strategy that allows GLOBALFOUNDRIES to optimize its advanced process technology for customer designs based on Cortex-A series processors. The solution is more than a standard test chip. Each TQV is designed to emulate a full specification SoC and aims to improve performance, lower power consumption and facilitate a faster path to market for foundry customers.

The foundry firm says its 20-nm process technology will "improve performance by up to 35% and nearly halve power consumption" compared to the 28-nm process. We should start to see devices based on GloFo's 28-nm process in action next year.

GlobalFoundries has announced another milestone on top of that. It claims to be the first to have pushed a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 test chip to "more than 2.5GHz." Just to provide a frame of reference, Nvidia's Tegra 3 application processor features Cortex-A9 cores, and those only run at up to 1.4GHz. Tegra 3 is based on an older, 40-nm process and tuned for power efficiency, though; I'm guessing the 2.5GHz ARM test chip is fabbed at 28 nm, and it might not have the same power requirements.

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