ARM Announces 10nm Artemis Test Chip; Dynamic Power Cut In Half

Ramish Zafar
Posted May 18, 2016
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As Google’s I/O kicks off with full swing, looks like software isn’t the only thing that’s going to get some major updates today. With the debut of Android N we’re finally seeing some interesting new features make it on the smartphone, with Google’s announcement of Virtual Reality for its users being the highlight of the day. On the hardware side of things we’ve got ARM who has made some major announcements today as well. These should set the pace for things to come this year and the next, so scroll below to find out more.

ARM Announces Tape-Out Of 10nm FinFet Based Artemis; 30% Power Reduction And 12% Performance Enhancements Expected

With summers looking to set off, we’ve been seeing quite a bit of major news head our way on the hardware side of things. Not only have a large amount of leaks and rumors surfaced w.r.t the Snapdragon 830, but Samsung was also quick to announce its hardware improvements for the year. The Korean manufacturing giant has further improved its 14nm manufacturing node, with 10nm expected to hit the shelves next year as well.

Speaking of 10nm, both ARM and TSMC are right alongside Samsung, with the British firm announcing tape-out for its 10nm test chip today. Tape-Out is the final design stage of a processor, so things are progressing smoothly over at ARM when it comes to the next generation manufacturing process. What’s more interesting is that this chip also comes with the company’s highly hyped Artemis core on board, with several critical power and performance upgrades.

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ARM-Artemis-10nm

According to ARM, the tape-out stage took place last year in December and the firm should have first samples with it pretty soon. Talking about architecture, if you’ll take a look at the image above, the test chip comes with four Artemis cores and 1 shader Mali GPU, in order to give partners a better idea of what to expect from the hardware. The silicon’s expected by the end of this month at the maximum, showing that TSMC and ARM are right on schedule for next year.

In terms of power consumption, as expected, the upgraded manufacturing process does quite well, with ARM claiming several improvements across all quarters. The nominal or reference voltage for the 10nm Artemis chip comes with a 12% performance improvement at each level, which should also improve once things have been finalized. Additionally, there’s also a good reduction in overall leakage, something that should be natural given that the 10nm FinFET chip is 2.1x denser when compared to its predecessor.

Talking about frequencies and core clocks, there are still improvements to be made, but given the highly preliminary nature of the chip’s design, we’d cut ARM some slack here. Power consumption is the star feature of the day, as you can see in the chart below. 10nm is expected to improve efficiency and performance by quite a bit on future devices, so today’s changes show that manufacturers are heading in the right direction for its fabrication.

ARM-Artemis-10nm-3

Given that any 10nm designs should bear the light of day by Q1 2017 by the earliest, we’d advise you to stay calm when evaluating today’s announcements. There’s quite a bit of changes that take place in a chip’s manufacturing even after tape-out has been completed, so ARM and TSMC should have plenty of tricks remaining up their sleeves. Nevertheless, Artemis finally seeing the light of day is big news for all quarters and should do well for both the British design firm and the Taiwanese fabrication plant.

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Sources have been claiming that the Apple A11 has also entered tape-out, with certification expected at year end, so 10nm has finally started to see the light of day. 2017 will be big year for smartphones all around, with both the iOS and Android world all set to gear up for some major upgrades. But for 2016, we’ve got the iPhone 7, the Galaxy Note 6, new Nexus smartphones and other gadgets headed our way, so it’d be best to focus on them for now. Thoughts? Let us know what you think in the comments section below and stay tuned for the latest.

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