ARM has announced that the Cortex-A57 has been taped out, a mere 17 months after the first Cortex-A15 processor was taped out, its heir, the Cortex-A57 and six months after it reached RTL (Ready-To-Launch) stage. Given that it took exactly one year for the first Cortex-A15 (the Exynos 5-based Samsung Chromebook was launched on 19 October 2012, the A15 was taped out on 18 October 2011), we can confidently expect the first A57 product to land in the second quarter of 2014.
The British semiconductor outfit teamed up with TSMC and used the latter’s 16nm FinFET processor technology for this milestone. The A57, which is set to be the successor of the A15, was unveiled at the end of October 2012 (just over five months ago) at the same time as the Cortex-A53, which will take over the A7; both will be the first processors to run on ARM’s new architecture, the 64-bit capable ARMv8.
The A57 is likely to be Intel’s single biggest threat since the launch of the AMD Opteron (which used the K8/Sledgehammer core) back in April 2003 as its remit will overlap those of Intel’s; tablets, high end computing and servers.
TSMC is also working with ARM’s co-opetitor, Imagination Technologies on 16nm FinFET process technology which will be used for MIPS CPU and PowerVR GPU as well. TSMC has currently deployed 28nm and 20nm technology and will start producing 16nm parts next year. In comparison, Intel produces a significant portion of its Ivy Bridge parts on 22nm Tri-Gate process, one which was launched nearly two years ago.