ARM's big.LITTLE, with TSMC's finFETs, sets efficiency benchmark

October 01, 2014 // By Graham Prophet
TSMC and ARM have announced the results from a FinFET silicon validation of the ARM big.LITTLE implementation, using ARM Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53 processors on TSMC's advanced 16nm FinFET process technology.

Silicon results on 16FF show the ”big” Cortex-A57 processor achieving 2.3 GHz for sustained mobile peak performance, as well as the “LITTLE” Cortex-A53 processor consuming only 75mW for most common workloads.

The performance improvements are a result of the collaboration between ARM and TSMC to jointly optimise the 64-bit ARMv8-A processor series on FinFET process technologies and build on the successful tape-out of the Cortex-A57 processor on TSMC's 16FF process last in 2013.

Ongoing collaborative efforts are focused on TSMC's 16FF+ process technology which will deliver an additional 11% gain in performance for the Cortex-A57 at the same power as the 16FF process, along with a further 35% power reduction for the Cortex-A53 when running low-intensity applications. This further increases the dynamic performance range and power savings for big.LITTLE platforms. 16FF+ is scheduled to be delivered by Q4 2014. Early big.LITTLE implementations of Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53 processors on 16FF+ are supported by ARM POP IP technology.

“This silicon proof point with ARM Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53 processors demonstrates the additional benefits in performance and power efficiency that 16nm FinFET technology delivers to big.LITTLE implementations,” said Pete Hutton, executive vice president and president, product groups, ARM. “The joint effort of ARM, TSMC, and TSMC?s OIP design ecosystem partners will transform end-user experiences across the next generation of consumer devices and enterprise infrastructure.”

Dr. Cliff Hou, vice president, R&D, TSMC, adds, “TSMC is proud to be the first foundry to validate the ARM big.LITTLE implementation on FinFET, and this achievement demonstrates in silicon the real-world capabilities of next-generation ARMv8 processors on TSMC's advanced FinFET technology.”