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ARM Expects 20-Nanometer Processors By Late 2013 73

Posted by samzenpus
from the coming-soon dept.
angry tapir writes "ARM chips made with an advanced, 20-nanometer manufacturing process could appear in smartphones and tablets by as soon as the end of next year, the head of ARM's processor division said Monday. The more advanced chips should allow device makers to improve the performance of their products without reducing battery life, or offer the same performance with longer battery life."
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ARM Expects 20-Nanometer Processors By Late 2013

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  • Hmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday June 04, 2012 @10:27AM (#40208557) Journal
    Does anybody know who the 20nm fabs ARM is expecting to provide these chips are? It was my understanding that Samsung, Globalfoundries and TSMC were still working on a larger process(28mm?) and Intel has been very cagey about fabbing any 3rd-party stuff except for a handful of FPGAs and other high-margin oddballs that don't compete in Intel's area of business in any meaningful way.
  • by marcuz (752480) on Monday June 04, 2012 @10:32AM (#40208619)
    They have problems delivering 28nm right now so take the 20nm predictions with a pinch of salt. "However, the transition to 28nm does not appear to be going smoothly. ARM heavyweight Qualcomm was the first to introduce a 28nm design, the stunning Snapdragon S4 based on its Krait core. But the outfit is now struggling to meet demand for S4 chips and it is basically becoming a victim of its own success. Other ARM players, such as TI, Nvidia, Samsung and Apple, have yet to introduce a single 28nm part." -- http://www.fudzilla.com/home/item/27414-arm-hopes-to-see-20nm-processors-next-year [fudzilla.com]
  • by serbianheretic (1108833) on Monday June 04, 2012 @10:36AM (#40208663)
    I often wonder, with traces being made smaller all the time, how does this affect radiation resistance? Are we going to hit the point soon where just laying the chip open in the sunlight creates enough of random electron/hole generation, so that the device becomes useless? We already know that chips must be hardened to work in space, how long until this is true for Earth-tied ones? If someone has an answer, it would be interesting to know.
  • Re:next battle? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday June 04, 2012 @10:37AM (#40208665) Journal
    I suspect that the answer is a combination of 'don't hold your breath on that' and 'at least a year ago, did you miss it?'

    In terms of sheer screaming power(and, for the moment, even supporting 64 bit memory spaces) ARM is a toy and shows no terribly strong signs of making any strides in that area that Intel would really be worried about.

    On the other hand, it would appear that an awful lot of netbooks and laptops were never sold, possibly never even built, because of tablets and smartphones... If things like this [dell.com] turn out to be a good fit for some 'cloud' niche or other sales of select Xeons could see similar hits.

    At least so far, you don't go up against Chipzilla benchmark-for-benchmark. The world evolves around you such that your virtues are now more desirable than his...
  • Some background (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Monday June 04, 2012 @11:00AM (#40208943)

    Some background you'll never see anywhere else, written by me:

    First of all these funny numbers come from the ITRS. This is not just random numbers, process stages are not a "preferred number system" like resistor values where statistics determines the weird values. Process stage size steps are indirectly determined by physics. ITRS is an industry association of companies who actually make this stuff. Wikipedia has a page for each stage, yes there is a wiki page called "22nm" or something like that. This "20 nm" process is actually a "half step" from the 22nm process. The next "real" step is 16 nm.

    (opinion alert!) Now this is a half step from 22nm to 16nm and is considered a failure. Put your efforts into cheaper higher yield more economic 22 or advance the field to 16, don't screw around halfway at 20. Another interpretation is oxide thicknesses are getting too small at the 22nm process to make anything smaller like 16nm, essentially they're giving up on 16nm because its economically impossible(end opinion alert!) The rest of my post is pretty much factual, as far as I know.

    Another interesting thing about process sizes is this is a half-pitch (essentially a radius) of an array cell. Its dumb and/or marketing to spec half-pitch instead of pitch if you're talking memory. One cell of memory using a "20nm process" is actually 40 nm across. You'll read all kinds of foolishness about how the interconnects are 20 nm across, or a unit memory cell is a 20nm on a side square, or the oxide layer being 20 nm across (which would actually be Fing huge by current standards). Basically almost all size comparisons will just be random crap and no journalist or marketing PR guy ever makes a correct analogy using half pitch, they'll say absolutely anything other than the correct answer, which has made me laugh for decades now.

    Everyone knows everything comes from China. Including semiconductors. Well, actually, no. There's a nice list of plants at wikipedia. You'll see a lot of US addresses. Yes you can probably buy a knock off 555 or 741 from China, but they have almost no small scale plants at all. Pretty much processors come from the USA and a scattering of small time players around the globe. That's interesting. We (USA) make really tiny processors and really giant industrial machinery and not a whole heck of a lot in between. You want a 500000 ton mining dragline? We got it. You want a 22nm processor? We got it. You want a shoe? No we don't make those in this country anymore.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Semiconductor_Fabrication_Plants [wikipedia.org]

    Finally processes are a moving target and different mfgrs and different products are at each stage. There are a couple plants being built for 16 nm process and there are prototypes of "real 16 nm chips" floating around. 22nm process memory was shipping two years ago, 22nm process CPUs are much harder to design. Intel is already shipping 22nm process family CPUs, so AMD gets a golf clap for promising to catch up later this year with something microscopically better. To the best of my knowledge 11nm is not out of the lab yet even for fooling around with.

    And that's about all I know from making some investments in mfgrs since the 80s, some of which worked, some not so good. Not currently investing in this market, but I still keep up with the times and I do a lot of electronics in my basement.

  • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday June 04, 2012 @11:36AM (#40209327)

    TSMC is shipping 28nm, latest tech GeForce (GTX680 and 670) and Radeon (7970 and 7950) cards are TSMC 28nm. They do not have anything smaller yet.

    In terms of being behind the curve, yes and no. It is behind Intel but everyone is, always. Intel is generally almost a complete node ahead. Nobody else is doing 22nm, nor will they be for some time. The timeframe ARM is talking about is right along when most companies will start doing 22nm, or its 20nm half node (a number of companies do node and half node processes, some like TSMC are going straight for half nodes).

    So they aren't behind the curve except for Intel, but then everyone is behind Intel. Only Intel is willing to spend the billions in R&D to forge ahead like that and build the fabs at the pace required (their 14nm fab, they are going straight to the half node next time, is going up in Chandler AZ right now).

    I do imagine this is actually directed at Intel though. ARM is getting worried. Intel keeps producing lower and lower end chips, and they are encroaching on ARM's market. Right now it isn't a huge problem particularly since Intel is reserving their latest node for desktop and laptop CPUs. However if Intel starts making 22nm parts to compete with ARM, that could be a problem for ARM. Eve if the Intel parts were less efficient, size can make up a lot of that.

    So they are probably trying to convince partners "stick with us, we'll be there soon!"

  • Re:Some background (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday June 04, 2012 @11:45AM (#40209409)

    Ya I think the half-node obsession came from companies trying to "beat" Intel. For quite some time Intel has been almost a node ahead of everyone. Everyone else is ramping up one node and not long after Intel has the next online. So they started doing the half-node stuff. TSMC first did this for 55nm, though they were still behind Intel at the time, but then for 40nm. So they could claim on paper at least to be ahead of Intel. Intel had a 45nm process, TSMC has a 40nm process. Of course not too long after Intel went to 32nm, but for awhile TSMC could claim to be ahead (as you noted it isn't quite so simple).

    Apparently Intel is sick of this and they are going to 14nm next with their new plant in Chandler. How much of that is pure marketing (I could see a hybrid process where most of it is done 16nm but something is done using 14nm half-node process so that you can technically call it 14nm, maybe the cache) I don't know but there you go.

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