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ARM fires up Intel rivalry with Osprey A9 core

Posted: 21 Sep 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ARM core? Osprey Atom? processor?

ARM Holdings plc has developed two implementations of a dual-core Cortex-A9 processor design called Osprey.

The 40nm hard-macro processor, capable of achieving 2GHz clock frequency, is one of the highest performing cores yet developed by ARM. The design would appear to be similar to an OMAP-4 chip that Texas Instruments is expected to sample in Q4 that puts two ARM Cortex A9 cores in the space of a single Intel Atom core.

The Osprey, which is being put up as an Atom-killer, at least until Intel turns its manufacturing process crank, comes in the form of hard macros designed for manufacture using the 40G 40nm manufacturing process technology from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

The hard macro has been optimized once for power consumption and once for performance and in the later case should take the ARM processor into unchartered territory in terms of competing for performance applications.

"The goal is performance, performance, performance," said Eric Schorn, VP of marketing for ARM's processor division. "We are into unlocking some new markets: netbooks, smartbooks, MIDs, consumer electronics in TV and entertainment devices, and enterprise networking, such as things like printers."

Osprey is itself a dual-core processor, but there is nothing to stop licensees laying down multiple cores on a die, Schorn said. Although ARM is still waiting to put a full test chip through TSMC, which is set to happen in Q4, the two designs are already available for licensing today, with IP delivery in Q4. That should allow customers to produce their own SoCs sometime in 2010.

The speed-optimized implementation is aimed at enterprise servers, networking, printers and other peak performance applications requiring clock frequencies up to and in excess of 2-GHz. The core occupies 6.7mm178; of silicon die and at 2GHz the core delivers 10,000 Dhrystone MIPS while consuming about 1.9W.

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