United Microelectronics Corp., once a leading contract maker of chips, these days can hardly compete against its rivals when it comes to innovative process technologies. Nonetheless, the company can produce chips at very competitive price-points, which makes it a unique choice for those, who develop solutions for low-cost devices.
On Tuesday ARM Holdings and UMC announced that they have successfully developed a low-cost physical implementation of ARM Cortex-A7 general-purpose processing core (ARM Artisan physical IP platform along with POP IP) for 28nm HLP [high-performance low-power] process technology. Partners of the two companies can now easily integrate the A7 cores into their system-on-chip designs that are made using the aforementioned manufacturing process.
The energy-efficient ARM Cortex-A7 processor has seen broad adoption in smartphones, tablets, DTV and other consumer products. Being an in-order microprocessor, the Cortex-A7 hardly provides hard performance necessary by today’s leading-edge devices. Nonetheless, its speed is enough for various smart devices which are getting popular these days. The ARM POP IP for the Cortex-A7 processor is targeted for 1.2GHz on UMC’s 28HLP platform, and delivery began in December 2013.
UMC's 28HLP process is the foundry's enhanced 28nm technology uses poly-SiON gate dielectric. The manufacturing technology is said to provide “an optimal balance of size, speed and power leakage”. The process is primarily aimed at portable, wireless LAN, and both wired and handheld consumer products. The foundry is currently in pilot production for customer products on 28HLP, with volume production expected in early 2014.
“Through our close collaboration with UMC, ARM's physical IP and POP IP enable optimal SoC implementation and streamline the design flow so that our mutual customers can achieve world-class implementation and get to market in the shortest time possible. Our standard cells, next-generation memory compilers and POP IP deliver the features, quality, and rigorous silicon validation that UMC's customers demand, and help ARM deliver on our commitment to provide the best physical IP platforms at leading foundries,” said Dipesh Patel, executive vice president and general manager of physical design group at ARM.