NVIDIA’s Ampere GPUs have been the cause of a lot of speculation over the past year and it looks like the company is finally ready to announce them. Previous leaks have also indicated a March 2020 timeframe for launch and with Jensen claiming “you won’t be disappointed” it looks like this is finally it. If the company is planning to launch Ampere at GTC 2020, we should start seeing leaks start to popup from the usual sources soon enough.
NVIDIA Ampere GPUs launching at GTC 2020?
NVIDIA’s CEO Jensen has been keeping out of the public eye for quite a while and in the recent quarterly earnings conference, he personally invited everyone to attend GTC 2020 at San Jose. What is interesting is that he also concluded with a little teaser: “You won’t be disappointed”. Considering Jensen isn’t one to make false promises, I am fairly certain we will be looking at a litany of launches (paper or otherwise) at the upcoming GTC conference. Before we go any further, here is the extract from the call:
Jensen Huang at NVIDIA Quarterly Earnings Q4 FY2020
We had an excellent quarter with strong demand for NVIDIA RTX graphics and NVIDIA AI platforms and record data center revenue. NVIDIA RTX is reinventing computer graphics and the market’s response is excellent, driving a powerful upgrade cycle in both gaming and professional graphics, while opening whole new opportunities for us to serve the huge community of independent creative workers and social content creators and new markets in rendering and cloud gaming.
……….We’ll be talking a lot more about these key trends and much more at next month’s GTC Conference in San Jose. Come join me. You won’t be disappointed. Thanks everyone.
NVIDIA also stated in the call that the company is finding more and more gamers shifting to its Turing GPUs as prices normalize (relatively). While the company has yet to hit its older crypto-currency fueled highs, Ampere might prove to be the architecture that just does that. The company has managed to stay on 16nm (12NFF node is a rebadged 16nm FF node) for quite some time now and with AMD already on 7nm, things are starting to heat up. If the company moves to 7nm with its Ampere GPUs then it will be able to leverage not only the economics of a lower process but increase the absolute performance of its cards as well.
What we know so far
We have previously heard of NVIDIA’s Ampere GPUs when they passed their EEC certification, but nothing more came up since then. Now, however, we have a tentative timeline: they will be launching in 2020. It is highly likely that NVIDIA will continue with their RTX philosophy and take that to the next level with Ampere. Right now, the Turing GPU is capable of raytracing at 1080p 30 fps for light to moderate path ray tracing workloads. The Ampere GPU will be able to go further.
The fact that it is based on Samsung’s 7nm EUV process means we are looking at a performance advantage as well as a power efficiency advantage. Not only that, but believe it or not, 7nm EUV is actually supposed to be easier to fab than standard UV multi-patterning efforts. Think of EUV as sort of a reset of the difficulty curve as the company moves to a new light source. This will, however, require extensive retooling, but the economies of scale will almost certainly prove to be worth it. At a bare minimum, you are looking at a 50% increase all things considered and watt for watt.
Here’s the thing right, NVIDIA is one of the biggest customers of TSMC and has been their loyal patron since pretty much the dawn of modern gaming tech. If they are actually planning to shift to Samsung’s 7nm technology, then that will have repercussions not only for the company but for TSMC as well. There are two possible things that are going on here, either Samsung is offering them a better deal financially, or NVIDIA has reason to believe Samsung’s 7nm tech is better. We can guess one reason for why this might be the case. Right now, TSMC’s 7nm process is not based on EUV, but they do have an EUV node planned. The process that NVIDIA is planning to shift to, at Samsung’s, is EUV.
That would imply that they have reason to believe that Samsung’s EUV process is better positioned to help them achieve their goals than the TSMC-based one. Another potential reason is that TSMC cannot offer them a large amount of volume and will never prioritize them over the likes of Apple Inc. At the same time, AMD is using up a lot of their capacity and things are getting too cramped in there for NVIDIA’s liking. Samsung’s foundries, on the other hand, have ample capacity and considering the giant that Samsung Electronics is, can simply throw money at yield problems to make them disappear.
Everything considered Samsung is the logical partner for a company as ambitious as NVIDIA. With a big question mark on Intel foundries’ capabilities right now and TSMC hogged down, Samsung remains the only leading-edge foundry for NVIDIA to tap into. GlobalFoundries dropped out of the leading edge race earlier this year – not that they would have been considered to begin with.