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Will NVIDIA have a 20nm GPU This Year?

by on20 August 2014 6441 times

Not all that long ago we reported that there was a chance that nVidia might skip over the 20nm half-node and move to the next full node in line due to issues that TSMC has been having with their 20nm process. 20nm has been the dream of GPU manufacturers for some time and despite the money that has been thrown at it, neither TSMC nor GlobalFoundries can seem to get it right. One reason for this could be due to leakage while another is just that as the process gets smaller building large and complex devices using a half-node just does not work.

So where does that leave us with the recent batch of rumors about nVidia and a 20nm version of Maxwell in 2014? These rumors have popped up all over the internet in the last few days and all point to the possibility that nVidia will launch a 20nm product in late 2014 for both the desktop and mobile. According to what we have heard the 20nm process is still not producing enough GPUs to work. The failure rate on the wafers (and chips) is pretty high making it very unlikely that this is anywhere near production ready. Because of this it is not very likely that nVidia is really going to push a 20nm product on the market in 2014.

It is possible that both nVidia and ADM will be able to make the 20nm goal in Q2 or Q3 2015 if TSMC can correct the problems they are having. The second generation of Maxwell (the 800 Series cards) might have been taped out with 20nm in mind, but it would still be possible (with a delay) to push it out in 28nm and have it ready in time for the holiday buying season. It is not very likely that nVidia will have the time to try and redesign Maxwell for 16nm or even to make the leap to 14nm which is the next full node down. TSMC is not really ready for production at either of these process sizes just yet making it even less likely.

These problems put nVidia is in odd position. They cannot simply sit around and wait for TSMC to fix their problem and release new GPUs in mid-2015. They need to have something new for the holiday shopping season in order to maintain revenue. If this means they need to optimize the Maxwell based 800 series cards and run them at 28nm then that is what they will need to do.

In the end we are likely to see an announcement from nVidia is September, but we have our doubts that it will have anything to do with 20nm. If it does, then they have been trying to bank all of the working 20nm GPUs they can in order to have enough for one or two limited production sales cycles. At that point we could see a big shortage on their new GPUs, which would not be a bad thing for nVidia since with the increased demand they might be able to ask for a few more dollars per chip.

nVidia is not talking about this at all and TSMC has not made any real public statements other than they are still committed to it. I guess we will have to wait and see what nVidia does if they really do have an event in early September.

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Last modified on 20 August 2014
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