NVIDIA Next Generation ‘Ampere’ 7nm Graphics Cards Landing 1H 2020

Usman Pirzada

Ladies and gents, we have our third confirmation of NVIDIA's Ampere-based graphics card launching in 2020. While we previously knew they were going to launch in 2020, we didn't know which half and thanks to the report by Igor's Lab we know it's going to be sooner rather than later. Leaked EEC certification and a report by Taiwan's top tech publication, Digitimes, puts the Ampere graphics card on Samsung's 7nm node and will represent a significant performance upgrade over Turing counterparts.

Igor's Lab: NVIDIA's Ampere GPUs launching in 1H 2020

The venerable Igor over at Igor's Lab has revealed that he expects NVIDIA's Ampere GPUs to launch in the first half of 2020. Igor has proven to be one of the most reliable sources in the past and this is the third time we have heard confirmation of NVIDIA's Ampere GPU (the first and second being the EEC certification and the Digitimes report respectively).

Ampere has been a slippery fish since 2018 when leaks first started popping up of NVIDIA's grand ambitions but it seems like showtime is finally here. NVIDIA also took quite the beating in its quarterly earnings a while back and Jensen would be very determined to go back to setting record-breaking quarters, so I am fairly certain we will see Ampere's flagship GPU arrive.

Recap: What we know about NVIDIA's upcoming Ampere GPUs so far

Taiwan’s leading publication (Digitimes) has confirmed that NVIDIA’s Ampere GPUs will be launching in 2020 and will be based on the Samsung 7nm EUV process. This is very, very interesting news for us, because not only does it tell us about NVIDIA’s roadmap, but it also reveals some very pertinent details about the process.

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 re-tooling, 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. 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.


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