NVIDIA Will Be Announcing 7nm Ampere GPUs At GTC 2020 In March


So I received a tip-off from a source that we have not used before and we will be tagging this as a rumor for now. While the source is new, it has proven to be right at least once in the past and we consider this worth publishing at this time. Our source states that NVIDIA is going to be announcing its Ampere graphics card during GTC in March 2020. While our source did not mention 7nm, all evidence so far has indicated that Ampere will be manufactured on the 7nm platform.

NVIDIA announcing Ampere-based graphics cards at GTC 2020 in March

This is obviously not the first time we have heard of Ampere graphics cards or even a 2H 2020 launch date, but this is the first time we are hearing of GTC 2020 as the subject of a leak. GTC is NVIDIA's premiere gaming technology show and it would make a lot of sense to reveal its brand new Ampere lineup during the conference. While we have not heard anything from TSMC (in fact, the recent report from Taiwan doesn't even mention NVIDIA as one of the clients for 7nm), use of Samsung's 7nm EUV node is not out of the question for the company and may in fact be utilized for Ampere graphics cards.

Alternatively, and I add this just for the sake of covering all bases, NVIDIA can choose to push forward with architectural improvements while staying on the same process node as well. This is something the company is exceptionally good at but will depend on how it chooses to tackle the raytraced elephant in the room. The company clearly has a lot of spare room on the die if it chooses to get rid of the RT engines while remaining on the same process, but will not have much room for growth if it does not.

NVIDIA has historically been very good at keeping launches secret (with the major exception of the Turing launch) and regardless of which node it decides to go with on the Ampere GPU front, we are sure that the next generation of graphics cards will represent a significant step up from the older series.

Analysts before have confirmed a launch date of 2H 2020 as well:

On Tuesday, Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Christopher Rolland reiterated his Positive rating for Nvidia shares, citing the strong sales for the Nintendo videogame console. Nvidia makes chips for the gaming device.

“We think Nvidia faces the most reasonable Street expectations in quite some time, with potential tailwinds from improving DC [data center], Switch [Nintendo console], and high GPU [graphics processing unit] attach rates (laptops/desktops), all in front of a litany of upcoming 7nm [nanometer] launches over the next nine months,” he wrote. Source.

NVIDIA it seems has finally decided to play catch up and will be shifting to its own 7nm by 2020. According to what we have heard so far, this will be Samsung's 7nm EUV process and should offer a significant step up in performance from previous generations (even TSMC's non-EUV based 7nm process). 9 months amounts to roughly 3 quarters, and with a launch in 2020, you will first start to feel the impact in the third-quarter earnings (exactly a year from now). In other words, NVIDIA is slowly but surely working its way back up to getting Jensen his coveted record quarters.

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 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. 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.