TSMC Expects 7nm Mass Production by Early 2018

Now that 14nm/16nm chips are finally upon us en masse, some are already looking past that to the next node. Logically, the next node would be 10nm but that won’t be true for GPUs. Both AMD and Nvidia have tended to skips nodes and jump on every other node to save cost. This means today’s announcement from TSMC on 7nm holds special importance for the PC GPU market.

According to the latest shareholder report, TSMC is planning to bring forward 7nm production from previous roadmaps. This is reportedly due to a desire to beat competitors Intel and Samsung/Global Foundries to the new node. TSMC already has 20 customers lined up for 7nm, with 15 tapeouts expected in 2017 and mass production in 2018. 2 of those customers are pretty much guaranteed to be Apple and Nvidia.

Unlike 10nm which is mobile oriented, 7nm will target high-performance parts like GPUs as well. This means if TSMC hits 7nm before Samsung/Global Foundries, Nvidia has a chance to beat AMD to the new node and hold a process advantage. 7nm is expected to be 60% denser and 30-40% more efficient than 10nm so it’s a good deal better than 14/16nm. Given the difficulties Intel has faced with 10nm and how close we are to the end of silicon, it remains to see if TSMC can reach its goal.

Nvidia GTX 1080 May Only be GP104 and GDDR5X

With both the Pascal announcement and GeForce launch coming ins the next 2 months, more information is being leaked about the upcoming Nvidia cards. According to the latest rumour, the first GeForce Pascal card to launch, the GTX 1080, will not be as impressive as many had hoped. As expected from Nvidia, they are keeping with their tradition to launch first with the mainstream GP104 die first in order to maximise yields and profits.

Utilizing the GP104 based on the 16nmFF+ process from TSMC, the GTX 1080 may yet be the fastest Nvidia card yet on the market till the bigger GP100 GeForces launches later. Despite the boost in performance, it appears that Nvidia will be sticking to 8GB of plain old GDDR5X, and not using HBM2 as some have suggested. While GDDD5X does have some disadvantages, it is a decent upgrade over GDDR5 and allows for an earlier launch than using HBM2 as production for those chips are still ramping up.

Furthermore, the leak specifies the display outputs as DisplayPort x2, HDMI x1, DVI x1 and the use of only 1 PCIe 8 pin power connector. This limits power to 225W but with the new architecture and use of 16nmFF+, this may still allow the card to dance with the 980Ti. The launch date is reported as May 27th, just before Computex. Big Pascal GP100 is set to launch before that date though so stay tuned!

TSMC to Double 16nmFF+ Chip Production

After the recent Taiwanese earthquake, many Nvidia and AMD watchers may have worried about their upcoming Pascal and Polaris GPUs. While TSMC did eventually reveal that there would be a hit to their chip production, especially 16nm, it seems like things should be fine. According to the latest reports, TSMC is planning to double their 16nm wafer production from 40,000 per month up to 80,000 per month.

While this number may still be slightly depressed due to the earthquake, it does mean TSMC is taking in more 16nm orders and is able to supply them. Nvidia is relying on TSMC to supply them with 16nmFF+ GPUs for use with Pascal which is set to launch later this year. A ramp up now would mean the a mid-2016 launch for the earliest Pascal chips, right in line with rumours. For AMD, TSMC will play a lesser role as Polaris may be using GlobalFoundries 14nmLPP exclusively.

One snag in the above analysis is that these maybe Apple A10 SoCs. Apple has been moving away from Samsung as their main chip supplier and Apple may be starting to ramp up iPhone SoC orders. Either way, the fact that 16nmFF+ is doing well means the earthquake likely won’t affect chip supply and prices.

Taiwan Earthquake Will Affect TSMC Fab More Than Expected

In the hours after the Taiwanese earthquake, TSMC was one of the major tech firms affected by the magnitude 6.4 quake. While the semiconductor manufacturer has initially stated that only minor damaged has occurred, it looks like effects will be longer lasting than expected. In fact, the damage will cause a greater than 1% disruption in Q1 2016 wafer shipments.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company or TSMC has 9 fabs in operation in Taiwan, with Fabs 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 12A, 12B, 14 and 15 located in the island country. While it’s unknown which fabs were impacted, Fab 6 and 14B is already back up and running while. The main damage is due to a reassessment of the damage done to Fab 14 which is expected to take longer to restore. The original estimate was that 95% of foundry machines would be back up and running within 3 days.

Despite the damage and disruption, TSMC is still expected to hit its revenue targets for the quarter. The firm does have a $100 million range for its target so I would presume that the disruption will likely remain under 2%. Hopefully, this means that Nvidia and AMD won’t face any delays and it’s still much better than what happened to HDDs after the Thai floods in 2011 which saw a massive price spike.

Nvidia Pascal Flagship May Arrive Sooner Than Expected

Even as this generation’s GPUs are continuing to fly off the shelves, Nvidia is already gearing up for their Pascal launch. Despite being quieter than AMD, it looks like Nvidia will launch their Pascal cards around the same time, in 2H 2016 as AMD’s Polaris will. What’s more, 2H 2016 will see Nvidia’s flagship Pascal GPU based on TSMC’s 16nmFF+ process and utilizing HBM2. This is still a rumour right now but it does fit the time frame since 1H 2016 would be too soon and 2017 too late.

The biggest question is what does”flagship” mean exactly. Ever since GTX 680 was launched, Nvidia has been playing around with the word flagship. Traditionally, the big dies like GF110 would launch first with the smaller mainstream GF104 launching after. Kepler and Maxwell saw that switch with GK104 and GM104 launching ahead of GK110 and GM200 respectively. This suggests that the so-called “flagship” may only be GP104 and not GP100. Even if it is GP100, it may well be a cut-down version, similar to how the GTX 780 was the cut-down variant of the later GTX 780Ti. This strategy does maximize sales for Nvidia but isn’t that great for consumers.

Whatever the card is, be it GP104 or GP100, it is going to use HBM2, giving it at least 512GB/s with 8GB of VRAM but potentially much higher at 16-32GB with 1TB/s+ of bandwidth. With AMD set to launch Polaris around the same time, Q3 2016 should make for exciting times as a slew of new GPUs arrive.

AMD Polaris GPU Architecture Offically Unveiled

First leaked yesterday, we’re now able to bring you the full AMD presentation on their upcoming Polaris GPU architecture. Set to ship mid-2016, Polaris will be using a 14/16nm FinFET process and bring massive power consumption and efficiency improvements. According to RTG SVP Raja Koduri, AMD says the massive potential that would come out of moving to FinFETs and a lower process node at the same time and decided to design a new architecture just for that.

Not surprisingly, the biggest focus is on the efficiency side of things. AMD is claiming a historic leap in performance per watt that any Radeon GPU has ever seen. The key to this is the new compute units for Polaris, or GCN 4.0. While we can expect much remains similar to past GCN revisions, the new release will be adding more parts to make the chip more efficient. A more efficient hardware scheduler, primitive discard accelerator and improved memory compression are expected to help as well. While HBM(2) will help reduce power consumption, GDDR5X models will be launched first.

To show off their improved efficiency, AMD showed off working Polaris silicon with presumably GDDR5X. Facing off against a GTX 950 in an identical system, the Polaris part managed to pull 1.65x less power from the wall as a whole. Using only 86W total compared to the 140W on the Nvidia card. This was while both cards were running Star Wars Battlefront at 1080p 60fps. Even if some of the gains are coming from the FinFETs and die shrink, that is still pretty impressive as AMD has been lagging behind on this front. The demo GPU was made using Globalfoundries 14nm FinFET process fo what it’s worth but expect some 16nm parts from TSMC as well.

Just as AMD has done with previous GCN releases, Polaris will also see other parts of the modular system upgraded. These include the Command Processor, Geometry Processor, Multimedia Cores, Display Engine, L2 Cache and Memory Controller. For the Multimedia Cores, the biggest additions are support for 4K HEVC (h.265) encoding and decoding at 60 FPS which should be welcome as well as AMD continues to push HDR. On the connectivity side, DisplayPort 1.3, and, at long last, HDMI 2.0a are supported.

For AMD, 2016 will be a critical year as both their GPU and CPU get a major architectural overhaul at the same time they get a major process upgrade. If executed well, this may finally pull AMD out of it’s slow decline and bring the firmly back into the black. Whether that happens remains to be seen.

AMD Zen and K12 Finalized and Taped Out

Despite pretty dismal Q3 2015 results, AMD looks set for a good late 2016 and 2017. AMD has reportedly completed their next generation Zen and K12 designs and have taped them out. This comes after AMD reported that they have taped out a number of FinFET designs during Q3 2015. With both TSMC’s 16nm FF+ and Global Foundries 14nm LPP both using FinFETs, AMD is set to gain good power savings for their next generation.

When Jim Keller left earlier in the year, there were those that had thought that meant Zen was a failure and unfinished due to Keller’s departure. With this information, we can be pretty confident that Zen is largely Keller’s work and was pretty much done by the time he left. K12 on the other hand is based off of the ARMv8 instruction set and will probably do battle against ARM’s own architectures and the likes of Qualcomm’s Kyro.

With Zen already taped out, a Q4 2016 launch for Zen will probably make it in time. This means in about a year from now, we will finally get AMD’s new architecture in our hands. Zen is expected to bring a 40% IPC improvement over AMD’s latest Excavator design, bringing performance competitive to Intel’s designs.

AMD Zen to use TSMC 16nm as GF 14nm Falters

TSMC has just scored a major CPU customer as AMD is allegedly moving their Zen CPUs over to the fab. Originally meant for GlobalFoundries 14nm process, delays at the once AMD owned fab have led to a change to use the 16nm process at TSMC, the same one used for AMD and Nvidia’s next-gen GPUs. Zen is AMD’s next CPU architecture, aimed at improving IPC by 40% over current Excavator products.

According to the source, GF has been facing issues with getting their 14nm production ramped up. The fab’s main owner, the government of Abu Dhabi, has  been cutting expenses due to low oil prices. Due to that and difficulties in retooling the 28nm equipment to 14nm, volumes and yields on the new process are below expectations. It was also the delays for the 32nm process at GF that caused Bulldozer to launch later than expected back in 2011.

With both TSMC and GF offering FinFET processes, AMD should see good efficiency gains on top of moving to a new process. While AMD had previously been mum about which FinFET process it would use, most had expected GF to win out due to the long relationship between the two firms. With TSMC now confirmed, the biggest question is whether or not the fab can handle all the CPUs, GPUs and SoCs planned for next year. Hopefully, TSMC 16nmFF+ process will be able to hit the clocks speeds required of desktop CPUs.

Thank you WCCFTech for providing us with this information

Nvidia Will Use TSMC 16nm for Pascal

While there had been some rumours that Nvidia would turn to Samsung’s 14nm process for GPUs, it appears those were wrong. For the longest time, Nvidia has relied on TSMC to manufacture their chips and it appears this relationship is continuing. Set to launch next year, Nvidia’s Pascal architecture will reportedly use TSMC’s latest 16nm process. This will be the same process used for AMD’s upcoming Greenland GPUs.

As with AMD’s Greenland, Pascal will be a new architecture with new features and other improvements. Most notably, Pascal will be paired with HBM2, allowing for up to 16GB of VRAM and 1TB/s of memory bandwidth. Other additions include support for NVLINK, Nvidia’s GPU interconnect and mixed precision support. With Kepler and later Maxwell, Nvidia had been stripping out compute power, leading to better power efficiency but at the cost of compute performance. Pascal is set to fix this and bring Nvidia’s compute power back on par with AMD’s, though likely at the cost of efficiency.

Even though Samsung lost out this time, the simple fact that they were in competition with TSMC speaks volumes. TSMC has been falling slightly behind in terms of process technology and trying to meet Apple’s insatiable demand. In some ways, using Samsung would have made sense as Samsung is also set to be a major HBM2 supplier as well, simplifying the production for Nvidia. In the end though, it seems that TSMC’s long experience with Nvidia and GPU’s won out.

Thank you BussinessKorea for providing us with this information

Nvidia Pascal GPU Will Have Impressive 17 Billion Transistors

After being stuck for what seems like forever on 28nm, we’re finally getting a glimpse of the monsters set to arrive with TSMC’s 16nm  process. Code-named Pascal, Nvidia’s top end 16nm GPU is reportedly pushing 17 billion transistors, set to replace the current GM200.

To put that number in context, the current Titan X only clocks in at about 8 billion transistors, making the “GP100” Pascal more than twice as complex and likely twice as dense. Even AMD’s monster Fury X only pushes 8.9 billion transistors, which is still far and behind Pascal. Combined with a reported 32Gb of HBM VRAM at the highest SKU, Pascal may show a massive jump in performance compared to our current chips.

These gains are only possible with the new 16nm FinFET process from TSMC. Being nearly twice as dense, 16nm would allow Nvidia and AMD to double transistors in only a slightly larger die size. Combined with better power efficiency from being a lower process, FinFETs and HBM, efficiency should also improve despite having more transistors. Despite being called 16nm, TSMC’s process is closer to Intel’s 22nm or Samsung’s 20nm design, so there is certainly even more room to shrink in the future.

While CPUs have not benefitted as much from increased transistor counts, GPUs are relatively less complex and easier to make full use of the extra transistors. With DX12 and Vulcan in line as well as the new architectures from Nvidia and AMD, these new technologies should create a perfect storm to push GPU performance and gaming forward.

Thank you Fudzilla for providing us with this information 

TSMC Ships 16nm FinFET Chips – 10nm and 7nm On Their Way

In a move that is sure to please AMD and Nvidia fans, TSMC has started volume production of 16nm FinFET chips. According to TSMC president and co-CEO Mark Liu, the ramp up for 16nm will be more aggressive than their 20nm process, leading to improved market share for TSMC. Both AMD and Nvidia rely heavily on TSMC to deliver their chips, with the mobile focus of 20nm leading to an extended cycle on the 28nm for PC GPUs.

With the reveal that AMD has taped out their first FinFET chip, its looks like the chip was for TSMC 16nm FinFET, not Global Foundries/Samsung 14nm FinFET. With shipments for 16nm already started, AMD and Nvidia may have new GPUs set for Q2/Q3 2016, offering improved power efficiency and lower power consumption.

TSMC also revealed that their 10nm process, based heavily on 16nm, will also begin production in 2016. The 10nm process will improve frequencies by 15% and power consumption by 35%, which is understandable given that FinFETs tend to reduce clock speeds when they are introduced. 7nm is also planned for early 2018, which is a pretty aggressive schedule for TSMC.

With TSMC back on track, the future for GPUs looks brighter. Given the differing standards for semiconductors, Intel 14/10nm and Samsung 14nm are not comparable with TCMC’s. So while TSMC may reach 10nm before Intel does, Intel will actually still have the smaller process.

AMD Tapes Out First FinFET Chips – Expect Arrival Q2/Q3 2016

While much of the focus from yesterday’s financial call was the poor state of finances, another small tidbit about future plans was mentioned. CEO Lisa Su revealed that AMD has taped out their first FinFET chips back in June this year. While the exact process node has not been revealed, we can assume it is either TSMC 16nm or Samsung/Global Foundries 14nm.

From when the chip first gets taped out to initial production, it takes about a year for the chip to get to market. It takes about 3 months for the chip to get produced, and about 1 month to implement all the fixes. Then the cycle happens once more, taking another 4 months, then finally, production is ramped up, taking a grand total of about 12 months. This means we can expect the FinFET chips to arrive about June/July in 2016, assuming AMD doesn’t hit any major obstacles.

FinFETs will help AMD claw back power efficiency from Intel, who already moved to FinFETs with their mainstream 22nm process back in 2013. Given the timeframe, the chip is likely either  a GCN Arctic Islands chip or a Summit Ridge Zen based processor. Both, but especially on the CPU side, can do with better efficiency as Nvidia and Intel are ahead on that front. FinFETs can also reduce overclocking headroom so AMD will have to focus on improving instruction efficiency to compensate. In all, 2016 looks to be a good year for AMD if they can make it there.

Intel Faces More Delays in 10nm Production

We brought you news earlier this week that Intel appeared to have delayed their 10nm Cannon Lake chips in favour of 14nm Kaby lake. Now more reports have emerged about the delays and yield issues Intel is facing with the transition to 10nm. Word in the industry is that Intel is further delaying their 10nm ramp up into 2016 meaning it’s very likely there will be no 10nm chips till late 2016 at the earliest.

The biggest issue appears to be 10nm yields are below expectations. With low yields, the new process isn’t able to offer any new value for Intel, meaning it makes financial sense to hold off on the transition. This delay is supported by news that a planned $6 billion upgrade to Fab 28 is also being delayed, pointing to a lack of urgency to hit 10nm from Intel. If 10nm delays pile up, the death of Moore’s law and Intel’s Tick Tock strategy are just around the corner.

Intel faces stiff competition from fellow semiconductor manufacturers TSMC and Samsung, both of whom are pushing their own 10nm process. If either of those firms is able to hit 10nm first, they could have a marketing coup as Intel has long been held to be the leader in process technology. Intel would still liklely have a qualitative edge as their process tends to be more advanced at the same node and not all nanometers are equivalent.

A delay to 10nm would also hurt Intel’s mobile plans. While Intel has good mobile architecutres, the backbone is based on a superior process technology that allows Intel to outperform competitors while being more cost effective and power efficient at the same time. If ARM competitors are able to catch up with their own 10nm chips, Intel will be forced to abandon their strategy of offering expensive subsidies to sell chips. AMD also has a chance to strike back in the desktop and server space if Intel is forced to stand still. While competitors will likely hit the same wall Intel has, parity may be enough for them to catch up.

Thank you SemiWiki for the information 

Nvidia Levels up with ‘Pascal’ Based Silicon in Works

Nvidia has made a significant advancement in its product development cycle. Reportedly, it has managed to successfully figure out its next big silicon-based on its upcoming “Pascal” GPU architecture which is codenamed GP100. A successor to GM200, this chip will act as foundation to several others based on this architecture. The company has successfully fabricated a small quantity of working prototypes for internal testing and further development.

Nvidia, as expected, plans to follow its practices and release another chip targeted to gamer segment and is codenamed GP104 (successor to GM204). 3dcenter Speculates that the GP100 could sport anywhere between 4,500 to 6,000 CUDA cores. With this advancement, Nvidia will skip HBM1, which is making its debut with AMD’s “Fiji” silicon; and jump straight to HBM2, which will allow SKU designers to cram up to 32 GB of video memory.  The chip will be built on TSMC’s upcoming 16 nanometer silicon fab process using either 16ff or improved 16ff+ process.

Specifications

  • Architecture: Pascal “Stacked DRAM”
  • Fabrication Process: 16nm production by TSMC (probably “16ff +”).
  • DX Render: DirectX 12.1 hardware
  • VRam: up to 32GB HBM2 memory.

Speculated

  • 500-550mm² chip area
  • 4500-6000 shader units
  • 4096 bit DDR memory interface HBM2

It is speculated that GP 100 (professional segment) will be ready for release in Q2 / 2016 and GP 104 (gamers segment) in Q3 / 2016.

Thank you 3DCenter for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of AnandTech.

New AMD Chip Could Drop Price of Xbox One

AMD and TSMC have developed an enhanced version of the APU used by Microsoft’s Xbox One. The new processor is not only more power efficient, it’s also smaller: 20nm, compared to the 28nm of the old chip. The shrinking gives the chip a 30% speed boost, or reduced power of 25% at a density rate of 1.9 times.

The move was first rumoured last year, as reported by WCCF Tech, which was then seemingly confirmed by the LinkedIn CV of an AMD chip designer. WCCF Tech said last year, “The 20nm GPU architecture will be integrated into all of AMD’s future GPU and APU products, including ones based on project Skybridge, so we’ll see this architecture in low power ARM based SOCs as well as good ol’ APUs which bodes very well for its potential power efficiency and scaling.”

The main processor of an Xbox One is one of the console’s most expensive components – the current Xbox One APU costs Microsoft $50 per chip – so a smaller, more efficient model will decrease cost, a saving that is hoped will be passed on to the consumer. It would not be surprising to find a new, slim iteration of the Xbox One console hit stores by the end of the year.

Source: Tech Times

AMD Confirms 20nm in 2015, 16nm in 2016 Likely

Will we see AMD’s next-generation graphics cards arrive this year? If so, will they be based on the next-gen 20nm process shrink? Those are questions we’ve been pondering for a while now and if AMD’s most recent conference call for its Q2 financial performance is anything to go by then we now have a much better idea. During its conference call AMD’s Lisa Su, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, told listeners that “We (AMD) will be shipping products in 20 nanometre next year and as we move forward obviously a FinFET is also important”. Therefore we can strongly expect AMD’s 2015 releases to arrive with 20nm technology, but we should also expect anything released this year to still be 28nm in design. That’s not to say 28nm will be replaced as soon as 2014 is over, 28nm will likely continue in a lot of new 2015 products just because the 28nm process is mature, profitable and well-refined.

AMD’s CEO Rory Read has already commented on AMD’s potential transition to 20nm stating that AMD is waiting for the optimal crossover point between profitability, cost of the technology and cost of the product. With TSMC only properly gearing up 20nm production a few months ago it seems likely that the crossover point will not arrive until 2015.

Source: Fudzilla

Image courtesy of AMD

Nvidia GM204 Maxwell GPUs May Jump From 28nm to 16nm, Skip 20nm

The launch of Nvidia’s GM204 Maxwell-based video cards is expected to be fairly close. We should see the GTX 800 series based on the new architecture by the end of the year for sure, current rumours are touting the third quarter which means by the end of September. There will not be any process node upgrades with the GTX 800 series despite TSMC being ready with their 20nm process, the current 28nm process will prevail with the first wave of products, the “A Stepping”. The GTX 880 Ti, GTX 880, GTX 870 and GTX 860 will all launch with a 28nm GM204 GPU. Expect the GTX 880 Ti to have the fully enabled and unlocked GPU die and as you descend down the stack more parts of the die will be soldered off.

The surprising news is that next year the Maxwell “B Stepping” will involve a die-shrink. However, this is not going to be a 28nm to 20nm shrink but instead a 28nm to 16nm shrink. Nvidia will apparently be the first to make use of TSMC’s 16nm FinFET technology. This will take place mid-Q1 (so in February sometime) and means that there will be a 4-6 month spacing between Maxwell A and B. Interestingly the 16nm variants are rumoured to get the same names as their 28nm predecessors, this may confuse the retail product stack even more as we’ll end up with two GTX 880 Tis, one 28nm and one 16nm. This won’t be the first time Nvidia released a new stepping into the same product series, we saw two GK110 steppings with the GTX 700 series. This is what allowed graphics cards like the GTX 780 GHz Edition to be released when other GTX 780s based on the first GK110 stepping struggled to get near those frequencies. However, with the GK110 example no die-shrink was involved. Due to that fact we could see alternate outcomes. Nvidia might potentially release a new series, the GTX 900, where they will re-release the GTX 800 product stack but at 16nm. Or we might see the 16nm parts re-released within the existing GTX 800 series with new names, such as adding a “+”, changing the 0 to 5 or adding some other kind of name signifier.

Source: SemiAccurate, Via: VideoCardz

Image courtesy of Nvidia

TSMC To Boost 20nm Production During Rest of 2014 – Good News For AMD/Nvidia

There’s good news for AMD, Nvidia and graphics card enthusiasts because the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is announcing increased capacity for the second half of this year. TSMC claim 20nm production will ramp up in Q3 to account for 10% of their revenues and by Q4 that will be 20%. TSMC are also looking to ride the global semiconductor wave which is expected to rise 3-5% annually over the next half decade, TSMC’s growth rates will be higher than the industry average.

In 2013 TSMC’s production reached 15.67 million 8 inch equivalent wafers, up from 14.04 million in 2012. TSMC is currently pushing towards 20nm production, is starting early roll-out of 16nm production and is researching experimental 10nm production which it hopes to mass produce by 2016 and have trial production of in 2015. The future certainly looks bright for TSMC and if you’re a graphics card enthusiast this is only good news – smaller process nodes means the potential for more performance. Bring on 20nm I say!

Source: Digitimes

Image courtesy of ExtremeTech.com

AMD Radeon R9 Graphics Cards Facing Supply, not Demand, Issues

AMD’s graphics cards have been in short supply for the past 3 months or so. The market has hoovered up the old stock from the HD 7000 series at knock-down prices and most of the stock from the high end R9 series including pretty much every R9 290X, R9 290 and R9 280X. While a lot of these graphics cards have been snapped up by crypto-currency miners looking to mine Scrypt algorithm coins the main reason for the shortage, according to SweClockers, is not high demand but short supply.

Apparently a shortage of components is the primary reason for availability issues, with most GPU manufacturers not having enough ASICs (GPUs), GDDR5 memory and other components. However, other people are blaming AMD for not allocating enough production to TSMC. AMD was apparently cautious about oversupplying a declining PC desktop market and hence under-produced. Either way, whether it is a shortage of components, excessive demand or a combination of both the message is clear – the supply shortage will be with us for a lot longer before the issue is fixed.

AMD graphics card vendor VisionTek recently confirmed on Facebook that it is experiencing a shortage of components for its production. Other vendors and AMD have not commented.

Image courtesy of AMD

TSMC Stepping Up To 20nm Manufacturing Process

Digitimes reports thats TSMC is stepping up its purchases of equipment that is needed for the transition to the 20nm process. TSMC expects to enter volume production of 20nm based silicon from the first quarter of 2014 according to Digitimes’ sources.

“TSMC’s investment in 20nm manufacturing equipment for the fourth quarter of 2013 is expected to outpace that allocated for the third quarter, said the sources. In addition, shipments of equipment for TSMC’s 16nm HKMG process have kicked off, the sources noted.”

TSMC recently announced that it had tripled production and revenues of 28nm wafers in 2013 compared to 2012. TSMC also revealed its capital expenditure target had been raised to a record $9.5 to 10 billion USD as a result. According to Digitimes “TSMC expects to initiate volume production of 20nm chips in early 2014 followed by volume production of 16nm FinFETs in about one year.”

What this means for us graphics cards enthusiasts out there is that Nvidia and AMD will both soon have to make the shift from 28nm to 20nm process manufacturing. This means that the next generation of graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia has to be 20nm based because 28nm production will be put on the back-burner by TSMC.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

New AMD “Volcanic Islands” And “Pirate Islands” GPUs Revealed

AMD’s next generation GPUs have been detailed and we now know they will be called Volcanic Islands and Pirate Islands. Volcanic Islands is the high end GPU stack of the next generation and features the high end single and dual GPU configurations.

The highest end part is dubbed Hawaii followed by Maui and Tonga. AMD will debut the HD 9000 series Volcanic Islands GPUs in Q4 of 2013 and TSMCs 20nm node process is expected to be at the heart of these new GPUs – though this is not confirmed. We do know that we will will definitely see GCN 2.0 and Direct X 11.1.

AMD will then succeed “Volcanic Islands” GPUs with “Pirate Islands” GPUs at some stage after in late 2014 or early 2015. These will be made up of Bermuda, Fiji and Treasure Island GPUs and will definitely be based on the 20nm node.

According to the report, AMD might ditch the HD XXXX naming convention and use a Radeon 1xxx Rx naming system. The next series would then be called Radeon 2xxx Rx, and so on. It is not known if this is a simple replacement of the HD prefix, so R10-9970/9970-R10 for example, or if AMD could opt for new naming structures using the RX pre-fix to denote market segmentation. This would be similar to their APUs where A10 represents the best and A4 the worst.

Image courtesy of WCCFTech, Information Via 3DCenter

Samsung Wants To OEM Produce For Nvidia, Amazon and Sony

With Apple taking their business elsewhere Samsung is expecting to face shortfalls in its revenue if it doesn’t find new buyers for its products. Apple are already looking to TSMC for future production, as well as generating their own production, and this means Samsung will lose one of its biggest customers. Korea Times reports that Samsung has already eyed Sony, Amazon and Nvidia as three potential new customers.

Samsung will more or less sever all ties with Apple by 2014, a decision made by Apple not Samsung, and this is a big blow as Apple revenues accounted for 89% of Samsung foundry revenue – that is $38.5 billion. Additionally of Samsung’s annual revenue Apple contributed 16%.

Samsung is looking to produce for Amazon’s Kindle but apparently negotiations and progress are slow as Amazon are currently working with Texas Instruments but are eyeing up their own production as opposed to sub-contracting to an OEM like Samsung. Sony could also be a potential be a customer as their PS Series of handsets use ARM chips and they cannot produce their own as they do not have a foundry. Finally Nvidia is the last option and although Nvidia typically work closely with TSMC, with Apple joining TSMC we could see their capacity strained and Apple will be prioritised as their business is worth more than Nvidia. As a result Samsung could cash in on this and steal Nvidia from TSMC.

Apparently Samsung is now entering a new phase of operation where it will seek to produce processors for those companies with designs but no manufacturing plants to produce them in. Samsung is also moving away from its memory business which is less profitable in favour of producing processing chips for third parties and its own devices.

Image courtesy of Samsung

Samsung Will Still Manufacture the Newer Single-Core A5 Processors for Apple TVs

Apple’s revision of the 3rd generation Apple TV would be using a new and smaller A5 SOC solution. Rumours have been building up about Apple shifting Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and  Intel, to move away from Samsung’s SOC production facilities. Chipworks made few observations about the chip during their tear-down.

They specified that the A5 memory and the processors are 2 separate onboard chips. A5 is using a package-on-package (PoP) design where they’ve stacked the memory over the SoC. Although this does take more space on the PCB, it could prove to be a cost-saving solution. The processor measures 6.1mm x 6.2mm. Other than that, the SoC still uses a single core with dual-core Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX 543MP2 GPU.

According to Chipworks, the new A5 is based on Samsung’s 32nm process. Other than the name, the design and maybe the performance would not be the same. 3rd generation Apple TVs have one of the CPU cores disabled, therefore the performance maybe the same as older models. However these chips would be much smaller so it will save money in the long run. The con is that designing this chip will take fair amount of time, money and effort.

Apple maybe doing this because the company is aiming to sell these units in high numbers but with lower margins, therefore a reduction of cost seem plausable. There is a possibility that Apple may have another product that they plan to launch which would require a small and inexpensive chip such as this, maybe to be used in the much rumoured iWatch and a cheaper version of the iPhone?

Source: Ars Technica

Intel unlikely to make chips for Apple anytime soon

Apple would have loved it if Intel will be making processors for their iPhone and iPads, however analysts are saying that it would take at-least couple of years for that to happen, which may make Apple stick with Samsung for a while longer than one would expect.

Keeping aside the courtroom issues where Samsung and Apple seemed happy to beat each other, Samsung was able to consistently meet with Apple’s requirements.

There was also talks before that Apple maybe considering to sign up with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing company (TSMC), the largest chip manufacturer in the world on a contract-basis. Intel would face a tough time to secure a deal with Apple, Inc. over the Taiwan based chip manufacturing giant.

A chip industry source who has been keeping a track on TSMC’s plans said,”It’s happening. Apple is designing products now based on the TSMC 20-nanometer spec. Production should happen in 2014.”

The source also said that Apple will stick to using Samsung’s 28 and 32 nm and then begin to make a move towards TSMC for 20 nm fab. However usually for a manufacturer to switch from one processor manufacturer to another takes time, and that the switch-over with TSMC isn’t going to happen until 2014, because of this Intel would be taking even longer to wait their turn. But Linley Swennap, a principal analyst for The Linley Group told CNET via email,’I laugh when I see statements like ‘Intel has to decide whether it should supply to Apple. That’s like saying, ‘I need to decide whether I should date Kate Upton.”

Gwennap also doubts to see if Intel can be ready for supplying processors to Apple who wouldn’t be able to make a quick decision.

But Nathan Brookwood of Insight 64 also says that Intel would not be ready anytime soon, but did also say that Apple, Inc. will need Intel for future 14nm manufacturing processor should they plan to have an edge over other smartphone manufacturers like Samsung.