DigiTimes report suggests the Nvidia Ampere GPUs launching in late 2020 may be replaced by 5 nm Hopper GPUs one year later
The official announcement of the GTC 2020 presentation that Jensen Huang is to deliver on May 14 clearly specified that the focus will be on A.I.-related tech like autonomous machines, HPC, data science, healthcare implications and general advances in the graphics field, but we all know that Huang will most likely hype things up with a next gen gaming GPU announcement towards the end, as well. Nvidia is currently on a 2-year cycle when it comes to updating the gaming GPU architecture, yet industry insiders close to DigiTimes are now reporting that the green team might be forced to break the cycle soon in order to counter AMD’s resurgence.
Thanks to twitter user @chiakokhua who translated the DigiTimes report, we now know that Huang will indeed unveil the next gen 7nm Ampere GPUs on May 14. The actual product launch, however, may occur in late Q3 or even Q4 because of the uncertainties caused by the global pandemic. This is still within the planned GPU lifetime cycle, since Turing cards first launched in Q4 2018. There were previous rumors saying that Nvidia might switch from TSMC to Samsung, as the latter uses lower-cost production nodes. DigiTimes is confirming that Samsung will be producing most of the low-end products from the Ampere family on its 7 nm and 8 nm nodes, while the mid-to-high Ampere GPU models will be manufactured at TSMC on the refined 7 nm EUV nodes.
As the DigiTimes report notes, “Nvidia previously underestimated the effect of AMD embracing TSMC, and made some errors in its own plans for migrating to advanced nodes. Moving to Samsung and wavering in its TSMC strategy, only to go back to TSMC later, Nvidia was unable to secure enough 7nm capacity, resulting in AMD grabbing the limelight, eroding Nvidia's brand value, and increasing its own market share for GPUs.”
The report also describes how Nvidia and other foundry clients have tried and failed to force TSMC in order to lower the premium production prices for the advanced 7 nm nodes. “As the costs for advanced nodes began skyrocketing, there have been rumors that Nvidia and others frequently leaked news about their intention to increase Samsung's share of orders, to pressure TSMC into lowering prices. However, thanks to its absolute leadership position and demand exceeding supply, TSMC did not budge. Customers had little choice but to throw cash at TSMC to fight for limited production capacity while giving some small orders to the aggressive discounter Samsung.”
Most of the 7 nm TSMC orders are now split between Nvidia and AMD, so the plans for the Ampere GPUs seem to be set in stone. Still, Nvidia knows that AMD’s high-end Navi23 GPUs based on the RDNA2 microarchitecture are launching later this year, and, according to the DigiTimes report, this may prove to be problematic for Ampere, as Nvidia already went ahead to pre-book an important part of TSMC’s 5 nm production capacity for 2021 (AMD is also getting a special 5 nm node from TSMC, but that one will be used for CPUs). Such measures may suggest that the GPU family succeeding Ampere (rumored to be named Hopper) may launch only one year after Ampere, breaking the 2-year cycle so that Nvidia could stay ahead of AMD.