Just as CES 2010 was winding down, nVidia gathered technical journalists to reveal its desktop take on their Fermi architecture and the subsequent NV100 silicon. In the case of the desktop boards, this part will be known as the GF100.
During a whole day of technical briefings, we were briefed on all the intricacies of such a complex part of silicon, without any doubt - the most complex piece of silicon ever manufactured on planet Earth. As a GPU enthusiast, it is a pleasure seeing AMD and nVidia manufacturing world's most complex chips and having them compete for market dominance in a way that CPU industry never experienced. After dozens of hours of briefings on AMD's Evergreen and nVidia's Fermi architecture, I personally believe the picture has been painted where the computing will go into the future. For that, two important blocks had to come out of nVidia. One is Tegra 2 and one is the topic of today's analysis - GF100. Meet the chip: NV100 i.e. Fermi i.e. GF100
During the Deep Dive sessions, nVidia declined to talk about the chip specifics. However, we do feel that it would be unfair to write about the architecture without talking about the actual silicon [and the current state of affairs]. Without further ado, this is the image that you probably saw earlier, but with somewhat more complete information.nVidia GF100 Die - massive 2.4x2.4 centimeter die manufactured in 40nm at TSMC
From the information we gathered from industry sources, the chip is around 24 x 23 millimeters in size i.e. expect a die size of around 570 mm2 - a little bit smaller than the 65nm GT200, i.e. GeForce GTX 280. With GF100, nVidia pretty much intends to do the same thing it did with G80 - introduce a high-end desktop part and then drive it to GeForce, Quadro, Tesla and Tegra businesses. According to our sources, we won't have to wait for too long until nVidia reveals a Tegra part heavily influenced by the GF100 architecture.
The chip itself is manufactured using the 40nm process over at TSMC, with current yields hovering around lowly 25% figure. With A3 revision of silicon, sources at the company told us they expect to see yield in 40% range, i.e. comparable with majority of AMD's 40nm silicon. That is at least what nVidia hopes to achieve. We did a more detailed article here
. Regardless of how you put it, it is obvious that TSMC badly screwed the pooch, as both of their largest customers aren't exactly feeling "peachy". Then again, according to our sources, nVidia also has the highest yielding 40nm part, the infamous Tegra 2.
Getting back to Fermi silicon, nVidia was able to fit 94 chips on a single 300mm2 wafer, meaning we're talking about a bulk price of $53 per single GF100 silicon if the chip yields at 100%. Given the current yields result in 23-25 workable chips per single wafer, price of a single piece of silicon is astoundingly high - around $210 per chip. This indeed means that the high-end part will carry a high price tag but then again, it's not that we don't expect to see a high-end GF100 parts to debut in $499 or $549 range. After you read this article, we would like to hear your thoughts on where nVidia should pitch their parts.
As far as desktop version goes, we don't expect to see the change in price from the current GT200 generation at introduction - since nVidia will offset the revenue loss on the desktop side with Tesla and Quadro cards - just like AMD and Intel compensate the lower price of desktop CPUs with commercial-grade models which are essentially the same silicon [Athlon/Phenom & Opteron, Core and Xeon]. We do feel nVidia could have been more open about the situation given that the company is now targeting markets where roadmaps are known years in advance.
From the looks of it, we would not be surprised if nVidia's Fermi strategy isn't a repeat of GT200 - launch at 40nm and then move either to 32nm or 28nm as soon as possible, bringing the cost down. We do expect to see the move down to 32 or 28nm during 2010, but as it looks right now - GeForce "360" and "380" will have one hellishly hot introduction into the marketplace.
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