Posted on 31st Mar 2010 at 11:15 by Richard Swinburne with 33 comments
Just as with the 65nm manufacturing process used for GT200, I'm certain Nvidia overestimated what the 40nm node would offer when it first designed Fermi and that this miscalculation has played a huge part in the fact that the GeForce GTX 480
is so hot and uses so much power.
We know each major architecture change for GPU development takes at least a few years to mash out, so fabless companies such as Nvidia need to guess where fabrication partners - TSMC in this case - will be.
As it stands, TSMC has had more than a rough year with its 40nm node and there's been considerable stress for both ATI and Nvidia - however, to ATIs advantage, it started on 40nm with the Radeon HD 4770. It's clearly not forgotten the lesson came at the expense of the HD 2900 XT, which first arrived on a massive 80nm die, before being respun into TSMCs then upcoming 55nm node at a more digestible price.
Luckily for Nvidia the GTX 480 isn't quite up to the HD 2900 XT par of failures; at least it's faster than the previous generation and, negating the lateness and practical engineering issues, the die size and power use are truly massive.
The thing is, TSMC hasn't yet demonstrated how commercially viable its next fabrication node (likely 28nm) is, so while we fully expect Nvidia to 'pull an ATI HD 3000 series' in six months time and re-do Fermi with a smaller process, resulting in a much more power efficient GPU, TSMC's troubles - and the fact Nvidia is desperate for a new process - means Nvidia is likely looking to Global Foundries, the manufacturing firm spun off from AMD last year.