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Compute Unit (click to enlarge)

Graphics Core Next (click to enlarge)
Sources claim TSMC's manufacturing is that good

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is the world's largest semiconductor foundry, and as such is constantly under pressure from its customers and competitors. The company recently announced that its newest 28nm process has entered mass production. Smaller process geometries typically mean that a faster, smaller, and cheaper processor will be available.
 
Two of TSMC's biggest customers are AMD and NVIDIA. Both have taped out GPU designs using TSMC's 28nm High Performance (28HP) process. AMD's next-generation GPU series is codenamed Southern Islands. The Tahiti GPU is supposed to launch early in December, while NVIDIA's Kepler GPU will launch in February of 2012.
 
28HP is the first process from TSMC to use High-k Metal Gate (HKMG) technology, as opposed to the typical silicon oxynitride (SiON) found in 40nm GPUs. HKMG uses a material with a high dielectric constant instead of the traditional silicon dioxide gate dielectric. This allows for a substantial reduction in gate leakage, thus lowering overall power consumption and allowing for higher clock speeds.
 
According to sources within TSMC, the 28HP HKMG process is doing very well. So well, in fact, that it supports up to a 45 percent clock speed improvement over the firm's own 40G process used to make the last two generations of video cards. This speed improvement is based on the same leakage per gate, but the GPU firms may choose to favor lower power consumption over a pure speed boost.
 
Our AMD contacts declined to respond to these assertions and directed our attention to a presentation made in June at the AMD Fusion Developer Summit by Eric Demers, the Chief Technology Officer of AMD Graphics.
 
The flip side of the manufacturing process is the architecture and design, and AMD has already previewed the basis for its future graphics architectures, known as Graphics Core Next (GCN). The basic design of GCN will form the foundation for the next few generations of AMD graphics processors.
 
The fundamental unit of AMD’s previous designs has been the Streaming Processor, utilizing a Very Long Instruction Word (VLIW) architecture designed to take advantage of Instruction Level Parallelism (ILP). That will be supplanted by the Compute Unit, comprised of multiple 16-wide vector Single Instruction, Multiple Data (SIMD) units designed for Thread Level Parallelism (TLP).
 
L1 and L2 caches will support the CUs, while the GPU will have access to the main system memory. Support for C++ programming has been added, making it easier to program for the GPU and CPU within the same application.

While all of these changes will benefit compute applications, it is not yet clear what impact this will have on current games and those already in the pipeline. The architectural changes may end up helping or hindering performance. Nevertheless, the entire 28nm graphics lineup will support resolutions of up to 16000 x 16000 pixels.
 
Of course, yields have always been a big problem with introducing a new node. TSMC had significant challenges with its 40nm process, leading to shortages of the Radeon HD 5800 series. HKMG processes typically use atomic layer deposition for high-k materials, which has been a challenge even for Intel.
 
Ultimately, we know that the next-generation of GPUs will be "significantly" faster, but the effects of the new architecture are still unknown and could change things positively or negatively. The better the performance, the more likely it is to sell out. The final clock speeds are still being determined, so final performance numbers will have to wait until the first official launch. The latest word on the street is December 6.


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RE: Process isn't everything
By Samus on 11/4/2011 1:54:24 PM , Rating: 0
Everybody knows Intel has the most advanced manufacturing process and R&D in the silicon world.

But do not underestimate Taiwan or China. They are obviously closing in very, very fast. For every brain Intel had, they have ten equivilents.


RE: Process isn't everything
By tastyratz on 11/4/2011 2:35:42 PM , Rating: 3
And Honda makes a phenomenal f1 engine, yet they don't produce a reasonably competitive sport compact car.

Just because intel makes great advances in silicone, does not mean implementation over a crappy gpu design is anything more than lipstick on a pig.

In reality what we will find is eventually they will become more and more "good enough" to handle the average user, making dedicated gpu's slowly obsolete. Mix that with the possibility of future ray tracing in video games which is all cpu load and you see the gpu market continue to dwindle.


RE: Process isn't everything
By someguy123 on 11/4/2011 2:56:02 PM , Rating: 2
You can already do GPGPU raytracing, though I hear there are accuracy problems with CUDA.

Intel's IGPs are already "good enough". We find them terrible, but the average person would find the HD3000 very fast for their needs.

That said, it seems like they're trying to improve at least, claiming a 60% bump next cycle.


RE: Process isn't everything
By Boze on 11/5/2011 10:52:35 AM , Rating: 4
The HD3000 can barely handle World of Warcraft, and its one of the simplest 3D games out there.

As technologies like Aero and Flash start to make use of the GPU, there's more and more reason to have more powerful GPUs or CPUs that can take the place of the GPU (which again just makes it a GPU anyway).

Intel's IGPs are "good enough" if all you're doing is using Excel and Word, and maybe some non-image / video intensive PowerPoint.

In other words, its good enough for "business". I would hardly say its good enough for the home user who wants to say, watch YouTube in 1080p, watch a Blu-ray, play a complex Flash game or two (Bloon's Tower Defense 4 @ levels over 75, I'm looking at you ), or play some casual game, like say Blizzard's upcoming Titan.


RE: Process isn't everything
By someguy123 on 11/5/2011 3:05:16 PM , Rating: 1
You're thinking the old GMA igps. the HD3k is alright for wow. Comparable to the 5450 according to anandtech. It does gpu acceleration for flash/HD video just fine, and it's free.

I don't know why there is fanboyism over hardware. These are just devices to be used. One can get better over time.


RE: Process isn't everything
By xrodney on 11/7/2011 2:16:11 AM , Rating: 1
Depend on resolution, on low its OK, but try 1800p or even better 2560x1600 or more and you get pretty much slideshow on HD3k.


RE: Process isn't everything
By someguy123 on 11/7/2011 5:23:51 PM , Rating: 2
Right, but it's free, integrated GPU.

It's not a fullsized device. Even your full discrete desktop GPUs will struggle at those kinds of resolutions. Like I said, it's comparable to a 5450, which isn't fantastic, but for what it is, it's useful.

Not really sure what you guys expect out of an IGP. Even fusion GPUs don't provide 1800 resolution performance. I don't understand how people can expect something so small to perform similarly to something exponentially larger, hotter, and more expensive. I hear intel's trying to get into the GPU market with knights ferry, but their IGP was never meant to take over the discrete market.


RE: Process isn't everything
By BZDTemp on 11/5/2011 9:56:46 PM , Rating: 2
Eh, sorry but Honda does not make F1 engines and has not done so since 2008:-)

They do however make the engine for Indycar so maybe that is what you had in mind and you were of course right about their road cars. However if Honda wanted they could combine the Civic with say their 2.4L found in the Accord and perhaps push it a bit further and have a nifty sports compact.

Anyway my whole point is that picking Honda for you analogy was a bit off. If anything Honda makes great engines but, lately, pretty dull cars and if we thing of the engine as the GPU then that's sort of the opposite with Intel (crappy GPU but good packaging).


RE: Process isn't everything
By EricMartello on 11/5/2011 11:07:19 PM , Rating: 3
No, it was a fair statement. None of honda's "sports cars" are competitive with what is available from other brands. They're surpassed in every relevant performance category by offers from Mitsubishi, Subaru, GM and even Chrysler...Toyota seems to be in the same performance-anemic category but at least at one point they had competitive cars in their lineup.

Honda did succeed in creating an aftermarket full if idiots who think sticking a big red R, 20" rims and a gaudy spoiler on their car make it into a "street legal race car". Oh and don't forget the obnoxiously loud muffler they buy on ebay, with a 1.5" inlet and 6" outlet for that mad exhaust flow, yo.


RE: Process isn't everything
By Unspoken Thought on 11/6/2011 3:30:17 AM , Rating: 2
http://www.lexus.com/models/ISF/
http://www.lexus.com/LFA/

http://rpmware.com/around-the-web/honda-s2000-goet...
http://www.gizmag.com/hondas-nsx-supercar-replacem...

After a quick search, couldn't find much on the new S3000 or NSX. But Lexus does have some sexy sports cars. Just FYI.


RE: Process isn't everything
By EricMartello on 11/6/2011 4:40:33 PM , Rating: 2
The NSX had "supercar" pricing so it doesn't get to be compared to cars like the Evolution, Impreza, Corvette, Viper, Trans AM or other high-performing sub-$100K cars. The Lexus LFA is also a six-figure ride with limited availability...while the ISF is still not up to the same performance level as the late-model Supra Turbo was...granted that the Supra would have been more expensive today if you factored in its price with inflation.

Bottom line is that the only sports cars we got from HONDA, even if we include its expensive luxury division, is the NSX and S2000 - both out of production now, and neither had a long production run. Honda is seriously lacking in a performance car tradition that even other Japanese makers have and that is a simple fact. There is no Honda car that is like the Corvette or Nissan Z - honda focused on overpriced lawnmowers and econo-cars and that's clearly reflected in their lineup...although they do make some nice motorcycles.


RE: Process isn't everything
By Alexvrb on 11/6/2011 8:55:51 PM , Rating: 3
Agreed. Honda has never come from that kind of background. The closest thing to affordable sports car that was competitive was the S2000. Toyota was doing great for a while with the Supra, until they killed it off. The FWD Celicas are bleh.

The other Jap carmakers have much more of a sports car lineage, although Mitsubishi is struggling a bit lately, and I've never been fond of Subaru's over-boosted H4s in the STIs. I laugh every time I hear somebody blew one of them up racing, and spends many thousands of dollars on a stronger souped up replacement that could have bought you an LS7 or even LS9.

Nissan has some nice stuff right now though.


RE: Process isn't everything
By EricMartello on 11/7/2011 12:28:20 AM , Rating: 3
I enjoy performance cars of all makes, so its nameplate doesn't matter a lot to me. The Nissan GT-R is a sweet ride with a reasonable pricetag for what it is; I don't care much about their other current offerings. GM's LSx engines are solid and powerful, but are often hated on for being pushrod type engines lacking variable valve timing, multiple cams and other nonsense they don't need. I find that to be ignorant; it's the simplicity of those engines' design that lets them perform as well as they do with high reliability.

On the other hand, the 4G63 turbo engine found in older Eclipses and the Evo 8 and 9 is an extremely dependable turbo engine with a cast-iron block and forged internals. I don't think Mitsubishi is having problems with their cars now so much as it is a lack of direction by the people running the company. I heard they plan to axe the Evo and focus on electric cars - big mistake if the rumor is true.


RE: Process isn't everything
By th3pwn3r on 11/7/2011 3:46:52 PM , Rating: 2
You heard wrong. The Evo will continue to be but it's not going to be a performance car. Reason is due to the head honcho over at Mitsubishi not being a automotive performance enthusiast. If you were the boss and in it for the money you'd take the same route.


RE: Process isn't everything
By EricMartello on 11/9/2011 4:19:57 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
You heard wrong. The Evo will continue to be but it's not going to be a performance car. Reason is due to the head honcho over at Mitsubishi not being a automotive performance enthusiast. If you were the boss and in it for the money you'd take the same route.


LOL that sounds more "rumorish" than what I heard...and if the Evo won't be a performance car it won't be an Evo. The Evo always was and will be a "everything that you need, nothing you don't" type of car with high performance...and I think the Evo X deviated from that formula a bit too much...the Evo IX was the last "real" Evo produced.

If I was "the boss" I would most definitely not axe my globally recognized and admired performance icon that has a long history and heritage with the company and brand. You'd have to be a total moron to do that even if you are looking at the bottom line.

Supposing the Evo was a "loss leader" in terms of raw sales, the attention and interest it brings to the brand can make up for it. I see commercials for the Subaru Impreza almost daily...can't remember the last time there was a commercial on TV for an Evo.


RE: Process isn't everything
By Da W on 11/7/2011 1:24:09 PM , Rating: 2
It's called a civic and it dominated the world for decades.


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