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Compute Unit (click to enlarge)

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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 Da W on 11/4/2011 2:14:52 PM , Rating: 1
Intel is upgrading its process technology so fast that they can't recoup their investment. They sold 45nm Nahalem for a whole year while producing lousy 32nm dual core Clarkdale, because 45nm wasn't done paying for. Same will go with ivy bridge, i guess they will target laptop and you will still be stucked with i72600K on the desktop. Look at the stock price in the past decade, and all that for having nearly destroyed AMD.


RE: Process isn't everything
By someguy123 on 11/4/2011 2:53:07 PM , Rating: 2
Intel's stock has a cap of 124.75B.

AMD has a cap of 3.96B.

You can't simply compare stock prices 1:1. Intel also owns it's foundries. It's not paying off someone for their 45nm chips, unless you mean they're gradually paying off foundry costs, which simply isn't true. New processes have to be tested on a large scale, so it's more likely that the chips were not hitting the yields they wanted, so they sold the underclocked leftovers as "mainstream/low frequency" clarkdales.


RE: Process isn't everything
By Sivar on 11/7/2011 6:31:33 PM , Rating: 3
I work for a semiconductor company.
I assure you that no semiconductor company in the world drops an old process 100% when a new one is available. Equipment is upgraded over time, and that is done, the business processes in place are tuned for new procedures.
Most semiconductors do not need the latest and greatest. Intel's highest-end CPUs might, but their low-end models do not, nor do their network controllers, south bridges, or medical equipment. Did you know Intel makes medical equipment?
The latter is a great example of an industry that wants the most reliable, well-tested, long-lasting products rather than "the fastest." It was be not only logistically impossible, but a terrible business move for them, or any related company, to move every product into a single process.


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