Editorial: nVidia Maxwell– Still on 28nm?

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There has been a lot of buzz (here and here) about both AMD and nVidia’s next generation GPU’s. It’s not surprising, because with the exception of a few SKUs neither company has done much more than creatively rebrand and tweak their existing technology, dating back to 2012. Traditionally, these companies have been developing and releasing completely new chips every year or so, but in the past couple years there has been a slow down. nVidia claims that this has been caused because TSMC (here and here) has been unable to meet the demands of the two large GPU chip manufacturers. We first heard stirrings of this all the way back when the GTX480 came out, which was nearly unmanufacturable, and while GTX 580 and GTX680 chips were much better, even AMD has had some issues with yields on its APUs.

New, smaller process nodes have made it much more difficult  and exponentially more expensive to manufacture silicon chips over the past few years—we are beginning to hit the wall of physics and Gordon Moore himself saw this coming. All this has led to some disappointing news, the next generation of GPUs will not yet be on the 20nm processing node, andwill be stuck at 28nmat least the next year. The GM204 Maxwell will be a 28nm chip, rumored to have a 256-bit memory bus. For those unfamiliar with nVidia’s naming scheme and release schedule lately, the GXX04 chips are designed for efficiency and relatively high performance, think GTX680 and GTX770, while the GX100 chips are the high performance chips, think Titan and GTX780TI. Last cycle, Nvidia released the GTX 680 based on the the GK104 chip to replace the GTX580 based on the GF110 chip, and it wasn’t for another year before they released the GK110-based Titan , GTX 780, and GTX 780 Ti. I think we can expect a similar release cycle this time around. So the GM204 is coming, and just in time for the holiday season, will it be worth the wait?

Well, if you just recently purchased a GTX 780 or one of the $3000 Titan Z’s , you shouldn’t have to worry about your hardware being completely out of date, as these cards can play any game at almost any resolution. I suspect that much like with the GTX580 vs GTX680, there will be gaming performance improvement and power savings, but the compute power difference will not be significant. Depending on what you are doing, this may or may not be a big deal. Professionals shouldn’t be kicking themselves for their recent upgrades. The real question is, will 2015 may be the year of 4K?  If it is, can we can hope that the GPU manufacturers and their fab partners will be ready with the next generation of high performing GPUs with massive memory bandwidth to handle all those pixels? Only time will tell


Nicholas Fusco

Nick Fusco is a young IT Consultant and "geek"! As a contributing author on GBD, he covers all things tech and writes reviews for a variety of products and services.

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