AMD's Next-Gen Radeon May Slip to Q4

It was just over a year ago that ATI debuted its HD 4000 series of video cards, but it's rumored that the company will miss its stated one-year refresh cycle by several additional months. The problem, in this case, has nothing to do with the GPU's design, but is the result of continued 40nm yield problems at TSMC. The Taiwanese fabrication plant has been having trouble with its 40nm process for some time, with some analysts predicting the company's 40nm yields could be below 30 percent. Those problems have directly impacted the availability of AMD-ATI's Radeon 4770—despite having launched in April, the card is as scarce as hen's teeth in the wild. Now, a German site is claiming to have seen proof that the next generation won't show until the beginning of November at the earliest.

The good news (at least for AMD), if you want to call it that, is that TSMC also handles NVIDIA's fab needs, which means both companies are more-or-less equally affected. What's more, ATI and NVIDIA are sitting at a relative performance parity once differing prices are taken into account, and neither company seems to be in a position to change that before 40nm parts become available. That doesn't mean we won't see one company or the other pull a proverbial rabbit out of the hat, but rumors on this front are just that. This delay, if true, could even prove to be a good thing if AMD capitalizes on the advertising potential that goes along with any new Windows launch. Windows 7, unlike Windows Vista, Windows 7 is an OS people actually seem to want. With DX11 launching simultaneously, it's easy to see Teams Red and Green falling all over themselves to plaster "Windows 7 Supported!" on every box in town.

AMD's R870 in all its glory.
40nm AMD Wafer - Computex 2009

Speaking of NVIDIA, there's no firm guidance yet on when we'll see their own DirectX 11 solution. The rumor mill thinks the first quarter of 2010 is a pretty good bet, which means we could see a 40nm-powered refresh of the existing GT200 architecture come this fall. Stay tuned for more squabbling.  If ATI is first to market with a DirectX 11 part they'll trumpet it to high heaven, while NVIDIA would quip that DirectX 11 support is pointless without actual games to play.

One last tidbit:  If you're wondering why GlobalFoundries isn't handling ATI's GPU needs, it's because the GPU's themselves are manufactured using bulk silicon. GlobalFoundries current facilities are designed to use IBM's SOI (Silicon-on-Insulator) technology, and there's no easy way to switch between the two. GlobalFoundries has stated it plans to develop bulk silicon production capacity as part of its long-term effort to acquire new customers, but that won't happen until the company finishes its new facility in New York State at the earliest.