What is going on with Southern Islands, the next generation ATI (NYSE:AMD) graphics card? When is it coming out? What is it?
The last one, what is it, is easy. AMD told us all about it at Fusion 11, or at least the shader architecture, so the only open questions are how many of them, and when will we see it? Both are dictated by TSMC’s 28nm process, or are they?
OffiCIal word is that TSMC is coming out with 28nm products in Q3 of this year, that would be some time from next week to the end of September. Given the foundry’s track record on 40nm, we are fairly skeptical about this. Moles say that 28nm non-HKMG is doing just peachy, but the 28nm HKMG process is having the proverbial issues. Lets hope these are the normal bring up/teething issues and things are on time for the sake of the entire industry.
Back to Southern Islands (SI). At Computex, AMD was telling all the vendors Q1, which means TSMC would start ramping in Q4, and have volume in Q1, but in reality, don’t count on things going well. The problem is that other sources are now saying that things are going really really well, and signs are looking like it is September-ish, not February-ish.
If you look at when SI taped out, chips could possibly be on the market in mid-Q3. That date assumes that TSMC is willing, able, and has wafer starts to spare. SemiAccurate is pretty sure that the first is true, the third looks somewhat questionable, and the second is the open question. Considering that there are Apple chips coming off the line now, quite possibly 28nm Apple chips, then that means that TSMC is able, but puts wafer availability in serious doubt.
One other slim but intriguing possibility surrounds SI, is it on 40nm? Northern Islands was originally set for the canceled 32nm process, and was then backported to 40nm, so things like this can and do happen. Could there be some 40nm SIs that come early, then a quick 28nm refresh when our Taiwanese buddies have their wafers ready? Could the line be split between 28 and 40?
Overall, we doubt there will be any 40nm SIs, but technically speaking, it could happen. Southern Islands is much more likely 28nm, and quite possibly coming in very short order. Q3 should be easy if 28nm HKMG works, is on time, and AMD can get the capaCIty it needs. Some other data points show that AMD is looking hard at late August as the earliest possible launch date, but September is more traditional, whatever the process geometry.S|A
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