Monday, 13 April 2015 11:24

Rumors that NVIDIA is moving to Samsung's 14nm FinFET are just that... Rumors

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Last week there was an announcement by Global Foundries that they were licensing Samsung’s 14nm FinFET process for their own use. This immediately started the internet going with talk about how AMD would be using this new process despite there not being any indication that AMD was ready for 14nm for APUs, CPUs, or GPUs for that matter. Now, in true internet fashion the rumor mill has shifted from AMD to NVIDIA. The claim is that NVIDIA will soon utilize Samsung’s 14nm FinFET tech too.

Of course there is the little question of who will actually be making any chips for NVIDIA. Will it be Samsung themselves, or Global Foundries? We do know that NVIDIA had some conversations with GF a few years ago, but those never amounted to anything that we are aware of. Although we know that NVIDIA is not above using GF for making their GPUs or Tegra SoCs it would be awkward to allow a former branch of AMD to do the heavy lifting for them. There is also the fact that NVIDIA has a lot of money invested in their partnership with TSMC.

So, where does the rumor come from and why are we seeing it now? As we mentioned last week Global Foundries made their announcement that they are licensing Samsung’s 14nm FinFET tech. This sparked more than a few conversations about who would be using the new node. The most likely candidate was AMD. That having been said there was talk a few months ago that NVIDIA would skip over the 20nm half node for their GPUs and move straight to 14nm. It has also been rumored that NVIDIA would move Tegra to 14nm sooner rather than later to accommodate power and processing requirements.

The latter is very true and could be the source of the 14nm rumors while the former has never been completely confirmed. NVIDIA is very likely to keep their GPUs with TSMC and wait on their 14nm process than try to use something from an untested partner. The same is also true for their Tegra SoCs, it would be simpler to keep them with someone familiar with their needs and designs than turn to someone new. That does not mean that NVIDIA is not looking for someone to help them get to 14nm cleaner or in different manner. When someone takes a look at a new partner they often will tape out a design using their process to see what issues might come up and also to be ready if the deal goes through.

In the end the rumor that NVIDIA is moving to Samsung for 14nm FinFET is likely just that, a rumor. They might be testing the waters to see if the new process would be worth using, but we are highly doubtful that we will see GPUs or Tegra being fabbed by Global Foundries or Samsung any time soon (if at all). We do expect to see both AMD and NVIDIA move to full process nodes instead of half nodes in the next few years, but we do not see them pushing this for 14nm.

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