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Nvidia GT200 sucessor out: GT200b: Nvidia face tough summer
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Wed Jun 04, 2008 5:09 am Reply and quote this post
Nvidia's CPU mouthed off about Intel, the firmfollowed it up with the stunning NV5800 'Dustbuster'. This time, he mouthed off,and the successor to the GT200 had already taped out. NV is in deep trouble onceagain.
You heard that right, the successor for the GT200 chip has already taped out,and it too will be nothing special. GT200b, it is nothing more than a 55nm shrink ofthe GT200. Don't expect miracles, but do expect the name to change.
There are several problems with the GT200, most of which are near fatal. Thefirst is thediesize, 576mm^2, bigger than most Itanics. One might trust Intel to make achip that big with decent yields, especially if it is basically an island oflogic in the middle of a sea of cache. Nvidia using a foundry process doesn'thave a chance of pulling this off.
Word has come out of Satan Clara that the yields are laughable. No, make thatabysmal, they are 40 per cent. To add insult to injury, that 40 per centincludes both the 280 and the 260 yield salvage parts. With about 100 diecandidates per wafer, that means 40 good dice per wafer. Doing the maths, a TSMC300mm 65nm wafer runs about $5000, so that means each good die costs $125 beforepackaging, testing and the like. If they can get away with sub-$150 costs perGPU, we will be impressed.
So, these parts cost about $150, and the boards will sell for $449 and $649for the 260 and 280 respectively, so there is enough play room there to makemoney, right? Actually, most likely yes. There are costs though, but not enoughto kill profit for any one touching these.
The biggest cost is memory. The 512b memory width means that they will haveto use at least 16 chips. This ends up making the board very complex when youhave to route all those high speed signals, and that means more layers, morecost, and more defect fallout with the added steps. You also have to solder oneight more memory chips which costs yet more.
To add insult to injury, the TDPs of the 260 and 280 are 182W and 236Wrespectively. This means big copper heatsinks, possibly heatpipes, and high-endfans. Those parts cost a lot of money to buy, assemble and ship. Not fatal, butnot a good situation either. It also precludes a dual GPU board without losing alot of speed.
Basically, these boards are going to cost a lot of money to make, not just tobuy. The $449 price is justified by the cost. The last round of GX2 boardscostOEMs about $425, meaning that NV charges OEMs about 70 per cent of retailfor high-end parts. After packaging, shipping and add-ins, there is almostnothing left for the OEMs, quite possible explaining why one of their biggestone is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, kept alive because NV won't calltheir debt while still shiping to them. Watch for this to melt down once NVloses the high end.
So, you end up with an expensive chip on an expensive board that makes few ifany people money. Fair enough, bleeding-edge parts mean bleeding-edge prices.The problem is that ATI is going to make a chip that competes with GT200, andlines up with it point for point. NV wins big Z Fill, ATI crushes them onShader Flops. What this translates to in the real world is still up in the air,but it looks like the 770 and the 260 will be about equal for most things.
The GT200 is about six months late, blew out their die size estimates andmissed clock targets by a lot. ATI didn't. This means that buying a GT260 boardwill cost about 50 per cent more than an R770 for equivalent performance. TheGT280 will be about 25 per cent faster but cost more than twice as much. A monthor so after the 770 comes the 700, basically two 770s on a slab. This will crushthe GT280 in just about every conceivable benchmark and likely cost less. Why?Because.
So, what is a company to do when it promised the financial world that ATIwas lost, and GT200 would raise their margins by 100 basis points or so? Surelythey knew what was coming a few weeks ago during their financial call, right? Imean, if word was leaking days later, the hierarchy surely was aware at thetime, right?
The answer to that is to tape out the GT200b yesterday. It has taped out, andit is a little more than 400mm^2 on a TSMC 55nm process. Given that TSMC tendsto price things so that on an equivalent area basis, the new process ismarginally cheaper than the old, don't look for much cost saving there. Anydecrease in defectivity due to smaller area is almost assuredly going to bebalanced out by the learning curve on the new process. Being overly generous, itis still hard to see how the GT200b will cost less than $100 per chip. Don'tlook for much cost savings there.
The new shrink will be a much better chip though, mainly because they mightfix the crippling clock rate problems of the older part. This is most likely nota speed path problem but a heat/power issue. If you get a better perf/wattnumber through better process tech, you can either keep performance the sameand lower net power use, or keep power use the same and raise performance.
Given NV's woeful 933GFLOPS number, you can guess which way they are going togo. This means no saving on heatsinks, no savings on components, and a slightlycheaper die. For consumers, it will likely mean a $50 cheaper board, but nofinal prices have come my way yet. It will also mean a cheaper and faster boardin a few months.
The GT200b will be out in late summer or early fall, instantly obsoleting theGT200. Anyone buying the 65nm version will end up with a lemon, a slow, hot andexpensive lemon. Kind of like the 5800. It would suck for NV if word of this gotout. Ooops, sorry.
What are they going to do? Emails seen by the INQ indicate they are going toplay the usual PR games to take advantage of sites that don't bother checking upon the 'facts' fed to them. They plan to release the GT200 in absurdly limitedquantities, and only four AIBs are going to initially get parts.
There is also serious talk of announcing a price drop to put them head tohead with the R770 and giving that number to reviewers. When the boards comeout, the reviews are already posted with the lower numbers, and no reviewerever updates their pricing or points out that the price performance ratio wasjust blown out of the water. There is also internal debate about giving a fewetailers a real price cut for a short time to 'back up' the 'MSRP'.
We would hope the reviewers are able to look at the numbers they were givenon editors' day, $449 and $649, and take any $100+ last minute price drop withthe appropriate chunk of NaCl. Just given the component cost, there is no way NVcan hit the same price point as the 770 boards. "We lose money on each one, butwe make it up in volume" is not a good long term strategy, nor is it a way toimprove margins by 100 basis points.
In the end, NV is facing atoughsummer in the GPU business. They are effectively out of the Montevinamarket, and they are going to lose the high end in a spectacular way. Nvidia hasno effective countermeasure to the R770, the GT200 was quite simply botched, andnow they are going to pay for it. When all you have is a hammer,everythinglooks like a 5800.

Contributed by Editorial Team, Executive Management Team
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