The graph below is one of transistor count, not die size. Inevitably, on the same manufacturing process, a significantly higher transistor count translates into a larger die size. But for the purposes of this article, all I need to show you is a representation of transistor count.

See that big circle on the right? That's Fermi. NVIDIA's next-generation architecture.

NVIDIA astonished us with GT200 tipping the scales at 1.4 billion transistors. Fermi is more than twice that at 3 billion. And literally, that's what Fermi is - more than twice a GT200.

At the high level the specs are simple. Fermi has a 384-bit GDDR5 memory interface and 512 cores. That's more than twice the processing power of GT200 but, just like RV870 (Cypress), it's not twice the memory bandwidth.

The architecture goes much further than that, but NVIDIA believes that AMD has shown its cards (literally) and is very confident that Fermi will be faster. The questions are at what price and when.

The price is a valid concern. Fermi is a 40nm GPU just like RV870 but it has a 40% higher transistor count. Both are built at TSMC, so you can expect that Fermi will cost NVIDIA more to make than ATI's Radeon HD 5870.

Then timing is just as valid, because while Fermi currently exists on paper, it's not a product yet. Fermi is late. Clock speeds, configurations and price points have yet to be finalized. NVIDIA just recently got working chips back and it's going to be at least two months before I see the first samples. Widespread availability won't be until at least Q1 2010.

I asked two people at NVIDIA why Fermi is late; NVIDIA's VP of Product Marketing, Ujesh Desai and NVIDIA's VP of GPU Engineering, Jonah Alben. Ujesh responded: because designing GPUs this big is "fucking hard".

Jonah elaborated, as I will attempt to do here today.

A Different Sort of Launch
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  • palladium - Monday, October 5, 2009 - link

    Not quite:">

    Scroll down halfway thru the comments. He re-registered as SilicconDoc and barks about his hatred for red roosters (in an Apple-related article!)
  • johnsonx - Monday, October 5, 2009 - link

    that looks more like someone mocking him
  • - Sunday, October 4, 2009 - link

    According to this very link"> AMD already presented a WORKING SILICON at Computex roughly 4 months ago on June 3rd. So it took roughly 4 and a half months to prepare drivers, infrastructure and mass production to have enoough for the start of Windows 7 and DX11. However, Nvidia wasnt even talking about W7 and DX11 so late Q1 2010 or even later becomes more realistic than december. But there are much more questions ahead: What pricepoint, Clockrates and TDP. My impression is that Nvidia has no clue about this questions and the more I watch this development, the more Fermi resembles to the Voodoo5 Chip and the V6000 card which never made into the market because of its much to high TDP.
  • silverblue - Sunday, October 4, 2009 - link

    Nah, I expect nVidia to do everything they can to get this into retail channels because it's the culmination of a lot of hard work. I also expect it to be a monster, but I'm still curious as to how they're going to sort out mainstream options due to their top-down philosophy.

    That's not to say ATI's idea of a mid-range card that scales up and down doesn't have its flaws, but with both the 4800 and 5800 series, there's been a card out at the start with a bona fide GPU with nothing disabled (4850, and now 5870), along with a cheaper counterpart with slower RAM and a slightly handicapped core (4830/5850). Higher spec single GPU versions will most likely just benefit from more and/or faster RAM and/or a higher core clock, but the architecture of the core itself will probably be unchanged - can nVidia afford to release a competing version of Fermi without disabling parts of the core? If it's as powerful as we're lead to believe, it will certainly warrant a higher price tag than the 5870.
  • Ahmed0 - Saturday, October 3, 2009 - link

    Nvidia wants it to be the jack of all trades. However, they are risking with being an overpriced master of none. Thats probably the reason they give their cards more and more gimmicks to play with each year. They are hoping that the cards value will be greater than the sum of its parts. And that might even be a successful strategy to some extent. In a consumerist world, reputation is everything.

    They might start overdoing it at some point though.

    Its like mobile phones nowadays. You really dont need to have a radio, an mp3-player, a camera nor other such extras in it (in fact, my phone isnt able to do anything but call and send messages). But unless you have these features, you arent considered as competition. It gives you the opportunity to call your product "vastly superior" even though from a usability standpoint it isnt.
  • SymphonyX7 - Saturday, October 3, 2009 - link

    Ahh... I see where you're coming from. I've had many classmates who've asked me what laptop to buy and they're always so giddy when they see laptops with the "Geforce" sticker and say they want it cause they want some casual gaming. Yes, even if the GPU is a Geforce 9100M. I recommended them laptop using AMD's Puma platform and many of them ask if that's a good choice (unfortunately here, only the Macbook has a 9400M GPU and it's still outside many of my classmates' budgets). Seems like brand awareness of Nvidia amongst many consumers is still much better than AMD/ATI's. So it's an issue of clever branding then?

  • Lifted - Saturday, October 3, 2009 - link

    A little late for any meaningful discussion over here as AT let the trolls go for 40 or so pages. I doubt many people can be arsed to sort through it now, so you'd be better off going to a forum for a real discussion of Fermi.
  • neomocos - Saturday, October 3, 2009 - link

    if you missed it then here you go ... happy day for all of us :

    quote from comment posted on page 37 by Pastuch

    " Below is an email I got from Anand. Thanks so much for this wonderful site.

    Thank you for your email. SiliconDoc has been banned and we're accelerating the rollout of our new comments rating/reporting system as a result of him and a few other bad apples lately.

    A- "
  • james jwb - Saturday, October 3, 2009 - link

    Some may enjoy it, but this unusual freedom that blatant trolls using aggressive, rude language are getting lately is making a mockery of this site.

    I don't mind it going on for a while, even 20 pages tbh, it is funny, but at some point i'd like to see a message from Gary saying, "K, SiliconDoc, we've laughed enough at your drivel, tchau, banned! :)"

    That's what i want to see after reading through 380 bloody comments, not that he's pretty much gotten away with it. And if he has finally been banned, i'd actually love to know about it in the comments section.

    /Rant over.
  • Gary Key - Monday, October 5, 2009 - link

    He is gone as are a couple of others. We have a new comments system in final development now that should take care of this problem in the future.

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