40nm Supply Redux

If you have seen our Radeon 5800 supply article, then you know that AMD is currently trying to come to terms with a significant shortage of Cypress dice. Since the 5800 series launched in September, TSMC’s yields have taken a hit as the company ramps up 40nm production. And while this is resulting in more usable chips per week than when AMD started, it’s lower than it was supposed to be. Compounding matters is high demand for these cards thanks to their performance, features, and a lack of significant competition from NVIDIA at this time.

So when we were briefed about the 5970, we asked AMD point-blank whether it was a good idea to be launching another Cypress based card so soon, and at a time when they already don’t have enough chips to go around. Their answer was equally straightforward: why not?

The design is done and AMD is already capable of building the 5970. For AMD, there is no benefit in waiting; no matter what they do, anything with a Cypress chip in it today is going to sell out. Holding back may be slightly more egalitarian, but as the 5970 is a luxury part, it’s not a high-volume part anyhow, so its introduction isn’t going to significantly disrupt 5800 shipments even if it does use 2 GPUs per card. Ultimately I don’t think we would even be having this discussion unless the profit margin on the 5970 is higher than the 5870, so at some point this comes down to AMD doing what is most profitable for them.

At $600, AMD isn’t going to sell a ton of 5970s, and the launch numbers reflect this. While the 5800 series cards launched with tens-of-thousands of cards, the 5970 launch will simply be with thousands of cards. Even as a low-volume part, we’re expecting the 5970 to sell out just as fast as any 5800 card did. But depending on what AMD does with future chip shipments though and what TSMC’s yields do, this may be the first product line where demand finally gets met in the near future.

We also had a chance to talk to AMD about the overall 40nm supply situation. AMD of course isn’t very pleased with the situation, but this is something they’ve apparently planned for, after their first 40nm test chips came back as being less impressive than their 55nm and 65nm test chips were. Besides TSMC’s subpar yields, AMD is unable to get as many wafer starts as they’d like, which is compounding the issue.

Finally, we’re told that the TSMC situation is continuing to improve, and that AMD currently expects the Cypress chip supply to pick up in December. To what level of production “pick up” goes with we’re not sure, but it’s likely less than demand. In talking to AMD, they didn’t seem confident in being able to keep any Cypress-based products in stock through Christmas. Supplies will improve through the end of the year, but it sounds like it’s going to be 2010 before supply and demand finally balance out.

Meet The 5970 The Card They Beg You to Overclock
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  • palladium - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Since AMD is binning their chips to get the 5970 within spec, I suppose it wouldn't make sense to make a 5950 SKU since a 5850 is simply a re-harvested 5870 (which failed the initial binning process), and 2x5850 would be out of the ATX spec anyway.

    Anyway, a great card for those who can afford it, and have the proper case and PSU to handle it.
    Reply
  • Paladin1211 - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    With 512 SP, 6.67% more than a GTX 295, I dont see Fermi has any chance of beating the 5970. nVidia will need a dual Fermi to dethrone the 5970, and thats not happening until Q3 or Q4 2010.

    nVidia has targeted a wrong, niche market rather than gamers. Sooner or later monitors without bezel will come out, and Eyefinity makes much more sense. Its really funny that the R770s aka HD 4870s are in 1 out of 5 fastest supercomputers and not Tesla.

    They have taken a long, deep sleep after the 8800GTX and now they're paying for it.
    Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Unfortunately, PC gaming is almost dead. Look at Call of Duty's release. Look at Dragon Age which is also available on consoles. Sure the PC version might look a bit better, but when you spend as much on a video card as someone does on an entire system that can download movies, demos, act as a media box, and play Blu-Rays...you get the point. Reply
  • Lurker0 - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Unfortunately, PC gaming has been declared "nearly dead" for decades. It hasn't died, and as much as console fanboys will rage on hearing this, it isn't going to either.

    PC gaming is a niche industry, it always has been and always will be. Yes, console games do tend to be more profitable, which means that most games will be developed for consoles first and then ported to the PC. Doesn't mean there will never be games developed for the PC first(or even exclusivly), or that there's no profit to be had in PC games.

    Yes, it can be cheaper to get a console than a mid-level gaming PC, just like it can be cheaper to just buy some econobox off the lot than to buy or build your own hot rod. Sure, one market is much larger and more profitable than the other, but there's still money to be made off of PC games and gearheads alike, and so long as that's true neither will be going away.
    Reply
  • DominionSeraph - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    PC gaming is no longer an isolated economy, though. That changes things. With most games being written with consoles in mind, there isn't the broad-based software push for hardware advance that there was at the dawn of 3d acceleration.
    I could give you dozens of great reasons to have upgraded from a NV4 to a NV15 back in the day, but the upgrade from a G80 to 5970 today? ~$800 when you factor in the PSU, and for what? Where's the must-have game that needs it? TNT to Geforce 2 was two years -- it's now been 3 since the release of the 8800, and there's been no equivalent to a Half Life, Quake 2, Deus Ex, Homeworld, Warcraft III, or WoW.
    Reply
  • GourdFreeMan - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    Unfortunately, this is precisely the problem. When looking at AAA (large budget) games, six years ago PC game sales were predominantly PC exclusives, with some well known console ports (e.g. Halo, Morrowind). Twelve years ago PC game sales were almost entirely exclusives. Today the console ports are approaching the majority of high profile PC titles.

    Being multiplatform isn't necessarily a detriment for a console game. After all, having a larger budget allows more money to be spent on art and polishing the code to get the best performance on console hardware. In most cases, however, the PC version of a multiplatform title is almost always an afterthought. Little to no effort is spent redesigning the user interface and rebalancing game play because of the different controls. Shaders are almost never rewritten to take advantage of effects that could only be accomplished with the power of the graphic cards in modern PCs when porting. At most we seem to get better textures at somewhat higher resolutions.

    The biggest problem with multiplatform development, however, is that multiplatform games are almost always aimed at the lowest common denominator in terms of both technology and content. All this does is produce the same game over and over again -- the clichéd rail shooter in a narrow environment with a macho/reluctant superhuman protagonist thrown against hordes of respawning mooks.

    Based on the quarterly reports of sales revenue from the major publishers (EA, Activision and Ubisoft), PC games sales are comparable to PS3 game sales. The PS3, however, has several more exclusives because Sony owns several games studios and forces them to release exclusives. AMD and nVIDIA do not, much to PC gaming's detriment.
    Reply
  • mschira - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Hehe 5970CF to power three screens, now that sounds like a killer setup.
    Besides that one's burning 600+ watts for the graphic. What's the CPU supposed to live on? The BIOS-Battery?
    M.
    Reply
  • monomer - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Wouldn't it be possible to run six screens using a 5970 CF setup, or are there other limitations I'm unaware of? Reply
  • Fleeb - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    600W for the whole setup. :S Reply
  • maximusursus - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    It really seems weird...:( I've seen some reviews that had way better overclocking than the standard 5870 clocks and their tests seem to be ok without any "throttling" problems.

    For example:

    Techspot: 900/1250
    HotHardware: 860/1220
    Tom's Hardware: 900/1300
    HardOCP: 900/1350 (!)
    Guru3D: 900/1200

    HardwareZone however had a similar problem with you guys, could it really be the PSU?
    Reply

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