The RV770 Lesson (or The GT200 Story)

It took NVIDIA a while to give us an honest response to the RV770. At first it was all about CUDA and PhsyX. RV770 didn't have it, so we shouldn't be recommending it; that was NVIDIA's stance.

Today, it's much more humble.

Ujesh is wiling to take total blame for GT200. As manager of GeForce at the time, Ujesh admitted that he priced GT200 wrong. NVIDIA looked at RV670 (Radeon HD 3870) and extrapolated from that to predict what RV770's performance would be. Obviously, RV770 caught NVIDIA off guard and GT200 was priced much too high.

Ujesh doesn't believe NVIDIA will make the same mistake with Fermi.

Jonah, unwilling to let Ujesh take all of the blame, admitted that engineering was partially at fault as well. GT200 was the last chip NVIDIA ever built at 65nm - there's no excuse for that. The chip needed to be at 55nm from the get-go, but NVIDIA had been extremely conservative about moving to new manufacturing processes too early.

It all dates back to NV30, the GeForce FX. It was a brand new architecture on a bleeding edge manufacturing process, 130nm at the time, which ultimately lead to its delay. ATI pulled ahead with the 150nm Radeon 9700 Pro and NVIDIA vowed never to make that mistake again.

With NV30, NVIDIA was too eager to move to new processes. Jonah believes that GT200 was an example of NVIDIA swinging too far in the other direction; NVIDIA was too conservative.

The biggest lesson RV770 taught NVIDIA was to be quicker to migrate to new manufacturing processes. Not NV30 quick, but definitely not as slow as GT200. Internal policies are now in place to ensure this.

Architecturally, there aren't huge lessons to be learned from RV770. It was a good chip in NVIDIA's eyes, but NVIDIA isn't adjusting their architecture in response to it. NVIDIA will continue to build beefy GPUs and AMD appears committed to building more affordable ones. Both companies are focused on building more efficiently.

Of Die Sizes and Transitions

Fermi and Cypress are both built on the same 40nm TSMC process, yet they differ by nearly 1 billion transistors. Even the first generation Larrabee will be closer in size to Cypress than Fermi, and it's made at Intel's state of the art 45nm facilities.

What you're seeing is a significant divergence between the graphics companies, one that I expect will continue to grow in the near term.

NVIDIA's architecture is designed to address its primary deficiency: the company's lack of a general purpose microprocessor. As such, Fermi's enhancements over GT200 address that issue. While Fermi will play games, and NVIDIA claims it will do so better than the Radeon HD 5870, it is designed to be a general purpose compute machine.

ATI's approach is much more cautious. While Cypress can run DirectX Compute and OpenCL applications (the former faster than any NVIDIA GPU on the market today), ATI's use of transistors was specifically targeted to run the GPU's killer app today: 3D games.

Intel's take is the most unique. Both ATI and NVIDIA have to support their existing businesses, so they can't simply introduce a revolutionary product that sacrifices performance on existing applications for some lofty, longer term goal. Intel however has no discrete GPU business today, so it can.

Larrabee is in rough shape right now. The chip is buggy, the first time we met it it wasn't healthy enough to even run a 3D game. Intel has 6 - 9 months to get it ready for launch. By then, the Radeon HD 5870 will be priced between $299 - $349, and Larrabee will most likely slot in $100 - $150 cheaper. Fermi is going to be aiming for the top of the price brackets.

The motivation behind AMD's "sweet spot" strategy wasn't just die size, it was price. AMD believed that by building large, $600+ GPUs, it didn't service the needs of the majority of its customers quickly enough. It took far too long to make a $199 GPU from a $600 one - quickly approaching a year.

Clearly Fermi is going to be huge. NVIDIA isn't disclosing die sizes, but if we estimate that a 40% higher transistor count results in a 40% larger die area then we're looking at over 467mm^2 for Fermi. That's smaller than GT200 and about the size of G80; it's still big.

I asked Jonah if that meant Fermi would take a while to move down to more mainstream pricepoints. Ujesh stepped in and said that he thought I'd be pleasantly surprised once NVIDIA is ready to announce Fermi configurations and price points. If you were NVIDIA, would you say anything else?

Jonah did step in to clarify. He believes that AMD's strategy simply boils down to targeting a different price point. He believes that the correct answer isn't to target a lower price point first, but rather build big chips efficiently. And build them so that you can scale to different sizes/configurations without having to redo a bunch of stuff. Putting on his marketing hat for a bit, Jonah said that NVIDIA is actively making investments in that direction. Perhaps Fermi will be different and it'll scale down to $199 and $299 price points with little effort? It seems doubtful, but we'll find out next year.

ECC, Unified 64-bit Addressing and New ISA Final Words


View All Comments

  • adilakkus - Friday, October 30, 2009 - link

    RayTracing is the way forward.">
  • Fortesting - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    See this article:">
  • Zool - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    Maybe tesla cards in supercomputers which are closed platforms the cuda is better but for anything other commercial OpenCL will be better.
    This is a CUDA vs OpenCL test from Sisoftware">
    The conclusion from that article : We see little reason to use proprietary frameworks like CUDA or STREAM once public drivers supporting OpenCL are released - unless there are features your code depends on that are not included yet; even then, they will most likely be available as extensions (similar to OpenGL) pretty soon.
    It wouldnt be bad to see those kind of tests on anadtech. Something like GPUs vs CPUs tests with same code.
  • Zool - Monday, October 5, 2009 - link

    I dont know how others, but the 8 time increase in DP which is one of the pr stunts doesnt seem too much if u dont compare it to the weak gt200 DP numbers. The 5870 has something over 500 GFlops DP and the gt200 had around 80 GFlops DP (but the quadro and tesla cards had higher shader clocks i think). They will be happy if they reach 1.5 times the radeon 5800 DP performance. In this pdf from nvidia site"> they write that the ECC will hawe a performance penalty from 5% to 20% (on tesla cards u will hawe the option to turn it off/on on GT cards it will be turned off).
  • Zool - Monday, October 5, 2009 - link

    I also want to add that if the DP has increased 8 times from gt200 than let we say around 650 Gflops, than if the DP is half of the SP (as they state) performance in Fermi than i get 1300 Gflops ???? (with same clock speeds). For GT200 they stated 933 Gflops. Something is wrong here maybe ? Reply
  • Zool - Monday, October 5, 2009 - link

    Actualy they state 30 FMA ops per clock for 240 cuda cores in gt200 and 256 FMA ops per clock for 512 cuda cores in Fermi. Which means clock for clock and core for core they increased 4 times the DP performance. Reply
  • SymphonyX7 - Saturday, October 3, 2009 - link

    Hi. I'm a long time Anandtech reader (roughly 4 years already). I registered yesterday just because I wanted to give SiliconDoc a piece of my mind but thankfully ended being up being rational and not replying anymore.

    Now that he's gone. I just want to know what you guys think of Fermi being another big chip. Is it safe to assume that Nvidia is losing more money than ATI on high-end models being sold simply because the GTX cards are much bigger than their ATI counterparts? Moreso now that the HD 58xx cards have been released which are faster overall than any of Nvidia's single-GPU solutions. Nvidia will be forced to further lower the price of their GTX cards. I'm still boggled as to why Nvidia would still cling to really big chips rather than go ATI's "efficiency" route. From what I'm reading, this card may focus more on professional applications rather than raw performance in games. Is it possible that this may simply be a technology demonstrator in the making in addition to something that will "reassure" the market to prevent them from going ATI? I don't know why they should differentiate this much if it's intended to compete with ATI's offerings, unless that isn't entirely their intention...
  • Nakomis - Saturday, October 3, 2009 - link

    Boy can I tell you I really wish SilDoc was still here? Anyone have his email address? I wanted to send him this:">
  • - Saturday, October 3, 2009 - link

    There was no benchmark, not even a demo during the so-called demonstration! This is very pathetic and it looks that Nvidia wont even meet the december timeframe. To debug a chip that doesnt work properly might cost many months. To manufacture a chip another 12 weeks. To develop the infrastructure including drivers and card manufactures another few months. Therefore, late q12010 or even 6/2010 might become realistic for a true launch and not a paperlaunch. What we could see on this demonstration was no more than the paper launch of the paper launch. Reply
  • Nate0007 - Friday, October 9, 2009 - link

    Hi, I fully agree with you 100%
    You seem to be one of very FEW people that actually see that or get it.
    You know what i can not seem to understand ??

    How can supposedly a few hundred or so of people that are knowlegable of what it is they are about too see or somewhat of why they are attending the demonstration just sit there and listen to 1 person standing up and make claims about his or a product but have no proof ?
    I understand how things are suppose to be, but have we all just become so naive to just believe what is pushed onto us through media ( ie..TV,Radio.Blogs.Magazines.ect...) and just believe it all ?
    I am not saying that what Jen Shun showed was NOT a real demo of a working Fermi Card , I am just saying that there was and still is NO proof of any sort from anyone that was able to actually confirm or denie that it actually was.
    Untill Nvidia actually shows a working sample of Fermi , even a so called ruffor demo model of it so long as it actually real I will not believe it.
    There is a huge difference between someone makeing claims on the forums of sites like this here and or Blogs and someone who is holding a news conference clainming what they have achieved .

    Next thing you know someone will stand up and say they have discoverd how to time travel and then show a video of just that.

    There is a difference be facts and reality.

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