AMD Working on New GPU Architecture

New products to be launched during the second half of 2010

In the same interview in which AMD accused NVIDIA of deliberately removing multi-core optimizations from the PhysX technology, AMD’s Worldwide Developer Relations Manager, Richard Huddy, also stated that the chip maker expected to lead the high-end graphics market for the most part of 2010. Considering the Fermi architecture that NVIDIA has been working on, this statement was rather bold, but a conference call reportedly had the AMD CEO say that ATI was gong to refresh its lineup sometime during the second half of 2010.

“We are ramping the ATI Radeon HD 5000 series now and look forward to refreshing the entire lineup in the second half of next year,” Dirk Meyer, chief executive officer of Advanced Micro Devices, said during the quarterly conference call with financial analysts.

While this statement suggests that ATI will launch a new type of GPUs, it is unclear which family will be refreshed as well as what architecture the new products will employ. One way to bring out faster cards would be to redesign existing ATI Radeon HD 5000-series chips. Another way, however, would be to introduce a new family of Radeon GPUs. This ninth-generation of GPUs that AMD is rumored to be working on is dubbed Northern Islands and the company is believed to be constructing them based on a new architecture.

Unfortunately, any and all piece(s) of information on Northern Islands is/are scarce at best. Some reports say that the new architecture will be more feature-rich than the Evergreen and other reports imply that the new products will be built based on the 32nm manufacturing process. However, other rumors imply that the 28nm process will be used. This latter idea seems to have come at a time when the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is beginning to produce chips based on this 28nm. This rumor started at the same time as when reports came out that the 40nm yield issues had been resolved.

There is also a set of reports that suggests that the next-generation AMD graphics products will be code-named Hecatonchires. Among the chips mentioned were the Cozumel, Ibiza and Kauai. What is interesting about this rumor is that these are all names of southern islands, which seems to suggests that ATI is working on not one but two architectures.

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