What does Nvidia have planned for the next round of graphics cards? The Turing architecture and 20-series first launched with the RTX 2080 Ti in September 2018, and this year brought us the Super refresh. It doesn’t take a GPU architect to know that Nvidia is already well into the design stages for the next generation post-Turing graphics cards, which will most likely be called Ampere.
To be clear, Nvidia hasn’t officially told anyone what the next-generation GPU will be called, though it mentioned Ampere in the past (before Turing ever launched). And it’s certainly not going to leak specs—anyone claiming to have specifications for the RTX 3080 is just making stuff up. Which is par for the course, as it happened with the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti, and the GTX 1080 Ti before that, and so on. (For the record, nearly every guess ended up being wrong.) But even if we don’t know the exact specs, looking at the underlying tech—in this case, TSMC’s and Samsung’s 7nm process technologies—we can get a good sense of what to expect.
Let’s start at the top, with the GPU cores. Nvidia GPUs build on each preceding generation. Turing in many ways is like Pascal, with some extra stuff added into the mix. Pascal is like Maxwell, with extra stuff. Pascal also marked a pretty major transition from 28nm lithography to 16nm FinFET. And before Maxwell there were two generations of 28nm Kepler GPUs. This next transition is going to be most like the Maxwell to Pascal move, though, because it’s not just about updating tuning the architecture.
Back in 2014, when it became clear that the benefits of TSMC’s 20nm lithography weren’t that great, Nvidia reworked many aspects of its graphics architecture and released Maxwell. Still using the same 28nm tech that was behind the GTX 600 and 700 series parts, the GTX 980 and 970 were nevertheless amazing cards at the time—even now, the GTX 970 still does okay, trading blows with…