At AMD’s Technology Investors Conference, Devinder Kumar, AMD’s Chief Financial Officer discussed the upcoming AMD products, which are now being taped out.
The Move To FinFET
According to Kumar, in the last few months, AMD has been taping out products on a FinFET fab. AMD expects to have volume production of these new chips in 2016. Kumar did not specify exactly what size the transistors would be in these products, but he said AMD will skip past 20 nm transistors completely. Because AMD currently uses GlobalFoundries for all CPU production and pays TSMC to produce its GPU cores, it is likely that these new products will use either TSMC’s 16 nm FinFET or GlobalFoundries 14 nm FinFET fabs.
“We haven’t given the specifics, but you know they taped out in the last few months, and typically what happens on the product, depending on when you tape it out, it can be 12 to 14 months from the time you tape out the products to when you start shipping the products, but we haven’t been specific about, you know, exact timeframe,” said Kumar.
Kumar did not specify if the products being taped out were CPUs or GPUs, both of which are expected to arrive in 2016 and use FinFET transistor technology. It is possible that Kumar was talking about the Arctic Islands GPUs instead, or AMD could be currently taping out and testing both products.
Although the move to 16/14 nm FinFET transistor technology is a promising sign for AMD’s upcoming Zen processors, it appears that these CPUs will come later than expected. AMD’s last major update to its desktop CPU offerings came in January 2014, when the Kaveri architecture was released, and the enthusiast desktop FX series has not seen an update since October 2012.
At launch, these processors were already facing an uphill battle, as Intel’s competing products were both faster and more energy efficient, and this performance gap has only increased over time with new product releases. As such, many users hoping to see AMD become more competitive expected to see products based on the Zen architecture in Q1 2015.
Similarly, AMD’s GPUs have faced tough competition in recent years from Nvidia’s Maxwell GPUs. AMD has managed to consistently release increasingly faster GPUs based on its GCN architecture by cramming more shaders into new graphics cards and introducing HBM, but Nvidia’s GTX 980 Ti still holds its position as the fastest graphics card on the market, and with significantly lower power consumption. Although the move to FinFET transistors only may not be enough to take the performance crown from Nvidia, the reduced power consumption paired with the new Arctic Islands architecture might be able to.
How Long Will We Wait?
However, if Kumar’s aforementioned 12-14 month timeline holds true, this puts the release of both AMD’s Zen CPUs and the Arctic Islands GPUs back to the second half of 2016 at earliest, and they may arrive as late as Q1 2017.
Update, 12/14/15, 9:00am PT: Corrected AMD's next gen architecture codename.
Michael Justin Allen Sexton (or MJ) is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. As a tech enthusiast, MJ enjoys studying and writing about all areas of tech, but specializes in the study of chipsets and microprocessors. In his personal life, MJ spends most of his time gaming, practicing martial arts, studying history, and tinkering with electronics.