Advanced Micro Devices is rumoured to be planning to start production of code-named Southern Islands graphics processing units (GPUs) using 28nm process technology at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company already in the second quarter of 2011.
According to China Economic News Service web-site, which most probably cites Commercial Times news-paper in Chinese, AMD “plans to exclusively contract TSMC to build its 28nm Southern Islands chip in the second quarter of 2012”. The source of the information does not elaborate any details about the volumes that AMD wants to get and which of the three 28nm process technology does it plan to utilize.
In Q1 2011 the world’s largest contract maker of semiconductors reportedly plans to supply five thousand wafers a month with chips for Altera and Xilinx made using 28LP process technology that relies on poly gate and silicon oxide nitrate, not more advanced high-k metal gate technology. It is generally unclear whether TSMC will be ready with its more advanced versions of 28nm fabrication processes that rely on HKMG in Q2 2011.
Not a lot is generally known about the Southern Islands (SI) family of graphics chips in general. Many believe that the SI resembles Northern Islands (NI, ATI Radeon HD 6000) in terms of architecture and feature-set, which means that the chips will support DirectX 11, ATI's latest universal video decoder (UVD) 3.0 engine and other enhancements. The first chip in the family is likely to be produced using 28HP or 28HPL process technology and will likely be used as a "pipe cleaner" that will allow AMD to learn maximum about volume manufacturing using the new fabrication process.
Given that TSMC expects wafers produced at various 28nm nodes to account for 2% - 3% of its revenue in the fourth quarter of the year, shipments of Southern Islands GPUs in Q2 - Q3 2011 will hardly be mass.
AMD and TSMC did not comment on the news-story.