The planned next generation graphics parts from AMD/ATI, known as Northern Islands, was initially designed to be manufactured on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s (TSMC) 32nm process. Since the late 2009 announcement that TSMC was facing difficulties with its 32nm manufacturing node and would not be developing the process, plans had to change at AMD. Sources close to both companies indicate that the revised upcoming generation of graphics cards will most likely be made for the Taiwanese manufacturer’s established 40nm process and will feature design elements from both Northern Islands and Evergreen architectures.
Problems encountered by the main manufacturer of AMD graphics chips, TSMC, are likely responsible for this decision. Since it has been decided by TSMC to pull its 32nm process, the company also had to make changes to their initial approach at 28nm, resulting in more delays and uncertainty in the manufacturing schedule. The company is currently developing its new 28nm process but it is unlikely to be ready in time for the HD6000-series launch window. Meanwhile, AMD spin-off manufacturer Global Foundries is working on their 28nm process but it is not scheduled to be ready for mass production before late 2010. In light of the information coming from the foundries regarding 28nm delays, Xbit Laboratories believes AMD decided to go for the safer option: the proven 40nm process from TSMC.
Writer Charlie Demerjian, from SemiAccurate, has advanced that the new hybrid architecture, dubbed Southern Islands, could feature the shaders design of the Evergreen HD5000-series combined with the uncore parts of the Northern Islands architecture. The new approach is likely due to the impossibility of implementing all the features of the new architecture without moving to a new, smaller process. According to both sources, customers are looking at a launch scheduled for Q4 2010.