Next-Gen Nvidia Graphics Card GPUs Might Be Made By Samsung


After switching over to TSMC for it’s 5nm based GeForce RTX 40 series, Nvidia seems to be back with Samsung for the RTX 50 series.

In processor manufacturing, Taiwan based TSMC is considered to be the best in the world. Many companies like AMD, Nvidia, Broadcom, Qualcomm (Snapdragon) and others ask TSMC to make chips for them. This is because TSMC is the market leader, in both quantity and in latest technologies.

The far second on the list of processor manufacturing is Samsung. Samsung too makes chips for other companies, which use these chips in their products. Samsung is a market leader in memory chips manufacturing, but trails a lot to TSMC in processor manufacturing.

In the world of technology, the smaller the transistors are, the more you can put them inside a single chip. The more transistors you can put inside a chip, the more powerful and fast it becomes. 7nm was a standard size a couple of years ago. Now it’s 5nm. Soon it’s going to be 3nm.

Most companies are going to TSMC to manufacture their 3nm chips. This is due to the fact that Samsung is using a newer technology called GAAFET (Gate-all-around FET) to make their next-gen 3nm chips. This new process is causing output yield problems for Samsung, where only half of the chips made currently are usable, with numbers expected to reach 70% only in April next year.

Compared to that, TSMC, in-spite of having tested the new GAAFET technology, is not switching to it yet. Instead, it’s using the tried and tested FinFET (Fin field-effect transistor) technology in it’s 3nm process, which everyone is using since the 14nm days. The outcome of that is that TSMC is going to charge 25% more for it’s next-gen 3nm process. Not everyone seems to be interested in it, though. Especially Nvidia.

Nvidia 3nm GPUs To Be Made By Samsung

Nvidia GPU Shot
Nvidia GPU Shot. Credit: Nvidia.

The Korea Economic Daily has reported that Samsung has bagged the contracts from Nvidia and others to manufacture their 3nm chips. It’s expected that Nvidia is going to use these chips in their next-gen graphics cards, possibly named RTX 50 series.

The article mentions the idea behind this is in consideration of Samsung’s 3nm technology and to secure multiple suppliers. We do however believe TSMC charging premium for it’s 3nm tech might also be a reason, as we don’t think Samsung can easily beat TSMC either in numbers or performance. Another possibility is that TSMC is completely booked.

While the relations between TSMC and Nvidia goes back at least two decades, this is not the first time Samsung is going to make chips for Nvidia. Back in 2016, Samsung started making GPUs for Nvidia for it’s GeForce GTX 1050 Ti and lower graphics cards.

But the biggest contract Samsung got from Nvidia was perhaps the previous-gen RTX 30 series. The Nvidia GeForce RTX 30’s GPUs were made by Samsung on its custom 8nm process. This was an upgrade over the 12nm process used in the RTX 20 series made by TSMC.

The RTX 30 graphics cards performed nicely over the previous generations and allowed Nvidia to continue its lead over its rival AMD Radeon graphics cards. However, the big problem with these Samsung chips is that it had huge yield problems, causing big shortages, which was only amplified by the shortages caused by international lock-downs. The result was that Nvidia got frustrated by Samsung and decided to switch back to TSMC for it’s RTX 40 series graphics cards, which are giving impressive results irrespective of their expensive price.

So Nvidia going Samsung for it’s next-gen 3nm process chips is interesting, but it’s not alone though.

Others Too Join Samsung 3nm Process

Samsung 3nm GAA
Samsung’s top foundry executives holding 3nm wafers at the Samsung foundry plant in Samsung Electronics Hwaseong Campus, South Korea. Credit: Samsung.

Nvidia is not alone in using Samsung’s 3nm process. The Korea Economic Daily report mentions that other companies like Qualcomm, IBM and Baidu too have given a contract to Samsung to make their 3nm processors.

It is said that IBM will use these chips for their CPUs. Qualcomm will use these chips for its smartphone (Snapdragon) processors. While China’s Baidu will use these chips for artificial intelligence in their cloud data centers.

These are not small names. If we ignore others for a moment, Qualcomm Snapdragon processors alone might be powering half of the world’s smartphones these days. So Samsung bagging its contract is a massive win for it.

Samsung claims that its “3nm process achieves 45% reduced power usage, 23% improved performance, and 16% smaller surface area compared to 5nm process”.

The article mentions that Samsung wants to start making 2nm process chips in 3 years and be a market leader (beat TSMC) by 2030.

The report mentions that this move towards Samsung is also happening due to international political uncertainties. With companies trying to cut their translations with Taiwan and look for other suppliers. Where else to look at other than the South Korea based Samsung.

Outcome Of This Move

Samsung's EUV process silicon wafer.
Silicon wafer made using Samsung’s EUV. Samsung uses this EUV technology in its memory chips. Credit: Samsung.

Make no mistake. Samsung is a big player in the chip making industry, but its processors are always lagging behind TSMC’s ones. From AMD, Nvidia to Qualcomm, everyone has tried Samsung’s chips but have gone back to TSMC. Some either due to yield issues, some due to power usage issues and some due to performance issues.

So Samsung getting their contracts for the 3nm process is impressive. Now whether it’s geopolitical reasons, or whether Samsung has somehow sweetened the deal or whether Samsung has convinced hem about their 3nm process we don’t know.

What can be said for sure is that this move is interesting. Let’s see how it goes and whether Samsung will be able to fulfill its promises and deliver on it.

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We love covering news about everything tech. If we are not busy looking after news, we are either playing games or watching our favorite sport.

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