The events and rumors leading up to the release of Nvidia’s next line of graphics cards were rather confusing, what with talks of three different GPU microarchitectures floating around: Volta, Turing, and Ampere.
When Titan V was launched, many felt certain that Volta would indeed be the foundation of the next generation of graphics cards. However, it seems that Volta will actually be superseded by another architecture quickly. Two new architectures were rumored to be in the works after Volta: Turing and Ampere.
What Will Ampere Be Used For?
Now, Ampere’s name itself is hardly indicative of anything, and many felt that the architecture named after Alan Turing, a man perhaps most famous for his work on cryptanalysis, would be focused on computing and cryptocurrency mining. However, it seems that Turing will be the main new gaming architecture, while sources indicated that Ampere is slated to succeed Volta as an architecture focused on HPC (high-performance computing).
Cryptocurrency Mining and the GPU Shortage
A few months into 2017, GPU prices started rising, seemingly without any clear reason. The cause of this was the increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies, and by extension, cryptocurrency mining. You have probably heard of Bitcoin by now, as it is the most widespread and most valuable cryptocurrency at the moment, but there are many more than Bitcoin alone – the so-called altcoins.
And what is “mining”? Well, without going into the technicalities: mining makes cryptocurrency transactions possible and it is also how more of any individual cryptocurrency is created. If you want to read more about mining, you can check out this page.
But why GPUs? Well, they just so happen to offer the ideal balance of price and computing power for mining. After all, in order to profit from mining, the GPU needs to be both powerful and power-efficient, seeing as they will be working at full capacity around the clock.
As the demand for mid-range and high-end GPUs rose along with the popularity of cryptocurrency mining, so did the prices. Soon enough, it was impossible to find a decent GPU anywhere close to its MSRP. And now that the myths about an architecture designed specifically for mining have been dispelled, there are two ways that Nvidia might balance the market:
- Make certain models more appealing for miners. This can include some fine-tuning of the hardware, reduced power consumption, and lower prices for maximum profitability.
- Disable mining on models intended for gamers. Now, this is mostly a rumor and nobody is sure whether such a thing would even be possible.
Nvidia Ampere Release Date
No official statements have been made regarding the release dates of new GPUs at neither GDC 2018 nor at GTC 2018, but according to GamersNexus, SK Hynix will start manufacturing large amounts of GDDR6 RAM in about three months. This may very well indicate that Ampere GPUs might launch around July this year.
Nvidia Ampere Specifications
Now, seeing as we have no official information about this new microarchitecture itself, we obviously do not know anything about its specifications nor its exact capabilities. However, we can make some predictions judging by the newly-released Volta and the current trends in the GPU industry.
First and foremost, Ampere will most likely be manufactured using a 12nm process since it is already being used to manufacture Volta cards, and it wouldn’t make sense for Nvidia to make any significant jumps from that in such a short timeframe.
As for VRAM, we should expect to see either GDDR6 or HBM2 – perhaps both, with the latter being reserved for high-end models. HBM2 definitely has the upper hand when it comes to performance, but it is also quite costly. Still, HBM2 just might be necessary to bring out the full potential of the new microarchitecture, although the schedule announced by SK Hynix suggests that GDDR6 might end up being the dominant type of memory in the next GPU generation.
Nvidia Ampere Price
Once again, we simply have no way of knowing the exact pricing of Ampere GPUs until the exact lineup is actually announced. Once again, to go back to SK Hynix, they did say that GDDR6 is currently 20% more expensive to manufacture than GDDR5. This could mean higher prices at the initial launch, although the RAM itself will undoubtedly become cheaper when it becomes more popular.
Nvidia Ampere Performance
Prior to Pascal, Nvidia’s GPUs were steadily increasing their performance generation after generation. However, both Pascal and Volta were both quite a bit more powerful than their predecessors, a trend that Ampere may very well continue. But sadly, we have no way of knowing until the new GPUs are released and tested.
The Final Word
So, that would be all that we know about Nvidia Ampere right now. Naturally, a lot of it is pure conjecture, but be sure to check back every once in a while and see if any new information had been released. And as always, if you know something that we do not, let us know in the comments!