Nvidia's GeForce GTX 480 struggles at 40nm

Nvidia has cut back on the number of cores its GeForce GTX 480/470 (Fermi)-based graphics cards, if reports from Digitimes are to be believed.

The wire service is located just down the road from the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), where the 40nm chips are being made, so it should know what's going on there.

Digitimes credits "sources from graphics card makers" with the information, not ruling out the possibility it came from ATI - AMD's graphics arm uses the exact same facility for it 40nm DX11 cards - so it too should know what's going on at TSMC. It'd be a great place for a geek to be a fly on the wall.

The higher end GTX 480 originally was expected to brandish 512 cores, but will now have 480 - and it will be some time before Nvidia will be able to produce a 512-core version.

The spooky collision of number of cores and nomenclature is probably incidental to the fact that Nvidia has been battling manufacturing problems for some time at 40nm.

If both Charlie and the competition had seen this coming, Nvidia too will have gambled on spinning out the process of launching the cards.

If TSMC's 40nm yield currently is still lower than 50 per cent, as reports suggest, some GTX 470 chips with 448 cores may be available to buy from April 6.

Charlie thinks we'll still be scratching around for parts come July and that Nvidia will still always struggle to deliver the chip. Its size means fewer chips per wafer and when wafers are in short supply volume is impacted.

ATI is suffering supply constraints, too. But it remains further down the 40nm path, with a smaller die, and with a full range of DX11 offerings. Nvidia is currently fighting back with hot air.

The GeForce GTX 480 will be priced at $500 and the GeForce GTX 470 at $350.