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Sorting the silicon
Cypress is manufactured by TSMC on its 40-nm fab process, and it shoehorns an estimated (and breathtaking) 2.15 billion transistors into a die that's 334 mm². That makes it a little bit larger than other mid-sized GPUs; both the RV770 and the G92b from Nvidia are about 256 mm². Because they're both manufactured on a 55-nm process, they contain considerably fewer transistors—956 million for the RV770 and 754 million for the G92b, though counting methods sometimes vary. Chip size is important because it relates pretty directly to manufacturing costs. By delivering the first 40-nm product in this part of the market, and by cramming in a formidable amount of processing power, AMD has a good thing going.



The 55-nm G92b

Comparisons to the GT200 chip on GeForce GTX 200-series graphics cards are more difficult, because Nvidia doesn't like to talk about die sizes, and I'm too chicken to pry the metal cap off one of the chips and risk destroying a card in the process.

The 65-nm GT200 under its metal cap

We know the GT200 ain't small. Its transistor count is roughly 1.4 billion, and credible reports placed the original 65-nm GT200's die size at 576 mm². The 55-nm GT200b shrink probably made it just under the 500 mm² mark, according to the rumor mill, but that's still, uh, hefty. I swear I saw Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman racing to plant a flag in one corner of the thing.

Cypress is but one member of an entire Evergreen family of products in development at AMD, all of which will share a common technology base. Initially, two cards, the Radeon HD 5870 and 5850, will be based on Cypress. Another codename, Hemlock, denotes the multi-GPU card based on dual Cypress chips that will likely be known as the Radeon HD 5870 X2. Juniper is a separate, smaller chip aimed at the range between $100 and $200. Logic dictates AMD would slot Juniper-based cards into the Radeon HD 5700 series. All of these products are scheduled to be introduced between now and the end of the year, amazingly enough, some in rapid succession.

The rest of the Evergreens will fall after Christmas, in the first quarter of 2010. Redwood is slated to serve the mainstream market (i.e., really cheap graphics cards) and Cedar the value segment (really even cheaper, like $60 cards). When all is said and done, AMD should have a top-to-bottom family of 40-nm, DirectX 11-capable graphics card offerings.