Nvidia's GTC 2020 goes digital as rumors of next-gen 'Ampere' GeForce GPUs whirl

Nvidia's GTC 2020 developer conference, where we might get our first glimpse at the architecture inside next-gen GeForce graphics cards, is being shifted to digital form over coronavirus fears.

Credit: Nvidia

The dominoes continue to fall. Nvidia’s GTC 2020 conference will be “an online event due to growing concern over the coronavirus,” following the cancellation of Mobile World Conference, the Game Developers Conference, and others, the company announced Monday. The show will still go on, but only in virtual form—and despite it being a dev conference, it could be a momentous event for consumers hoping to hear more about next-gen “Ampere” GeForce graphics cards.

“[Nvidia founder and CEO Jensen Huang] will still give a keynote,” the company’s GTC 2020 portal now says. “We will still share our announcements. And we’ll work to ensure our speakers can share their talks. But we’ll do this all online.” The company also says that “For those in Nvidia’s developer program, we plan to schedule availability with our researchers, engineers and solution architects to answer technical questions.”

Nvidia hasn’t hinted at what Huang’s keynote will cover, but a cryptic teaser during the company’s recent financial call has set the rumor mill abuzz. To close out the call, Huang said “We’ll be talking a lot more about these key trends and much more at next month’s GTC Conference in San Jose. Come join me, you won’t be disappointed,” per Motley Fool’s transcription.

Cue the “Ampere is coming” hype posts.

nvidia volta tesla v100 Nvidia

Nvidia's Jensen Huang revealed the "Volta" GPU at GTC 2017.

To be clear, Nvidia hasn’t confirmed anything about its next-generation GPUs. It hasn’t said they’re code-named “Ampere.” It hasn’t said they’ll be built using the 7-nanometer process technology, which helped bring great power and performance gains to AMD’s rival Radeon graphics cards. And it hasn’t said that new GeForce graphics cards are coming this year.

All three are expected, however, and the timing lines up. Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 20-series graphics cards launched all the way back in August 2018, so we’re about due for a refresh. And after losing the race to 7nm to AMD, Nvidia has to be keen to position itself well before the much-teased launch of “Big Navi” Radeon GPUs later this year, as well as put its best foot forward before the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 launch this holiday season. The consoles will be built with AMD’s upcoming RDNA2 graphics architecture, complete with hardware support for real-time ray tracing—technology that Nvidia’s RTX graphics cards helped pioneer. Nvidia’s very competitive.

Mysterious Nvidia GPUs have also turned up in online benchmarks, as well.

dsc00629 Brad Chacos/IDG

The GeForce RTX 20-series is due for a refresh.

That said, if Nvidia provides a glimpse of Ampere at GTC 2020, don’t expect it to be the consumer iteration of it. Instead, we’d expect to see more details about a new architecture in the form of a Tesla GPU for data centers. Huang revealed the “Pascal” GPU architecture that eventually hit GeForce GTX 10-series graphics cards at GTX 2016 alongside the Tesla P100, while the “Volta” GPU architecture that informed much of the underlying tech of the “Turing” GPUs inside the GeForce RTX 20-series was revealed as the Tesla V100 at GTC 2017.

Stay tuned to Nvidia’s GTC 2020 page for more details on when to expect Jensen Huang’s keynote address, where a new architecture would be unveiled. And in the meantime, check out our guide to the best graphics cards for PC gaming to wrap your head around what’s available right now—because the best time to upgrade is when you need to upgrade.

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Brad Chacos

Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
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