More and more information is pointing to the state of readiness for AMD’s upcoming Polaris GPUs. According to information spotted in AIDA64 and HWiNFO Changelog, support for 3 new GPUs, Ellesmere, Baffin and Greenland has appeared. As these nomenclatures predate AMD’s Polaris announcement, we can assume that Greenland is Vega 10 while Baffin and Ellesmere are one of Polaris 10 and 11. With AMD going around and handing out the PCI-e ID for Polaris, this means engineering samples are just around the corner.
Switching away from the Islands based noncom lecture, the new architecture maintains it’s GCN roots but is otherwise heavily improved. Graphics guru Raja Koduri noted that the new GCN 4.0 is built purposefully for use with the new 14/16nm process and FinFETs. Combined other redesigned blocks and units on the GPU, the new cards will offer a revolutionary improvement over the past. The use of HBM2 and GDDR5X also means these cards will be both more power efficient and able to push higher resolutions easier.
With Polaris set to arrive in mid-2016, it’s only a matter of time before we get more information and leaks out of AMD. Once launched, the new architecture will usher in a new era for GPUs and hopefully for AMD as well.
With both AMD and Nvidia set to debut new GPU architectures next year, many are expecting both greater performance and improved performance per watt. While Nvidia has recently taken the lead in this area, it looks like AMD is making big gains themselves. According to CEO Lisa Su, Artic Islands will double performance per watt over the current offerings. This will place Artic Islands well past Maxwell though Pascal is still an unknown at this point.
In order to get such a large improvement, AMD is counting on their architectural improvements, continued use of HBM, as well as the process advantage moving from 28nm to TSMC’s 16nm FF+. At this point, it’s hard to determine what current offerings means, with calculations based off Tonga coming in ahead of Maxwell by a good margin but using Fiji as a baseline will give even better gains.
With improved performance per watt, we can also expect raw performance to improve as well. With lower TDP, we can expect larger dies which obviously give more performance if done right. A new architecture also opens up room for good gains as does the increased die sizes available from the new process. 2016 will be pretty interesting as AMD and Nvidia battle it out, with AMD given a chance to take back some much need marketshare.
According to multiple sources, AMD is working on 3 new GPUs as part of their 2016 lineup. Likely part of the Arctic Islands release, the 3 chips all fit the theme being called Greenland, Baffin and Ellesmere. Greenland is set to be the flagship product while Baffin and Ellesmere will probably target other segments like performance and mainstream.
While we’ve already gotten some information about what Greenland will look like, we’re also learning that the ISA (Instruction Set Architecture) is undergoing major changes. Since 2011, AMD has been working with GCN, or Graphics Core Next. There have been several iterations from the original GCN 1.0 like 1.1 which powers the R9 290/290X and GCN 1.2 which is found in the R9 285 and Fury/Fiji. With this latest ISA change, AMD is moving beyond GCN to “post-GCN” on a radically new architecture. In some ways, the time spent with GCN highlighted how AMD has a slower cycle than Nvidia but also showcased the staying power of the architectures, which is finally seeing AMD’s early invest pay off with DX12.
This new ISA is also set to net AMD massive gains in the power efficiency department. While Nvidia showed strong gains moving from Kepler to Maxwell, AMD is reporting that their new ISA will double power efficiency. This should leapfrog Maxwell and will likely be a strong competitor to Pascal. Given the use of either 14nm or 16nm FinFETs as well, we may well see even more massive power savings. Combined with up to 32GB of HBM2 which is also pretty power efficient, 2016 looks to be a pretty big year.
Both Baffin and Ellesmere are also expected to be entirely new cards as well. This will bring a much-needed refresh to the AMD lineup which largely consists of rebrands at this point. Hopefully, these new cards and Zen will bring enough to the table and turn things around for the beleaguered firm.
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AMD made history earlier this month by being the first major GPU vendor to ship HBM with their top end Fury and Fury X graphics cards. Nvidia however, has been absent so far, waiting on HBM2, a more advanced version of the HBM1 shipping with Fury(X), before getting into the new tech. According to a report though, AMD is leveraging their deal with SK Hynix to get priority access to HBM2 in time for their upcoming Arctic Islands GPUs.
While HBM1 is limited to 4GB and 512GB/s, HBM2 increases those numbers significantly with up to 16/32GB of VRAM and over 1024 GB/s. Like HBM1, HBM2 is expected to be in limited supply at launch. If AMD has priority for HBM2, and the stocks are low, it may mean that Nvidia practically won’t be able to use HBM2 until the supply improves enough that AMD can’t use what is available. This might create a de facto exclusively for AMD, offering a chance for the underdog to dominate with HBM2 GPUs.
If the supply of HBM2 is limited, it could complicate things for Nvidia. Their Pascal architecture is set for 2016 and could be designed for either GDDR5 or HBM2, which vary widely in implementation. Nvidia can choose to go with GDDR5 but risk losing its lead over AMD and inability to refresh with HBM2 later on. If Nvidia does go with HBM2, supply might be heavily constrained, allowing AMD a chance to grab market share. It will be interesting to see both side’s offerings in early 2016 and the choices they make for their lineup.
Thank you WCCFTech for providing us with this information