AMD Open to Making Mobile GPUs

Looking back, AMD missed a big opportunity to get into the mobile phone and tablet market. According to Raja Koduri, SVP for RTG, AMD may be contemplating getting back into the mobile graphics market, provided the circumstances are right.

Originally a part of ATI, the mobile graphics division, Imageon was acquired by AMD along with the parent company. After running into severe financial hardship, AMD decided to sell the mobile division off to Qualcomm which renamed it Adreno, an anagram of Radeon. Combined with their custom ARM CPUs, Qualcomm has managed to become the largest mobile SoC vendor, putting Adreno into millions of devices. The only other major competitors are Imagination and Mali from ARM itself.

By considering the mobile GPU market if the right customer comes by, AMD is opening yet another market for them to enter. Right now, Adreno is still largely based on the VLIW architecture that ATI and AMD left in 2011. GCN, on the other hand, is a more complex and advanced architecture with arguably better performance per watt. With the rise of GPU based compute being used in gaming, GCN may be a potent force in tablets.

Seeking more custom chip customers makes sense of AMD given that their consoles deals are helping keep the firm afloat as other sources of revenue are dropping. There is a large measure of risk however as Nvidia has demonstrated with their flagging Tegra lineup. By securing a customer first, AMD can pass on the risk and run a much safer course. Perhaps, the next PSP or DS will be running GCN.

AMD’s Raja Koduri Talks Future Developments – Capsaicin

Even though a lot of information was shared from the Capsaicin live stream, some details weren’t made known till the after party. In an interview, Radeon Technologies Group head Raja Koduri spoke in more detail about the plans AMD has for the future and the direction they see gaming and hardware heading towards.

First up of course, was the topic of the Radeon Pro Duo, AMD’s latest flagship device. Despite the hefty $1499 price tag, AMD considers the card a good value, something like a FirePro Lite, with enough power to both game and develop on it, a card for creators who game and gamers who create. If AMD does tune the drivers more to enhance the professional software support, the Pro Duo will be well worth the cash considering how much real FirePro cards cost.

Koduri also see the future of gaming being dual-GPU cards. With Crossfire and SLI, dual GPU cards were abstracted away as one on the driver level. Because of this, performance widely varies for each game and support requires more work on the driver side. For DX12 and Vulkan, the developer can now choose to implement multi-GPU support themselves and build it into the game for much greater performance. While the transition won’t fully take place till 2017-2019, AMD wants developers to start getting used to the idea and getting ready.

This holds true for VR as well as each GPU can render for each eye independently, achieving near 2x performance benefit. The benefits though are highly dependent on the game engine and how well it works with LiquidVR. Koduri notes that some engines are as easy as a few hours work while others may take months. Roy Taylor, VP at AMD was also excited about the prospect of the upcoming APIs and AMD’s forward-looking hardware finally getting more use and boosting performance. In some ways, the use of multi-GPU is similar to multi-core processors and the use of simultaneous multi-threading (SMT) to maximize performance.

Finally, we come to Polaris 10 and 11. AMD’s naming scheme is expected the change, with the numbers being chronologically based, so the next Polaris will be bigger than 11 but not necessarily a higher performance chip. AMD is planning to use Polaris 10 and 11 to hit as many price/performance and performance/watt levels as possible so we can possibly expect multiple cards to be based on each chip, meaning probably 3. This should help AMD harvest imperfect dies and help their bottom line. Last of all, Polaris may not feature HBM2 as AMD is planning to hold back till the economics make sense. That about wraps it up for Capsaicin!