AMD Reveals Polaris 10 and 11 Market Positioning

While we’ve pretty much confirmed that GP104 will replace the current Maxwell chips with the new GTX 1080 and 1070, things are less clear from AMD. We got some clarification yesterday from the release of a new roadmap that appeared to show Polaris 10 replacing current Fiji cards. With a new statement as part of their Q1 earnings release, AMD is shedding a bit more light on where they see Polaris 11 fitting in.

“AMD demonstrated its “Polaris” 10 and 11 next-generation GPUs, with Polaris 11 targeting the notebook market and “Polaris” 10 aimed at the mainstream desktop and high-end gaming notebook segment. “Polaris” architecture-based GPUs are expected to deliver a 2x performance per watt improvement over current generation products and are designed for intensive workloads including 4K video playback and virtual reality (VR).”

From the statement, we can see that Polaris 11 is meant for mainstream desktop and high-end gaming notebook segment. To me, this suggests that Polaris 10 will be branded 480 and 480X which has been the mainstream segment. With at 2304 stream processors, this would make for a good 390X replacement and once you consider the significant improvements GCN 4.0 brings, it would be competitive with Fury. Polaris 11 seems to be targeting the low power segment with notebooks and like x70/x70X which have historically been the top end notebook cards.

If our speculation is correct, this means AMD is transitioning to a release schedule similar to Nvidia. The mainstream chip with Polaris 10 would come in first with a slight improvement over the current Fiji flagships. A few months later, in early 2017, we will see Vega with HBM2 come in as a true upgrade over Fury X. Starting off, it looks like GP104 and Polaris 10 will battle it out quite equally so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

AMD Graphics Roadmap Reveals Fiji Replacement

One of the biggest concerns about Polaris 10 has been whether or not it will be a true replacement for Fury X. With the latest leaks out, most of the information points to about 100W TDP with 2304 shaders and clock speeds around 1050Mhz. Compared to Nvidia’s Pascal GP104, this doesn’t sound very competitive, leading to concerns that Nvidia would dominate the high-end. With the release today of AMD’s more detailed roadmap, our concerns have been laid to rest.

The new official roadmap offers a bit more detail than the one AMD showed back at Capsaicin. The new one offers more detail around Polaris 10 and 11, with both chips working to replace the entire Fury and 300 series lineup. This means the top Polaris 11 chip will offer enough performance to at least match, if not exceed Fury X. This should be competitive enough against GP104. If the 2304 shader report is true, AMD has truly revamped GCN 4.0 into something that is significantly superior to GCN 1.0 while cutting power consumption at the same time.

The layout for Polaris compared to the current lineup also suggests there will be no rebrands for the 400 series. It suggests that Polaris 10 will go from about 490X to 480 while Polaris 11 will fill in 470X down to at least 460. With how well small die low power Polaris 11 has done, rebrands don’t really make any sense. Finally, Vega will drop in 2017 with HBM2 and not in late 2016 as some have hoped.

With the improvements AMD has done, I am really looking forward to what Polaris and GCN 4.0 will bring to the graphics landscape.

AMD May Launch Polaris R9 470 and R9 480 at Computex

Polaris 10 and 11 have long been tagged as releasing at Computex later this year. As we know from AMD directly, Polaris 10 will be the flagship chip while Polaris 11 will fill in the gap below. Previously, the expectation has been that Polaris 10 would do battle against GP104/GTX 1080 when that card launched. Now it seems that the card won’t be as high performing as we’ve come to expect.

According to the source, Polaris 10 won’t be the R9 490 and 490X we’ve come to expect as the GP104 challenger. Instead, the approximately 2304 core GPU (up to 2560) will be branded as the R9 480 or 480X. This is largely based on the clock speeds which have been reported as between 800-1050Mhz and the TDP of 110-135W. It’s hard to see how a 125W GPU will match the approx 250W GP104 that Nvidia will launch. Polaris 11 has also had its TDP leaked at 50W which is actually a bit higher than expected.

There is still some hope though as this information is reportedly from last month that has finally leaked out. This means AMD could have tweaked the TDP and clock speeds higher since then, perhaps to around 1200Mhz and 150W+ TDP. AMD has also introduced massive tweaks to GCN to achieve greater efficiency along with the move to 14nm. Nvidia may also have chosen to reintroduce FP64 compute units to Pascal GeForce which could take as much as 30% of the TDP, putting the GP104 at a real 200W worth of gaming performance. Either way, the battle between AMD and Nvidia will be heating up at Computex.

More AMD Polaris 10 Details Revealed

In the few days after AMD first demoed Polaris 10 to us at Capsaicin, more details about the upcoming graphics cards have been revealed. Set to be the big brother to the smaller Polaris 11, the better performing chip will drop sometime after June this year.

First off, we’re now able to bring you more information about the settings Hitman was running at during the demo. At Ultra Settings and 1440p, Polaris 10 was able to keep to a constant 60FPS, with VSync being possible. This means the minimum FPS did not drop below 60 at any point. This puts the card at least above the R9 390X and on par if no better than the Fury and Fury X. Of course, the demo was done with DX12 but the boost is only about 10% in Hitman.

Another detail we have uncovered is the maximum length of the engineering sample. Based on the Cooler Master Elite 110 case used, the maximum card length is 210mm or 8.3 inches. In comparison, the Nano is 6 inches and the Fury X 7.64 inches. Given the small size, one can expect Polaris 10 to be as power efficient as Polaris 11 and potentially be using HBM. Given that Vega will be the cards to debut HBM2, Polaris 10 may be limited to 4GB of VRAM. Finally, display connectivity is provided by 3x DP 1.3, 1x HDMI 2.0 and 1 DVI-D Dual Link though OEMs may change this come launch unless AMD locks it down.

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!

AMD Demos Polaris 10 – Capsaicin

Right before the Capsaicin event at GDC was about to begin, AMD teased everyone that they will reveal Polaris 10 running a demo for the Valve SteamVR benchmark. Unfortunately, that did not come to pass on the live stream, those of us at home still got a demo of Polaris 10 gameplay in the end.

“Showcasing next-generation VR-optimized GPU hardware – AMD today demonstrated for the first time ever the company’s forthcoming Polaris 10 GPU running Valve’s Aperture Science Robot Repair demo powered by the HTC Vive Pre. The sample GPU features the recently announced Polaris GPU architecture designed for 14nm FinFET, optimized for DirectX® 12 and VR, and boasts significant architectural improvements over previous AMD architectures including HDR monitor support, industry-leading performance-per-watt2, and AMD’s 4th generation Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture.”

Running the latest Hitman title, Polaris 10 seemed to handle itself well enough. Performance, however, is hard to ascertain given the poor quality of the stream, unknown FPS count and unknown settings. For now, we can only speculate whether or not Polaris 10 is big Polaris or not and how it will perform in the end. Luckily, we only have to wait till June before the first Polaris chips arrive in our waiting hands.

AMD Polaris Project F GPU Revealed

With Polaris only months away, more details about what Polaris 10 and 11 will look like are coming out. According to an ex-AMD employee profile on LinkedIn, a dGPU codenamed Project F is set to be built on GlobalFounrdies and Samsung 14nm LPP process. What’s more, the Project F GPU will be 232mm2, making the chips similar in size to the 232mmof Pitcairn and Curacao from the 28nm generation of GCN.

At 232mm2, Project F is a relatively small chip for a new process. This should give AMD a low-risk option to evaluate the 2nd generation 14nm process from GlobalFounrdies and Samsung focused on performance. With the use of the new process, the number of transistors will grow massively due to the increased transistor density over 28nm. This should let Project F to pack in at least 4-5 million transistors, putting it at least into the R9 380 and 380X (359mm2) performance range before considering any architectural improvements.

Finally, by using 14nm, Project F is most likely the GPU that AMD showed off back at CES that severely trounced the GTX 950 in performance per watt. With the larger die size, it stands to reason that the demo unit was likely underclocked a bit or not allowed to turbo, letting it be much more efficient. Even at full power, AMD likely has a card that will be much more efficient than Maxwell while offering significantly improved performance over the last generation at a similar cost.

AMD Polaris 10 and 11 Will Deliver Revolutionary Performance Increase

For 2016, AMD has confirmed they will be releasing at least 2 Polaris based GPUs. According to AMD’s CES presentation, these have been preliminarily dubbed Polaris 10 and 11. Based off the new Polaris architecture, the 10 is similarly sized to Cape Verde while the 11 is of similar size to Fiji and likely AMD’s 2016 flagship. With the CES demo chip likely being Polaris 10, we’re now getting word from RTG head Raja Koduri about what AMD is expecting with Polaris.

In an interview with VentureBeat, Koduri had this to say:

We have two versions of these FinFET GPUs. Both are extremely power efficient. This is Polaris 10 and that’s Polaris 11. In terms of what we’ve done at the high level, it’s our most revolutionary jump in performance so far. We’ve redesigned many blocks in our cores. We’ve redesigned the main processor, a new geometry processor, a completely new fourth-generation Graphics Core Next with a very high increase in performance. We have new multimedia cores, a new display engine.

This is very early silicon, by the way. We have much more performance optimization to do in the coming months. But even in this early silicon, we’re seeing numbers versus the best class on the competition running at a heavy workload, like Star Wars—The competing system consumes 140 watts. This is 86 watts. We believe we’re several months ahead of this transition, especially for the notebook and the mainstream market. […]

In summary, it’s fourth generation Graphics Core Next. HDMI 2.0. It supports all the new 4K displays and TVs coming out with just plug and play. It supports display core 4.3, the latest specification. It’s very exciting 4K support. We can do HAVC encode and decode at 4K on this chip. It’ll be great for game streaming at high resolution, which gamers absolutely love. It takes no cycles away from games. You can record gameplay and still have an awesome frame rate. It’ll be available in mid-2016.

As we noted in our initial Polaris coverage, AMD has heavily reworked GCN to suit the new reality. When Polaris does launch, it will likely usher in a new era for GPUs. This years is looking to be really exciting and here’s hoping it lives up to the hype.