Nearing the end of the cycle for their current generation products, its not surprising to see poor financial results come out from AMD. Last year was a terrible one and it looks like 2016 won’t be much better, at least for Q1. For the first quarter of 2016, AMD posted a net loss of $109 million from an operating revenue of $832 million. Unsurprisingly, it is better than 2015 as that year was arguably the worst ever.
AMD blames the revenue drop of 13% sequentially and 19% year-over-year as lower semi-custom sales. This is somewhat expected as we continue the PS4 and Xbox One lifecycle. The bright side is that Sony is set to release the PlayStation 4 Neo and even the Xbox One will see new revisions if not a full upgrade. Combined with the Nintendo NX, those should bounce back the semi-custom segment as consumers buy more consoles again.
Even though margins improved slightly to 32% (Intel posts around 60%), the increase in expenses led to the loss. This is reportedly due to increased R&D for upcoming products, which in my mind are due to Vega/Navi and Zen+ since Zen and Polaris are all set in stone by now. With Polaris 10 and Zen coming this year and even an Apple deal in the works, AMD has a good chance to turn things around as long as they can execute and head back to the black.
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.
After many fruitful years of partnerships with Apple, AMD is reportedly continuing the relationship with their latest Polaris based GPUs. Apple has alternated MacBook Pro suppliers between Nvidia and AMD in the past but tended towards AMD more with the Mac Pro. According to the source, the performance per watt of 14nm Polaris combined with the performance per dollar of the chips is what sold Apple.
AMD has long pursued a strategy os using smaller and more efficient chips to combat their biggest rival Nvidia. Prior to GCN, AMD tended to have smaller flagships that sipped less power and had lesser compute abilities. This all changed around with GCN where AMD focused on compute more while Nvidia did the opposite. This lead to Nvidia topping the efficiency charts and combined with their marketing soared in sales. If the rumours are true, Polaris 10 will be smaller than GP104, its main competitor.
With Polaris, AMD should be able to regain the efficiency advantage with both the move to 14nm and the new architecture. We may see Polaris based Macs as soon as WWDC in June, just after the cards launch at Computex. In addition to a ‘superior’ product, AMD is also willing to cut their margins a bit more in order to get a sale as we saw with the current-gen consoles. Perhaps, is AMD plays their cards well, we may see Zen Macs as well.
Battered on both the CPU and GPU fronts, consoles have been one of the few areas AMD has managed to outplay the competition. With competitive CPU and GPU architectures in one platform, AMD was able to secure Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft’s current-gen consoles. Nintendo is also set to continue to use AMD chips for the Nintendo NX console and that device will reportedly use a 14nm Polaris like GPU.
From previous rumours, we’ve already learned that the Nintendo NX will use an x86 architecture chip paired with at least 6-8GB OF DDR4. What more, the new console will also feature 4K support via upscaling, streaming media and likely playback as well. To wrap it all up, AMD is reportedly supplying Nintendo with a 14nm Polaris-like GPU for their upcoming console. This is similar to how the PS4 and Xbox One used GPUs that were a merger of GCN 1.1 and 1.2. The Nintendo NX may use a something beyond the GCN 4 that is Polaris.The OS also will use Vulkan as it’s graphics API.
With a strong Polaris chip on 14nm, Nintendo will have a chance at seizing the performance crown for once. Nintendo consoles have proven weaker generally and have suffered from lesser third-party support as a result. With 4K support, the NX may well match the PS4K and the rumoured replacement for the Xbox One. Hopefully, we will finally get 1080p 60FPS with decent graphics on consoles soon enough.
Back at E3 2015 nearly a year ago, AMD showed off their Project Quantum PC featuring 2 Fiji GPUs in a tiny form factor. Ironically, the feature AMD device used an Intel CPU instead of an AMD one and ended up using a single Fury chip instead of the dual Fiji we have come to know as the Radeon Pro Duo. Along with supply issues, we likely won’t see Project Quantum for a while. According to Diit though, when it does arrive, it will use AMD’s own Zen CPU and new Vega GPUs.
The main reason AMD chose to use an Intel CPU was simple. AMD CPUs were not up to snuff and with the Project Quantum aimed at being the best, it required a top-end CPU, one from Intel. With Zen set to debut later this year though, AMD has a chance to showcase the potential of their chip, showing that is capable of driving the fastest graphics cards out there without holding anything back.
On the graphics side, the delay on the CPU side means Vega, the full-on Fiji replacement with HBM2 will have a chance at Project Quantum. Vega should have no trouble beating FuryX and potentially even the Radeon Pro Duo. By delaying, AMD also reaps the benefits of moving the entire system to 14nm FinFETs, finally making the true VR PC for those that want the best.
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.
Some of the first cards to run utilizing the all new “Pascal” architecture made by Nvidia, may debut at Computex 2016. The show is going to be in Late may / Early June in Taipei and is one of the biggest ICT shows in the world and you can be sure the eTeknix team will be there to catch the latest news from the event!
Mass shipments should start sometime in July according to Digitimes, the Taiwan based industry observer. With Nvidia unveiling the new cards via its add-in card (AIC) partners, with large manufacturers such as ASUS, MSI, and GIGABYTE being at the event.
The new GPU will be based on the GP104 chip and utilize GDDR5X VRAM; a whopping 8GB is rumored to be the amount. The leaked specs show it having a single eight-pin power connector, meaning that (due to electrical capacity) the max power usage would be 225W, though it could use a lot less power. The 980 is only 165W so this card can’t be a huge amount more. The leaked specs also tell us that it could feature up to 6144 CUDA cores and a whopping 12.6 Teraflops. We’re not sure how accurate these specs are as they have been sourced from various places, only time will tell. Either way, Computex 2016 is going to be huge this year.
So far, we can accurately say:
2x performance per watt estimated improvement over Maxwell
DirectX 12_1 or higher
Successor to the GM200 GPU in the 980TI
Built on 16nm manufacturing process
It will be interesting to see the Polaris release too, as there is going to be some very tough competition on the GPU market shortly and that’s obviously great news for consumers.
Which cards are you most excited about this year, AMD’s or Nvidia’s latest? Let us know in the comments section below.
As always, most of the focus on Polaris has been on the top end chip. This has meant that much of the talk ahs been focused on the Polaris 10, the R9 390X/Fury replacement. Today though, we’ve been treated to a leak of the mainstream Polaris chip, Polaris 11. Based off of a CompuBench leak, we’re now getting a clearer picture of what Polaris 11 will look like as the Pitcairn replacement.
The specific Polaris 11 chip spotted features a total of 16CUs, for 1024 GCN 4.0 Stream Processors. This puts it right where the 7850/R7 370 is right now. Given the efficiency gains seen by the move to GCN 4.0 though, performance should fall near the 7870XT or R9 280. The move to 14nm FinFET also means the chip will be much smaller than Pitcairn currently is. Of course, this information is only for the 67FF SKU so there may be a smaller or more likely, a larger Polaris 11 in the works.
Other specifications have also been leaked, with a 1000Mhz core clock speed. Memory speed came in at 7000Mhz, with 4GB of VRAM over a 128bit bus. This gives 112GB/s of bandwidth which is a tad higher than the R7 370 before you consider that addition of delta colour compression technology. GCN 4.0 will also bring a number of other improvements tot he rest of the GPU, most importantly FreeSync support, something Pitcairn lacks.
While we can’t guarantee the same SKU was used, Polaris 11 was the GPU AMD pitted against the GTX 950 back at CES. During the benchmark of Star Wars Battlefront, the AMD system only drew 84W compared to the Nvidia system pulling 140W. For the many gamers who buy budget and mainstream cards, Polaris 11 is shaping out very well.
AMD’s upcoming graphics architecture, codenamed ‘Polaris’ will be the company’s first product utilizing the 14nm FinFET manufacturing process. During CES 2016, AMD showcased the greatly improved performance per watt compared to the current 28nm NVIDIA GTX 950. As a result, the upcoming R9 490X and R9 490 will not be another rebranding exercise and should offer significant performance gains. It’s still unclear how AMD will position these products in comparison to the Fury X, Fury and Nano line-up. In theory, the 490X and 490 could be faster than the Fury X which becomes a product designed to compete with the 480. Personally, I’m really not sure, and it’s clear that AMD is really pushing the benefits of performance per watt with Polaris 10. To me that showcases their focus and suggests the main advantages will revolve around TDP.
According to Hardware Battle, and discovered by VideoCardz, the 490X and 490 will apparently launch in June. It looks increasingly likely that AMD will unveil their latest range at Computex. Shortly after that, the products should be with retailers in a swift manner. Hardware Battle is a reliable source and known to have good connections with AMD. While this doesn’t prove that the information is correct, it corresponds with earlier suggestions that AMD was planning the launch during Q2 2016.
On another note, the performance numbers Polaris is capable of should provide an indication of the improvements we can expect on NVIDIA’s GTX 1000 series. Whatever the case, this is an exciting time for the graphics card world, even though the huge strides forward will occur during the next architecture. It’s still unclear when NVIDIA will launch their consumer HBM2 graphics cards. Rumors suggest consumer Pascal might not happen until next year.
Personally, I’m just excited to see the industry move away from 28nm graphics cards to instigate a brand new era of hardware advancements.
Right now, it has more or less been confirmed that Sony is working on an update to the PlayStation 4. Referred to as the PlayStation 4K by multiple sources, the console won’t be running any games at 4K anytime soon. Contrary to the expectations from its name, the new console probably won’t be able to game at 4K, with the update more of a performance bump rather than a giant leap.
From the various leaks, it looks like the update will be based on the new 14nm process AMD is using for Polaris. With the new process, Sony has a chance to use cheaper and more power efficient dies to either cut cost or grow performance for more or less free. Right now the PS4 has hardware similar to the 7870 based on GCN 1.1. With an update, Sony has a chance to jump to Polaris with GCN 1.3/4.0 along with a significant power efficiency increase, allowing the console to stuff a 7970 class GPU in the console. While not enough for 4K, this should allow many more titles to run at 1080p and at a higher level of quality. From what Sony has hinted at, the PS4K will simply be the same PS4 but with improved graphics and higher FPS. This should allow for a similar gameplay experience for users and ensuring games still work fine with the stock PS4. The update to a new architecture will also bring HDMI 2.0 support, which will allow for 4K at 60fps, a first for a console. This pairs up nicely with the Ultra HD Blu-Ray support we are expecting which will allow for 4K content at 60fps.
This year, both AMD and Nvidia will be launching their new Polaris and Pascal based GPUs. Unfortunately, it looks like the flagship chips won’t be arriving till next year. Set to arrive in early 2017, Vega, also known as Greenland, is to be the flagship replacement for Fiji. According to information 3DCenter dug up, Vega will feature 4096 GCN shaders, the same amount as Fiji currently has.
With Polaris and Vega, there are suggestions that AMD has managed to improve GCN 4.0’s performance by 30% compared to current GCN offerings. This alone should allow a significant performance increase over the Fury X. Fiji was also limited due to the design of GCN being unoptimized for massive chips with too many shaders and if AMD has managed to fix this, Vega will perform better than expected.
Furthermore, Vega will utilize HBM2 which will finally remove the 4GB cap faced by HBM GPUs as well as reduce latency. The use of 14nm as well and other Polaris improvements will also allow for a cooler and less power hungry die. We can also expect Vega to come in at a die size similar to Hawaii rather than Fiji, with a true Fiji size successor to come later on in the process cycle.
With just about 2 months to launch, it is inevitable that more details about Polaris are going to leak out. According to a patch submitted by AMD, it appears that Polaris 10 and 11 are the same chips previously leaked as Ellesmere and Baffin respectively. Furthermore, it appears that Ellesmere will be an R9 390/390X configuration replacement but offer Fury X like performance.
According to the patch, Polaris 10, the top end Polaris chip is codenamed Ellesmere while Baffin is Polaris 11. This collaborates previously released information that Ellesmere, Baffin and Greenland would be launching soon. While Baffin has been spotted shipping, Ellesmere has not, suggesting it is either a bigger more complex die or the higher end product AMD wants to keep under wraps.
Finally, we are getting some more specifications for Polaris 10. According to benchmarks spotted online, one Ellesmere configuration will be 2304 GCN cores in 32CUs running at 800-1000mhz. The chip will also have a 256bit memory bus and 8GB of VRAM running at 1500Mhz (7500Mhz effective). This places the card as a solid replacement for the 390/390X segment with a 2560 core unit being the top model. The reduced memory bus width is offset by AMD’s lossless texture compression and increased GDDR5 clocks.
Given the gains from 14nm and the new Polaris GCN architecture, it wouldn’t be unexpected for a 2560 core unit to beat Fury X as shown in the Hitman demo. This means AMD has managed to bump GCN performance by about 30%, the biggest from them since GCN was originally launched. With Pascal not expected to give much of a boost, AMD may finally seize the performance/efficiency crown from Nvidia.
One of the first applications that came to mind with HBM was pairing it up with an AMD APU. Proven to work as VRAM with the Fiji GPUs last year, HBM also has possible applications to act as a high-speed cache for other applications where density is important. While we’ve known that AMD has been planning APUs with HBM, the latest report points to Raven Ridge, the 2017 series of APUs that follow Bristol Ridge, to have HBM.
According to the source, Raven Ridge will utilize AMD’s upcoming Zen CPU cores likely paired with Polaris GCN iGPU. With 14nmLPP and Polaris, AMD can stuff a much larger iGPU with their APUs without worrying too much about extra costs or ballooning die size. However, even with the current generation of APUs, the iGPU is bottlenecked at the high-end, something even DDR4 won’t fully solve.
In order to keep growing APU GPU performance, AMD also needs to increase the memory bandwidth. One way, of course, is to use eDRAM as Intel has done with notable success. That, however, is expensive, leading to the top SKUs costing near $400. In comes HBM to the rescue at a relatively lower cost, allowing a large yet budget friendly cache pool to help reduce bandwidth constraints. To produce this, AMD has tapped Amkor, the same firm that worked on Fiji interposers to package Raven Ridge.
With at least, 1GB HBM buffer, the APU will be very well fed, allowing for the iGPU to grow to at least R7 370 performance levels before running out of steam. AMD is also probably working on HMC to supplant HBM in the future as well. If AMD manages to pull this off, Raven Ridge will be the most potent APUs yet, securing the crown against Intel.
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.
Even as Polaris approaches us quickly within 3 months, the planning for its successor has long been in the works. At their Capsaicin event, AMD took off the wraps for their upcoming GPU plans with a roadmap detailing the planned releases up till 2019. In keeping with the star nomenclature that started with Polaris and ditching the islands, we will have Vega and then Navi following Polaris.
Starting off with Polaris later this year, AMD’s main selling point it seems is the 2.5x performance per watt the new GCN architecture will bring. This is no doubt due to the combination of improved hardware itself, the new 14nm LPP process and DX12 finally making use of the previously wasted hardware resources like asynchronous controllers and shaders.
Moving along, we have Vega to release in what looks to be early 2017. The biggest change it seems is the use of HBM2, replacing GDDR5(X) and HBM1 no doubt. This means we can no doubt expected all Vega releases to utilize HBM2. While this may suggest Polaris won’t be using HBM2, it could also mean that only certain Polaris chips, likely only the high-end ones, will use HBM2.
Finally, we come to Navi, which should debut in early 2018. This release will have scalability and use of next-gen memory like Hyper-Memory Cube for instance. The scalability mention suggests either the use of smaller GCN units used to build the chip to better suit the market or a new process node. For now, we are probably better off trying to figure out what Polaris will be
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.
Prepare your wallets for summer 2016 because both AMD and Nvidia are going to release their new GPUs then. Yesterday, we got the first hint about Nvidia’s GTX 1080 which is reportedly launching May 27th. For AMD, the details for Polaris have always been a bit vague, with only mid-2016 being the only hint. Today, a new rumour has popped up with the suggestion that AMD will launch Polaris in June 2016. Furthermore, AMD will be providing a sneak peak of Polaris at Capsaicin next week.
A June launch puts Polaris right into the area of Computex and E3, perfect events to showcase the new GPUs. Launching at the same time as Nvidia also avoids certain issues as AMD has gotten into trouble both launching before and after Nvidia so maybe launching at the same time will be the key. Set to be on the 14nmLPP process, AMD has a good chance to snag some marketshare away from Nvidia.
Next week, we may get a few more details from AMD about what Polaris will look like in the sneak peak. One can only hope the sneak peak will be more than just a picture or another demo but something more substantive. On March 14th, AMD’s Capsaicin webcast from GDC will likely reveal FuryX2 as well as showcase some of their VR developments. With AMD having hit their worst marketshare yet recently, they have started their come back and can only up. Hopefully, Polaris will deliver what is needed.
Sadly the experience on some websites these days can very quickly be summed up by the word “loading”. We like our pictures, our videos and some even like ads, the problem being is that everything you view on the internet has to come from somewhere and that is where the loading comes in. MIT and Harvard want to give you a hand and help speed up your browsing online.
The plan for Polaris is to open-source the framework, meaning you could soon find it in every site and browser you use, and with it showing reductions of up to 34% in loading time on websites, you can get one more cat video in on your lunch break.
After the recent Taiwanese earthquake, many Nvidia and AMD watchers may have worried about their upcoming Pascal and Polaris GPUs. While TSMC did eventually reveal that there would be a hit to their chip production, especially 16nm, it seems like things should be fine. According to the latest reports, TSMC is planning to double their 16nm wafer production from 40,000 per month up to 80,000 per month.
While this number may still be slightly depressed due to the earthquake, it does mean TSMC is taking in more 16nm orders and is able to supply them. Nvidia is relying on TSMC to supply them with 16nmFF+ GPUs for use with Pascal which is set to launch later this year. A ramp up now would mean the a mid-2016 launch for the earliest Pascal chips, right in line with rumours. For AMD, TSMC will play a lesser role as Polaris may be using GlobalFoundries 14nmLPP exclusively.
One snag in the above analysis is that these maybe Apple A10 SoCs. Apple has been moving away from Samsung as their main chip supplier and Apple may be starting to ramp up iPhone SoC orders. Either way, the fact that 16nmFF+ is doing well means the earthquake likely won’t affect chip supply and prices.
With GDC just a week away, everyone is getting ready for major announcements from AMD and Nvidia. AMD however, will also be hosting their separate live streamed event at Ruby Skye in San Fransisco. Named after Capsaicin, a chemical behind a spicy pepper’s kick, AMD will be showcasing their latest innovations in Virtual Reality and Gaming. This means we may get a product reveal or too from the event as well as maybe some more.
Given the recent focus on VR, it is very likely that FuryX2 Gemini will finally be launched since the VR HMD are finally ready. This falls right in line with what has revealed about FuryX2 being ready already and the VR focus of the live stream.
In addition to that, we may finally get some more information about Polaris, though a launch may still be a long way away. March is still too early for Polaris to launch given the mid-2016 remarks but more demo units, especially higher end Polaris wouldn’t be out of the question.
Finally, we can expect AMD to showcase their LiquidVR solution in partnership with the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. That will likely come along with their other gaming and VR oriented solutions and DX12. The event will be streamed on AMD’s investor relations page so be sure to check it out when the time comes.
With the reddit AMA now behind us, we can share with you some of the answers that we felt were the highlight of the question period. As expected, AMD was a bit light on details and specifics about Polaris but there were a number of important and new pieces of information.
The biggest news is that Polaris will be using the 14nm LPP FinFET process from GlobalFoundries, not a mix of 14nm LPP and 16nm FinFET+ from TSMC as previous leaked. This means Nvidia and AMD will no longer be sharing a process node for their CPUs. It also means that AMD’s GPU and CPU lineups will now be using the same process, simplifying things for APUs. Furthermore, the Taiwan earthquake that hit TSMC won’t impact Polaris yields and timeline as well. Polaris is also confirmed once again for a mid-2016 launch. Polaris will also bring Display Port 1.3 support as well.
Another confirmation is the move that AMD started in 2014 with a big annual driver release with major feature additions spaced out with point releases for specific fixes and optimizations. Those hoping that RTG would speed up driver updates to implement more features faster will be disappointed. For hardware, Fiji Gemini has already debuted for B2B customers and shipped to them but consumer launch is still waiting for HMD VR, a mistake in my mind.
Other tidbits include the fact that the LiquidVR SDK has support Affinity Multi-GPU which will allow a dedicated GPU for each eye in VR. VR is also expected to make use of TrueAudio, something that PC has shunned but consoles have picked up a bit on. There are also 25 million active daily users for AMD’s Gaming Evolved application.
Finally, AMD revealed that the optimal tessellation amount for GCN is 8-16x. Beyond that, there will be a heavy performance hit for no real gain in visual fidelity *cough* HairWorks/GameWorks. VSR or virtual super resolution is also performance free with GCN. There will be more Polaris details as we get closer to launch so stay tuned.
Stanard practice in the technology world is for established firms to keep everything super secret till the day they launch. AMD however, is bucking the trend and will be hosting an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on reddit in just a day, on Thursday Mach 3rd. The AMA will happen between 10 AM and 5 PM US Central time and will be focused on the GPU side of things or Radeon Technologies Group (RTG).
AMD Robert from RTG will be the main host and there will likely be some big secrets to be unveiled that day. Given that AMD is confident enough to start talking more about their upcoming Polaris GPUs hopefully means the launch will be imminent as some leaks as suggested. Major expected topics include Vulkan, FreeSync, GPUOpen, Polaris, Fury X2, VR and DirectX 12 as expected. The conversation will likely coalesce around Polaris though as that is the upcoming GCN architecture.
Unfortunately for CPU lovers, questions about Zen are banned and will not be answered as it is still a super secret. We will be following the AMA closely on Thursday and will bring any new juicy details AMD reveals as they happen. Here’s hoping FuryX2 finally gets off the ground.
With 2016 well under way, many are already looking forwards for AMD to launch their Polaris and Radeon 400 series GPUs. While past generations have mostly launched with the desktop or enterprise cards first, the first news for the 400 series is coming from the mobile side. In announcing their new YOGA 510 series of laptops, Lenovo has inadvertently revealed that AMD’s Radeon R7 M460 and R5 M430 will be coming in April.
YOGA 510-14ISK notebook will ship with Radeon R5 M430 and YOGA 510-15ISK with R7 M460 graphics cards. Given the R5 and R7 labels, neither of these 2 cards will be speed demons. Right now the R5 M330 is the lowest tier mobile GPU from AMD with 320 CUs and the R7 M360 is little faster at 384 CUs. The M3xx models are based off GCN 1.0 so there is good chance the new cards will be GCN 4 based in order to take advantage of the power efficiency Polaris brings, something critical to mobile.
Both laptops are relatively well-endowed products and powered by Intel Skylake Pentium or i7 CPUs, Both GPUs will have 2GB of VRAM to help power the 1080p IPS display. Don’t expect much gaming though as these devices are decidedly portable. Other specifications include up to 8GB of DDR4 and 256GB SSD or 1TB HDD. Both laptops will be available starting in April.
AMD looks to be preparing things behind the scenes for their Radeon 400 series of GPUs. After a number of AMD GPUs have been spotted shipping out of Hong Kong and India, a number of new GPUs have shipped out of Canada where AMD has their Markham office with the telltale AMD labelling. Of course there is the flagship Polaris part, the Baffin XT but also the yet to be revealed Banks Pro and Weston[XT] and Weston Pro. Both Weston and Banks are northern islands in the Artic, right in line with the Northern Islands lineup for the 400 series.
Carrying the C981 label, Baffin XT is exactly what I suspected it to be, an R9 390X replacement part. This is because it carries a G5 moniker with 4GB of memory, pointing to either GDDR5X or GDDR5. The most likely configuration in my mind is GDDR5X with 256bit bus which should be enough considering AMD’s new delta colour compression techniques. The 4GB VRAM buffer does cast doubt though if it will be a Hawaii class chip, rather it may be a Tonga replacement.
Moving on we have two Weston hips, both based on the C729 die, with one being the XT and the other the Pro variant. The Banks is based off the C728 die instead but all three chips utilize GDDR5(X) and have 2GB’s worth. These 3 actually first appeared back in September 2015 and the C7xx moniker gives it away as either 28nm parts or pre-GCN 4. The 4500Mhz GDDR5 clock gives these cards away as either Oland or Cape Verde, probably making them rebrands for the budget segment. Either way, it looks like AMD will be making some major announcements at GDC next month.
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 232mm2 of 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.
Remember the $600 and $700 Polaris GPUs we spotted last month in a shipping manifest? It turns out that those chips may not be the top end Polaris chip launching this year. According to the shipping tracker, a ‘Video Graphic Card’ labelled C993 shipped from Canada on February 1st and was valued at 110,603 INR. That’s $1600 or nearly 3x the value of the C981 and C980 that we spotted earlier.
According to AMD, they plan to launch both a Polaris 10 and Polaris 11, with one being a high-end card while the other would service the budget/mainstream market. We had expected the $600-700 C981/980 to be the top end flagship while the $200-$300 C924/913 would be the budget model. With the C993 at $1600, this card completely blows the other cards out of the water and makes it seem like that might be the flagship Polaris card.
At $1600 though, this card would be one of the most expensive cards AMD has released in a long time. At $1600, it would be beyond what Nvidia has charged for the Titan (X, Black), though it would make sense as a dual-GPU utilizing 2 Polaris chips like the C981 and C980. Maybe this is why there are only 2 Polaris chips technically launching but they may have multiple variants and different configurations.
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.