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.
With just under 2 weeks to go, pictures for AMD’s Radeon Pro Duo have started popping up. Dubbed the fastest graphics card ever, the Pro Duo is reportedly launching on April 26th later this month. While AMD did show the card off at their Capsaicin event last month, we never really got a glimpse of the card, only renders. With pictures out, we can see the card in its true glory and the nice souvenir AMD bundled in.First, the design as expected follows the Fury X design paradigm. The card looks really nice and has the thick Cooler Master radiator we’ve come to expect. The tubing is also nicely braided. The water blocks underneath have been redesigned, likely to get around the Asetek’s patents. The box takes on the new AMD branding for their graphics divisions, Radeon Technologies Group as well. Finally, we see the Fiji die that has been bundled along as a souvenir. This is a nice way for AMD to add value through a chip that likely failed to pass certification. It would make a very nice keychain or paperweight. With cards already shipped out, it looks like AMD will meet their April 26th deadline. Even then, the card is awfully close to the Pascal and Polaris launches just a month after that. It will be interesting to see how many users end up picking up a card. The Radeon Pro Duo will likely remain the fastest single card solution till Vega or GP100 launch in 2017.
Just 5 days into the new month and AMD has already released a new set of Crimson drivers for their Radeon GPUs. The latest version out is 16.4.1, a beta version hotfix for 16.3.2 which was released just a week ago. Coming so quick after 16.3.2 and still a beta, the number of changes aren’t that many but are welcome none the less. Interestingly, there looks like there will be no 16.4 driver, with AMD choosing to jump straight to 16.4.1.
First off, support for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive is likely improved compared to 16.3.2. Furthermore, Quantum Break has received a number of optimisations, boosting performance by up to 35% in some cases. Hitman has also received some fixes to its DX11 High-Quality Shadows and frame cap issues experienced in several DX12 games have been resolved.
Even with these fixes in place, there is an ever-growing list of known issues that remain unresolved. Half of these issues have to do with Crossfire and nearly all of the other one related to bugs within AMD’s own Radeon Settings of Gaming Evolved Software. While quick and prompt driver releases are welcome, AMD needs to get to work fixing more issues rather than just another point release. Given the current track record, we may yet see 16.4.2 and 16.4.3 later this month.
As part of the ongoing process for technological advancement, 32bit support has begun to decline throughout the ecosystem. The latest firm to silently reduce support for 32bit systems is AMD with their GPUs. Starting with the latest Crimson Software 16.3.2 release, 32bit drivers for their latest GPUs have gone missing from their usual links. This follows the Radeon Pro Duo which only launched with 64bit drivers.
Moving away from 32bit makes a lot of sense as even mainstream GPUs are starting to have more than 4GB of VRAM, the same amount 32bit systems will handle. Once you add in system memory, there really isn;t a point to be using a 32bit system with the latest GPUs except for compatibility reasons. Furthermore, the market for 32bit drivers has been shrinking, with only about 13% of Steam users running a 32bit system. Given the intense ram requirements for games these days, 64bit is nearly a must. Dropping 32bit support also means more resources to put towards 64bit drivers and making those better.
The biggest complaint I have though is the silence from AMD. Rather than admit that they are reducing 32bit support, they silently started hiding their 32bit drivers. For users who click on 32bit drivers, they get sent to a page telling them to move to 64bit. At the same time, 32bit drivers continue to be made and are available with a bit of URL guessing (just change the “64” at the end of the 64bit bit link to “32”). Instead of trying to hide it, AMD should have made an announcement that 32bit support would end at X date in the future and continue for now to make 32bit drivers easy to access. This whole thing just smacks of bad PR and miscommunication. There is no shame to move away from 32bit and hopefully, AMD will get this.
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.
AMD is really stepping up the pace of their driver releases since February, with drivers dropped every 1 to 2 weeks. Today, we’ve been treated to Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.3.1, the second release for March and fourth since the beginning of February. Slow drivers were one of the big complaints against AMD and since the formation of RTG, things have changed.
For 16.3.1, the major headliners are improved support for Hitman and Need For Speed which just launched. Hitman, in particular, got Crossfire profile support after first getting support back with 16.3. We’ve listed the other fixes below but the biggest one is that DX12 games are no longer locked to the refresh rate of the display panel.
Installed or played games sometimes do not show up in the Radeon Settings “Gaming” tab.
Installing via command line may not work for some users. As a workaround please use the default GUI installer.
Intermittent hang sometimes experienced on UE4 applications.
Black screen or possible hang after launching Oculus Video Application.
DirectX®12 application frame rates are no longer locked to the refresh rate of the display panel.
A host of known issues still remain though, most notably the slew of Crossfire issues. Both SLI and Crossfire have suffered exceptionally in recent months and one can only hope DX12 and Vulkan will provide the fix. You can find the release notes here and the drivers here.
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.
AMD has been much quicker of late with their driver updates. Just over a week ago, AMD released Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.21 and they are now following it up with Edition 16.3 with more features and fixes. Befitting a full .x release, 16.3 updates not only the driver part but also new features for Radeon Settings, AMD’s Catalyst Control Center replacement.
First off are a number of resolved support and performance issues. Upcoming AAA release Hitman gets specific driver support and Crossfire Profile support. This is expected as the game is bundled with certain Radeon GPUs and AMD is involved in the development. The Park also gains Crossfire support as well.
For performance improvements, AMD is focusing heavily on the Fury lineup, with performance jumping 16% and 60% in Rise of the Tomb Raider and Gears of War Ultimate Edition respectively. The only other notable performance boost is for the R9 380(X) series with a 40% improvement in Gears of War Ultimate Edition. The improvements in Gears of War Ultimate Edition will be welcome as the game has been performing erratically and we hope other cards see some love as well.
In terms of new features, Vulkan support has been added along with Per-Game Display Scaling, a Language Menu and Two Display Eyefinity. Notably, AMD Crossfire Status Indicator has been added along with a Power Efficiency Toggle to turn off some power savings features. Furthermore, AMD XConnect technology, AMD’s external GPU enclosure over Thunderbolt 3 solution has received preliminary support.
In terms of fixes, the most notable one is choppy core clocks which is fixed at the cost of turning off power efficiency. Rise of the Tomb Raider also won’t crash anymore if tessellation is turned on. There still remains a known of known issues as well. Hopefully, we will see a driver to remedy those problems shortly. You can find the full release notes here and driver here.
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.
After a precipitous decline in dGPU market share over the past few months and quarters, AMD is starting to reverse the trend. In the past quarter, Q2 2015, AMD managed to increase their market share by 2.3%, or a 10% increase in their total market share. While the number seems tiny especially given Nvidia’s numbers, any positive increase is good news for the beleaguered company. This comes even as the dPGU shrank by 4.9%.
The whole of 2015 was pretty terrible for AMD, with some of their worst financials yet, with both the CPU and GPU divisions flagging. However, it looks like AMD finally hit the bottom and the changes they are implementing are starting to take hold. If AMD manages to keep it up, the dire predictions that some analysts had of AMD doing even worse in Q1 2016 will likely not come to pass.
AMD still has a lot of work to do though as market share overall is still depressed compared to 2014. With this past them though, AMD can look forward to Polaris and Zen to drive their new growth. After all, once you’ve hit rock bottom, there is only one way to go and that is up. A final interesting note is that Q4 actually saw lower shipments than Q3, a surprising twist given the holiday season is in Q4. Maybe many are holding out for Polaris and Pascal?
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.
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.
When AMD launched their Fiji based lineup last year, many were pleased with the performance. The use of HBM helped the Fiji cards helped them achieve better power efficiency while still maintaining the advantages of GCN. The biggest concern at the time was that Nvidia had just cut prices on their GTX 980 and 980Ti, making the Fury and Fury X somewhat disadvantaged. With the launch and holiday season behind us, it looks like AMD is finally deciding to cut prices on the vanilla Fury.
According to the rumours, this price drop is set to happen imminently and meant to better position the Fury against the GTX 980. That card currently retails about 10-20% cheaper than the Fury though the Fury does manage about 10-15% better performance overall. If the price drop comes, the Fury may offer more value relative to the GTX980.
A price drop now does make sense as Polaris is going to arrive in a few months. Cutting the prices to get rid of some inventory will help AMD and their partners be better prepared once Polaris arrives. AMD also recently cut prices on the R9 Nano as well so a cut for the Fury isn’t out of the question. Who knows, maybe the Fury X may its prices slashed as well.
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.
AMD is on the roll with their latest GPU announcements this half of the year. After spinning off their graphics department into the Radeon Technologies Group, AMD announced their new GPUOpen initiative and a new Crimson Edition for their Catalyst drivers. On the hardware side of things, we’re now getting more information on their upcoming Greenland GPUs. Set to debut with their first post-GCN design; the new architecture is codenamed Polaris.
Named after the North Star, Polaris will be the “guiding lights [that] power every pixel on every device efficiently. Stars are the most efficient photon generators of our universe. Their efficiency is the inspiration for every pixel we generate.” Notably, the statement hits home on two key targets AMD is aiming for, namely better pixels in the form of HDR and improved efficiency in order to reduce power consumption.
While the Pixel initiative will undoubtedly be interesting, the biggest part will likely be the efficiency. AMD has stuck with GCN quite a long time and right now, Nvidia’s Maxwell trumps GCN 1.2 in the efficiency category. With the whole new Polaris architecture to build upon, it will be interesting to see what approach AMD has taken to gain better efficiency. Combined with the new 14/16nm process nodes and HBM2, 2016 should be a pretty good year for AMD.
When AMD launched their new Radeon Software Crimson Edition 3 weeks ago, it was actually using a beta version of the Radeon drivers. Today, AMD has updated Crimson to use official v15.30 WHQL drivers with Crimson v15.12. Along with official WHQL status, the new release also includes a numbers of fixes and improvements over the beta driver bundled with the original Crimson launch.
Chief among the fixes is the one where some AMD cards were stuck at 30% fan speed. This caused some cards to overheat under load and become physically damaged. The WHQL drivers include the hotfix that AMD quickly released to address the issue. You can find the full changelog here.
On the other hand, some other issues still remain. For overclockers, the most galling is one where clock speeds and voltages don’t get applied properly after a reboot. This appears to be an incompatibility between AMD Overdrive and third-party tools like Afterburner.
While the launch of Radeon Software Crimson Edition was pretty good overall and ushered in a new era for AMD, things look like they were a bit rushed. For such an important release, it may have been more worthwhile for AMD to have waited to get WHQL certification before launching.
While AMD’s graphics hardware has largely remained competitive with rival Nvidia, the software side of things has fallen behind for a while. A large part of this is due to Nvidia’s GameWorks software, a proprietary set of tools that helps developers implement features. While AMD cards can run GameWorks optimization is near impossible to do and AMD cards generally get crippled by it. Today, AMD is hitting back with GPUOpen, a comparable library of tools they will be open-sourcing.
With the open source GPUOpen, the permissive MIT-licence will allow developers to optimize for both AMD and Nvidia and still use only one set of tools. AMD is hoping this will mean developers will be more likely to pick GPUOpen over GameWorks and optimize more for AMD cards. AMD has included equivalents to most of GameWorks, with TressFX, ShadowFX, GeometryFX and AOFX. It will also feature a number of other tools like a rendering engine, ray-tracing SDK, cloud SDK and AMD’s CodeXL debugger and performance profiler.
The final prong is a new open-source Linux driver. Right now, the Linux driver comes in two flavours with the closed source one performing well ahead of the open-source on. Moving into the future, the AllOpen stack will have open-sourced OpenGL graphics, motion video codecs, and OpenCL GPU computation. The Professional/Gamer stack will have an open source motion video codec, but closed source OpenGL and OpenCl modules. Over time, the OpenCL module will bring in Vulkan which will then be open sourced while the OpenGL module will remain closed-source.
Combined with the earlier Boltzmann Initiative, AMD is making big strides with their software development. Combined with their new Crimson Catalyst software suite, AMD is putting forward a new face to consumers and developers. With this, AMD may be able to reinvent themselves and make others see them in a new light.
When the Silver Lake investment talks broke down, AMD spoke of exploring other strategic options. Today, we’re finding out that one of these options being adopted is a new restructuring plan. In an effort to cut costs and realign resources, AMD will be cutting 5% of their global workforce among other cost-saving measures. Other major savings are expected to come from outsourcing IT, consolidating real estate and reorganizing its many divisions.
With a 5% staff cut, it will bring AMD’s workforce down from about 9700 to 9200. This is coming from a firm which once boasted about 20,000 employees. Savings start off small with only $9 million saved for 2015 but it jumps to $58 million by the end of 2016. Of course, this is due to various costs associated with cutting staff, with $31 million coming from severance costs and about $10 million more from various other charges.
While $67 million saved over 2 years is quite a bit, it won’t do much when AMD is expected to post losses in the range of 100’s of millions. With the recent departure of various executives and Jim Keller and the separation of the graphics division into RTG, things are not looking up. Hopefully, the launch of the new 16nm GPU lineup in 2016 will help revitalize the firm.