Subject: Graphics Cards | May 6, 2015 - 02:21 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: amd, hbm, radeon, gpu
During today's 2015 AMD Financial Analyst Day, CEO Dr. Lisa Su discussed some of the details of the upcoming enthusiast Radeon graphics product. Though it wasn't given a name, she repeatedly said that the product would be announced "in the coming weeks...at upcoming industry events."
You won't find specifications here but understanding the goals and targets that AMD has for this new flagship product will help tell the story of this new Radeon product. Dr. Su sees AMD investing at very specific inflection points, the most recent of which are DirectX 12, 4K displays and VR technology. With adoption of HBM (high bandwidth memory) that sits on-die with the GPU, rather than across a physical PCB, we will see both a reduction in power consumption as well as a significant increase in GPU memory bandwidth.
HBM will accelerate the performance improvements at those key inflection points Dr. Su mentioned. Additional memory bandwidth will aid the ability for discrete GPUs to push out 4K resolutions and beyond, no longer limited by texture sizes. AMD's LiquidVR software, in conjunction with HBM, will be able to improve latency and reduce performance concerns on current and future generations of virtual reality hardware.
One interesting comment made during the conference was that HBM would enable new form factors for the GPUs now that you now longer need to have memory spread out on a PCB. While there isn't much room in the add-in card market for differentiation, in the mobile space that could mean some very interesting things for higher performance gaming notebooks.
Mark Papermaster, AMD CTO, said earlier in the conference call that HBM would aid in performance but maybe more importantly will lower power and improve total GPU efficiency. HBM will offer more than 3x improved performance/watt compared to GDDR5 while also running more than 50% lower power than GDDR5. Lower power and higher performance upgrades don't happen often so I am really excited to see what AMD does with it.
There weren't any more details on the next flagship Radeon GPU but it doesn't look like we'll have to wait much longer.
Subject: Motherboards | May 6, 2015 - 10:21 AM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: usb 3.1, sli, piledriver, msi, gaming, crossfire, amd, am3+, 990FXA-Gaming, 990fx
Some months ago MSI announced that they are releasing a slew of USB 3.1 compliant parts. What was surprising was the mention of a brand new AM3+ board based on the now nearly geriatric AMD 990FX chipset. The 990FX has had quite a lifespan with PCI-E 2.0 support and the accompanying SB950 southbridge with USB 2.0 and SATA6G features.
It looks as if MSI is doing a clean sheet design for the 990FXA-Gaming. This looks to be a class leading product with plenty of features. Not only does it have the USB 3.1 support, but it also implements the enhanced audio design that we have seen on other top end boards from MSI. It also embraces the Killer ethernet software suite (utilizing Qualcomm's Atheros Gig-E chip).
The power delivery system looks to be a full 8+2 unit, so it can officially handle the 220 watt TDP FX-9000 series of CPUs. It supports both SLI and CrossFire. The cooling on the board looks to be top notch as well, with a heatpipe stretching from the Southbridge, through the Northbridge, and finally to the VRMs.
We expect these boards to be available sometime around the middle of this month. We should also be receiving a sample for testing around then. It is nice to see new support for AMD's FX CPUs, and this should be a cost effective member of the club. Though AM3+ is a dead end in terms of socket infrastructure, there is still a lot of value in AMD's FX CPU line.
There is no word on pricing at this time, but I would not be surprised to see it hit the $149 mark. It does not seem as decked out as the 990FXA-GD80 which is priced around $179. With the robust featureset that they do implement, it does look to be a value if it can hit that aggressive price point.
Subject: General Tech | May 4, 2015 - 06:19 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: R9 380, R7 A360, R7 A330, leak, gpu, amd
HP announced their upcoming line up of desktops, including new Pavilions, ENVYs and a Spectre studio display with 4K resolution. An astute reader noticed something else that they announced unintentionally, the models of three unreleased AMD GPUs. The machines will be available starting on June 10th which even gives us a rough release time line. The pricing does not reveal all that much as they reference the base models and so it is hard to know what, if any discrete GPU is in the base model.
The HP Pavilion All-in-One PCs will sport USB 3.0 and your choice of an AMD Radeon R7 A330 or an R7 A360. As these are all in one PCs such as the one below you can expect these cards to represent the mid-range of AMD's upcoming lineup, though they could still put out a decent amount of power as the cooling in these systems is effective enough that HP offers models with Intel i7 and AMD A10 chips.
What most people will likely get excited about is in the HP ENVY and HP ENVY Phoenix Towers, the R9 380 which is offered as an alternative to the GTX 980. These machines also offer USB 3.0 as well as an option for a 512GB SSD as opposed to a 3TB HDD. The R9 380 will be powerful enough to handle the new 32" HP Spectre Studio Display, a 4K display with built in speakers and a viewing angle of 178° which implies an IPS display, albeit with an unknown refresh rate.
That is about all we know for now, but you can keep an eye out for more news about the R7 A330, R7 A360 and R9 380 right here.
Subject: Motherboards | May 4, 2015 - 02:49 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: processor, msi, motherboard, Godavari, FM2+, cpu, APU, amd
MSI has revealed a new FM2+ motherboard lineup with support for upcoming AMD Godavari processors, further indicating the launch of these new CPUs will be very soon though no official announcement has yet been made by AMD.
As reported back in January when the lineup allegedly leaked the new Godavari SKUs feature higher clocks on both processor and, more significantly, in GPU cores in upcoming APUs like the rumored 8850K. MSI states that "these new models are available in ATX, micro-ATX, and mini-ATX form factors and are backwards compatible with FM2 processors (Kaveri, Richland, Trinity, 6000 and 5000 series)", so it makes sense to consider these new models for future compatibility if shopping for an FM2 motherboard today. It remains to be seen if vendors will offer support for Godavari through BIOS updates, though it does at least seem likely.
For those interested here is the list of new MSI AMD FM2+/FM2 motherboard models:
- A68HM-E33 V2
- A88XM-E45 V2
- A78M-E35 V2
- A88XM-P33 V2
- A78M-E45 V2
- A88X-G41 PC Mate V2
- A88XM-E35 V2
- A88XI AC V2
The familiar Military Class 4 and OC Genie 4 branding is visible across the lineup, and the new models also feature "a rich blend of features and technologies, such as onboard LAN, PCI Express 3.0 x16, SATA 6Gb/s, USB 3.0 and multiple display support".
Early in April ASUS and AMD announced that the MG279Q display, first shown at CES in January, would be brought into the world of FreeSync and officially adopt AMD's branding. The original post from the AMD Twitter account clearly mentions the display would support 144 Hz refresh rates, an increase from the 120 Hz that ASUS claimed during CES.
Now however, we have some complications to deal with. According to a FAQ posted on the ASUS.com website, FreeSync variable refresh rates will only be supported in a range of 35 - 90 Hz.
Enable FreeSync™ in the MG279’s OSD setting, choose PC’s refresh rate timing between 35-90Hz (DP/miniDP only)
On the positive, that 35 Hz lower limit would be the best we have seen on any FreeSync monitor to date. And while the 90 Hz upper limit isn't awful (considering we have seen both 75 Hz and 144 Hz limits on current monitors), it does the beg the question as to why it would be LOWER than the 144 Hz quoted maximum overall refresh rate of the display.
The ASUS MG279Q is an IPS-style display so the quality of the screen should be top notch, but that doesn't alone answer why the upper FreeSync limit and upper refresh rate would not match. We already have the Acer Predator XB270HU G-Sync display in-house that operates at a variable refresh rate as high as 144 Hz with a similar quality IPS display. I've inquired to both AMD and ASUS about the reasoning for this 90 Hz limit, and we'll see if either side cares to comment prior to the display's release.
Subject: Graphics Cards | April 30, 2015 - 08:28 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: PC Gamer, gpu, Fiji, E3 2015, amd
We haven’t had much more than rumor and speculation about upcoming AMD graphics for a while now, but there is more than enough fresh fuel for the GPU fire today to ignore completely. It seems that AMD and PC Gamer magazine have teamed up to announce a special (what else) PC gaming event at this year’s E3 show on June 16, and this would be the perfect place for some new hardware announcements.
Not enough for you? Well, while the AMD Fiji GPU rumors are nothing new to followers of industry news, it has now been indirectly announced that the upcoming Fiji GPU from AMD will in fact feature 2.5D high-bandwidth memory (HBM). As reported by tech news/rumor site wccftech the announcement came via the official schedule for the upcoming Hot Chips symposium, which is slated for August 23-25 in Cupertino, California.
This screenshot was taken this morning from the official online event schedule
(Note: This part of the day 2 schedule has now been changed to read “AMD’s Next Generation GPU and Memory Architecture”, with all mention of Fiji and HBM removed.)
Whether this gives us insight into the actual release date of the long-awaited Fiji GPU from AMD is unclear, but new AMD GPU products certainly seem to be imminent as we move into the summer months. Speculation is fun (for a while), but hopefully the PC gaming event at E3 in June will provide at least some official news from AMD on the new GPU products we've been waiting for.
Some Fresh Hope for 2016
EDIT 2015-05-07: A day after the AMD analyst meeting we now know that the roadmaps delivered here are not legitimate. While some of the information is likely correct on the roadmaps, they were not leaked by AMD. There is no FM3 socket, rather AMD is going with AM4. AMD will be providing more information throughout this quarter about their roadmaps, but for now take all of this information as "not legit".
SH SOTN has some eagle eyes and spotted the latest leaked roadmap for AMD. These roadmaps cover both mobile and desktop, from 2015 through 2016. There are obviously quite a few interesting tidbits of information here.
On the mobility roadmap we see the upcoming release of Carrizo, which we have been talking about since before CES. This will be the very first HSA 1.0 compliant part to hit the market, and AMD has done some really interesting things with the design in terms of performance, power efficiency, and die size optimizations. Carrizo will span the market from 15 watts to 35 watts TDP. This is a mobile only part, but indications point to it being pretty competent overall. This is a true SOC that will support all traditional I/O functions of older standalone southbridges. Most believe that this part will be manufactured by GLOBALFOUNDIRES on their 28 nm HKMG process that is more tuned to AMD's APU needs.
Carrizo-L will be based on the Puma+ architecture and will go from 10 watts to 15 watts TDP. This will use the same FP4 BGA connection as the big Carrizo APU. This should make these parts more palatable for OEMs as they do not have to differentiate the motherboard infrastructure. Making things easier for OEMs will give more reasons for these folks to offer products based on Carrizo and Carrizo-L APUs. The other big reason will be the GCN graphics compute units. Puma+ is a very solid processor architecture for low power products, but these parts are still limited to the older 28 nm HKMG process from TSMC.
One interesting addition here is that AMD will be introducing their "Amur" APU for the low power and ultra-low power markets. These will be comprised of four Cortex-A57 CPUs combined with AMD's GCN graphics units. This will be the first time we see this combination, and the first time AMD has integrated with ARM since ATI spun off their mobile graphics to Qualcomm under the "Adreno" branding (anagram for "Radeon"). What is most interesting here is that this APU will be a 20 nm part most likely fabricated by TSMC. This is not to say that Samsung or GLOBALFOUNDRIES might be producing it, but those companies are expending their energy on the 14 nm FinFET process that will be their bread and butter for years to come. This will be a welcome addition to the mobile market (tablets and handhelds) and could be a nice profit center for AMD if they are able to release this in a timely manner.
2016 is when things get very interesting. The Zen x86 design will dominate the upper 2/3 of the roadmap. I had talked about Zen when we had some new diagram leaks yesterday, but now we get to see the first potential products based off of this architecture. In mobile it will span from 5 watts to 35 watts TDP. The performance and mainstream offerings will be the "Bristol Ridge" APU which will feature 4 Zen cores (or one Zen module) combined with the next gen GCN architecture. This will be a 14nm part, and the assumption is that it will be GLOBALFOUNDRIES using 14nm FinFET LPP (Low Power Plus) that will be more tuned for larger APUs. This will also be a full SOC.
The next APU will be codenamed "Basilisk" that will span the 5 watt to 15 watt range. It will be comprised of 2 Zen cores (1/2 of a Zen module) and likely feature 2 to 4 MB of L3 cache, depending on power requirements. This looks to be the first Skybridge set of APUs that will share the same infrastructure as the ARM based Amur SOC. FT4 BGA is the basis for both the 2015 Amur and 2016 Basilisk SOCs.
Finally we have the first iteration of AMD's first ground up implementation of ARM's ARMv8-A ISA. The "Styx" APU features the new K12 CPU cores that AMD has designed from scratch. It too will feature the next generation GCN units as well as share the same FT4 BGA connection. Many are anxiously watching this space to see if AMD can build a better mousetrap when it comes to licensing the ARM ISA (as have Qualcomm, NVIDIA, and others).
2015 shows no difference in the performance desktop space, as it is still serviced by the now venerable Piledriver based FX parts on AM3+. The only change we expect to see here is that there will be a handful of new motherboard offerings from the usual suspects that will include the new USB 3.1 functionality derived from a 3rd party controller.
Mainstream and Performance will utilize the upcoming Godavari APUs. These are power and speed optimized APUs that are still based on the current Kaveri design. These look to be a simple refresh/rebadge with a slight performance tweak. Not exciting, but needs to happen for OEMs.
Low power will continue to be addressed by Beema based APUs. These are regular Puma based cores (not Puma+). AMD likely does not have the numbers to justify a new product in this rather small market.
2016 is when things get interesting again. We see the release of the FM3 socket (final proof that AM3+ is dead) that will house the latest Zen based APUs. At the top end we see "Summit Ridge" which will be composed of 8 Zen cores (or 2 Zen modules). This will have 4 MB of L2 cache and 16 MB of L3 cache if our other leaks are correct. These will be manufactured on 14nm FinFET LPE (the more appropriate process product for larger, more performance oriented parts). These will not be SOCs. We can expect these to be the basis of new Opterons as well, but there is obviously no confirmation of that on these particular slides. This will be the first new product in some years from AMD that has the chance to compete with higher end desktop SKUs from Intel.
From there we have the lower power Bristol Ridge and Basilisk APUs that we already covered in the mobile discussion. These look to be significant upgrades from the current Kaveri (and upcoming Godavari) APUs. New graphics cores, new CPU cores, and new SOC implementations where necessary.
AMD will really be shaking up the game in 2016. At the very least they will have proven that they can still change up their game and release higher end (and hopefully competitive) products. AMD has enough revenue and cash on hand to survive through 2016 and 2017 at the rate they are going now. We can only hope that this widescale change will allow AMD to make some significant inroads with OEMs on all levels. Otherwise Intel is free to do what they want and what price they want across multiple markets.
ARM Releases Cortex-A72 for Licensing
On February 3rd, ARM announced a slew of new designs, including the Cortex A72. Few details were shared with us, but what we learned was that it could potentially redefine power and performance in the ARM ecosystem. Ryan was invited to London to participate in a deep dive of what ARM has done to improve its position against market behemoth Intel in the very competitive mobile space. Intel has a leg up on process technology with their 14nm Tri-Gate process, but they are continuing to work hard in making their x86 based processors more power efficient, while still maintaining good performance. There are certain drawbacks to using an ISA that is focused on high performance computing rather than being designed from scratch to provide good performance with excellent energy efficiency.
ARM has been on a pretty good roll with their Cortex A9, A7, A15, A17, A53, and A57 parts over the past several years. These designs have been utilized in a multitude of products and scenarios, with configurations that have scaled up to 16 cores. While each iteration has improved upon the previous, ARM is facing the specter of Intel’s latest generation, highly efficient x86 SOCs based on the 2nd gen 14nm Tri-Gate process. Several things have fallen into place for ARM to help them stay competitive, but we also cannot ignore the experience and design hours that have led to this product.
(Editor's Note: During my time with ARM last week it became very apparent that it is not standing still, not satisfied with its current status. With competition from Intel, Qualcomm and others ramping up over the next 12 months in both mobile and server markets, ARM will more than ever be depedent on the evolution of core design and GPU design to maintain advantages in performance and efficiency. As Josh will go into more detail here, the Cortex-A72 appears to be an incredibly impressive design and all indications and conversations I have had with others, outside of ARM, believe that it will be an incredibly successful product.)
Cortex A72: Highest Performance ARM Cortex
ARM has been ubiquitous for mobile applications since it first started selling licenses for their products in the 90s. They were found everywhere it seemed, but most people wouldn’t recognize the name ARM because these chips were fabricated and sold by licensees under their own names. Guys like Ti, Qualcomm, Apple, DEC and others all licensed and adopted ARM technology in one form or the other.
ARM’s importance grew dramatically with the introduction of increased complexity cellphones and smartphones. They also gained attention through multimedia devices such as the Microsoft Zune. What was once a fairly niche company with low performance, low power offerings became the 800 pound gorilla in the mobile market. Billions of chips are sold yearly based on ARM technology. To stay in that position ARM has worked aggressively on continually providing excellent power characteristics for their parts, but now they are really focusing on overall performance and capabilities to address, not only the smartphone market, but also the higher performance computing and server spaces that they want a significant presence in.
Subject: Processors | April 27, 2015 - 06:06 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: Zen, Steamroller, Kaveria, k12, Excavator, carrizo, bulldozer, amd
There are some pretty breathless analysis of a single leaked block diagram that is supposedly from AMD. This is one of the first indications of what the Zen architecture looks like from a CPU core standpoint. The block diagram is very simple, but looks in the same style as what we have seen from AMD. There are some labels, but this is almost a 50,000 foot view of the architecture rather than a slightly clearer 10,000 foot view.
There are a few things we know for sure about Zen. It is a clean sheet design that moves away from what AMD was pursuing with their Bulldozer family of cores. Zen gives up CMT for SMT support for handling more threads. The design has a cluster of four cores sharing 8 MB of L3 cache, with each core having access to 512 KB of L2 cache. There is a lot of optimism that AMD can kick the trend of falling more and more behind Intel every year with this particular design. Jim Keller is viewed very positively due to his work at AMD in the K7 through K8 days, as well as what he accomplished at Apple with their ARM based offerings.
One of the first sites to pick up this diagram wrote quite a bit about what they saw. There was a lot of talk about, “right off the bat just by looking at the block diagram we can tell that Zen will have substantially higher single threaded performance compared to Excavator and the Bulldozer family.” There was the assumption that because it had two 256-bit FMACs that it could fuse them to create a single 512 bit AVX product.
These assumptions are pretty silly. This is a very simple block diagram that answers few very important questions about the architecture. Yes, it shows 6 int pipelines, but we don’t know how many are address generation vs. execution units. We don’t know how wide decode is. We don’t know latency to L2 cache, much less how L3 is connected and shared out. So just because we see more integer pipelines per core does not automatically mean, “Da, more is better, strong like tractor!” We don’t know what improvements or simplifications we will see in the schedulers. There is no mention of the front-end other than Fetch and Decode. How about Branch Prediction? What is the latency for the memory controller when addressing external memory?
Essentially, this looks like a simplified way of expressing to analysts that AMD is attempting to retain their per core integer performance while boosting floating point/AVX at a similar level. Other than that, there is very little that can be gleaned from this simple block diagram.
Other leaks that are interesting concerning Zen are the formats that we will see these products integrated into. One leak detailed a HPC aimed APU that features 16 Zen cores with 32 MB of L3 cache attached to a very large GPU. Another leak detailed a server level chip that will support 32 cores and will be seen in 2P systems. Zen certainly appears to be very flexible, and in ways it reminds me of a much beefier Jaguar type CPU. My gut feeling is that AMD will get closer to Intel than it has been in years, and perhaps they can catch Intel by surprise with a few extra features. The reality of the situation is that AMD is far behind and only now are we seeing pure-play foundries start to get even close to Intel in terms of process technology. AMD is very much at a disadvantage here.
Still, the company needs to release new, competitive products that will refill the company coffers. The previous quarter’s loss has dug into cash reserves, but AMD is still stable in terms of cash on hand and long term debt. 2015 will see new GPUs, an APU refresh, and the release of the new Carrizo parts. 2016 looks to be the make or break year with Zen and K12.
Edit 2015-04-28: Thanks to SH STON we have a new slide that has been leaked from the same deck as this one. This has some interesting info in that AMD may be going away from exclusive cache designs. Exclusive was a good idea when cache was small and expensive, as data was not replicated through each level of cache (L1 was not replicated in L2 and L2 was not replicated in L3). Intel has been using inclusive cache since forever, where data is replicated and simpler to handle. Now it looks like AMD is moving towards inclusive. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the 512 KB of L2 can easily handle what looks to be 128 KB of L1 and the shared 8 MB of L3 cache can easily handle the 2 MB of L2 data. Here is the link to that slide.
The new slide in question.
Subject: General Tech | April 27, 2015 - 01:04 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Summit Ridge, rumours, Godavari, Bristol Ridge, amd
This morning DigiTimes is reporting on a unconfirmed rumour that AMD's new APU, Godavari, will be arriving towards the end of May of this year. This goes along with the leak that WCCFtech reported on this weekend, they have information that the chip will be a Kaveri design with up to four Steamroller cores, a GCN 1.1 base GPU with up to 512 stream processors and a dual-channel DDR3 memory in an FM2+ socket. If their information is accurate you can expect to see models with 65W or 95W TDPs and boost clocks in the 4GHz range depending on the model. Also worth noting is the rumour that AMD has placed orders with ASMedia Technology for USB 3.1 controller ICs for release in September.
"AMD will launch Godavari series APUs at the end of May to compete with Intel's Broadwell and Skylake platforms, according to Taiwan-based supply chain makers."
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