Subject: Graphics Cards | August 14, 2013 - 12:00 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, never settle forever, never settle, amd
It should come as no surprise to our readers that we at PC Perspective have been big fans of what AMD has been doing with game bundles over the last year. With the start of the Never Settle campaign in October of 2012, AMD began down a path to help sell Radeon cards with amazing game bundles and pack ins that NVIDIA and its GeForce brand still have yet to match. It was an amazing move for a company that really wanted to drive sales and gain market share in the discrete graphics space.
Fast forward to today, past the Never Settle Reloaded and Never Settle Level Up campaigns and AMD has another offer for gamers looking to upgrade their GPU: Never Settle Forever. The crux of this new campaign is choice. AMD is allowing gamers to select the free game or games they get out of a curated list rather than having AMD select them for you.
Depending on the card you buy and the tier it falls in, you'll be able to select 1, 2 or 3 games from a list. There are a few catches though that we need to discuss. First, the game list for each tier is NOT the same.
For example, Tomb Raider is only avaiable in the top tier. The currect tier sets work out as follows:
- Gold Tier (3 games): HD 7950 and HD 7970
- Silver Tier (2 games): HD 7800 series
- Bronze Tier (1 game): HD 7770 and HD 7790
The Radeon HD 7990 is not included on these tiers but it will continue with the "8 free games" bundle for the life of the card we were told.
When you buy a card from a participating retailer you'll get a code that you can then take to AMD's Radeon Rewards website and redemption portal. You enter your reward code, register yourself and then you get to browse the games in the available packages. Here are some of the interesting notes:
- Once you register your code, you have until December 31st, 2013 to perform your transaction.
- You can only perform a SINGLE transaction meaning you must use all of your game choices at one time. You CANNOT select one game now and another game later.
- Other games can be added or removed at any time in the Never Settle Forever bundle so once something leaves you cannot get that game anymore.
- There are no promises on what other games may or may not be added to the program between now and the end of the year.
Not being able to split up your selections is a hard pill to swallow as you means you cannot pick up Tomb Raider today and then plan on getting another title next month; if Tomb Raider is gone when a new game is added you will not have access to it. There is likely no techical reason for this restriction other than publisher and business agreements in place with AMD.
It is a letdown that AMD has not included any new games with this bundle refresh. All 9 of the available titles in the Gold tier have been bundled with AMD cards before. Even worse, arguably the two best titles from the previous campaign are missing: Bioshock Infinite and Crysis 3. We do expect other games to be added but AMD would only allude that "new retail games will be added on several occasions" before the end of the year. Does that mean Battlefield 4, Thief or watch_dogs? While I can't say for certain I think it is pretty likely.
So where does that leave us with the new Never Settle Forever bundle today? It's kind of a mixed bag as it stands with the games avaiable in the tiers today getting long in the tooth. Of the 9 games available in Gold only DMC, Tomb Raider and Blood Dragon were released this year. Dues Ex and Dirt 3 were released in 2011 and the rest were sometime in that magical year of 2012. And of those 9 games only two of them are currently for sale for the $49 value (DMC and Tomb Raider) that AMD places on a single game title. Others can be found for $39 (Far Cry 3), $24 (Hitman) or $14 (Blood Dragon).
AMD is still the leader in the bundle and add-on battle for discrete graphics cards but this particular launch is a bit less astounding than the previous ones have been. The upside though is that AMD can now very easily add other games to the mix without having to re-launch the entire program which was obviously the point of this revamp. So while Never Settle Forever doesn't have me as excited as the original campaign, I have a feeling 2013 holds some very good things for it!
Subject: Graphics Cards | August 7, 2013 - 01:05 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: amd, radeon, hd 7990, never settle, never settle reloaded
An interesting bit of information just came to PC Perspective this morning and it revolves around the price of the AMD Radeon HD 7990. If the title didn't tip you off, we have found that Newegg.com is listing various HD 7990 dual-Tahiti graphics cards for $699!!
When the card launched in April, it had a retail price of $999 and since then had come down to the ~$880 range. Today though, AMD has definitely made an aggressive move against NVIDIA by lowering the price of its flagship product a full $300.
Not only that, but the Radeon HD 7990 6GB dual-GPU card will still include 8 free PC games, while supplies last. As part of the Never Settle series of bundles, the HD 7990 includes Crysis 3, Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3, Blood Dragon, Hitman Absolution, Sleeping Dogs and Deus Ex. If you don't own all or some of those titles, that makes the HD 7990 price drop even MORE appealing.
The Radeon HD 7990 hasn't been a card to avoid controversy. Our initial review of the card showed that CrossFire scaling was resulting in very poor perceived performance and our Frame Rating system was able to detail how and why very precisely. But on August 1st, AMD released a new Catalyst 13.8 driver that introduced a frame pacing fix for the problem for single monitor (non 4K) users.
I would highly encourage any user thinking about buying the Radeon HD 7990 to read over my Catalyst 13.8 updated article to see if the hardware makes sense for you. With a $699 price tag, compared to the $999 of the GeForce GTX 690 or GTX TITAN from NVIDIA, the product is spectacularly interesting as long as you don't use multi-display Eyefinity or one of the new 4K dual-head displays like the ASUS PQ321Q.
For gamers that are using a single panel though, hopefully at 2560x1440 or 2560x1600, this price drop might turn things around. Check out those new $699 prices at Newegg!
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | August 2, 2013 - 12:44 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: video, stutter, radeon, nvidia, hd 7990, frame rating, frame pacing, amd
Scott Wasson from The Tech Report and Ryan have been discussing the microstuttering present in Crossfire and while Ryan got his hands on the hardware to capture the raw output first, The Tech Report have been investigating this issue as in depth as Ryan and Ken have been. Their look at the new Catalyst and the effects of Frame Pacing show the same results as you saw yesterday in Ryan's article; for essentially no cost in performance you can get a much smoother experience when using a CrossFire system on a single display. In their article they have done a great job of splicing together videos of runthroughs of several games with the Frame Pacing disabled on one side and enabled on the other, allowing you to see with your own eyes the difference in game play, without having to have your own Crossfire system.
"Can a driver fix what ails the Radeon HD 7990? Will the new Catalysts magically transform this baby into the fastest graphics card on the planet? We go inside the second to find out."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- AMD Catalyst 13.8 Beta Frame Pacing CrossFire Driver @ [H]ard|OCP
- AMD Frame Pacing Explored: Catalyst 13.8 Brings Consistency to Crossfire @ AnandTech
- NVIDIA Shield Review: At the Crossroads of PC and Mobile Gaming @ AnandTech
- Gmail, Outlook.com and e-voting 'pwned' on stage in crypto-dodge hack @ The Register
- Boffins: We have FOOLED APPLE with malware app @ The Register
- iOS 7 Fix for Malicious iPhone Chargers Requires User Savvy @ DailyTech
- Happy 20th birthday, Windows NT 3.1 @ The Register
- NASA JPL boss Brian Muirhead talks about Mars exploration @ The Inquirer
- Man Builds Fully-Functional Boeing 737 Flight Simulator In His Son's Bedroom @ Slashdot
- Printing an Aston Martin DB4 @ Hack a Day
Frame Pacing for CrossFire
When the Radeon HD 7990 launched in April of this year, we had some not-so-great things to say about it. The HD 7990 depends on CrossFire technology to function and we had found quite a few problems with AMD's CrossFire technology over the last months of testing with our Frame Rating technology, the HD 7990 "had a hard time justifying its $1000 price tag." Right at launch, AMD gave us a taste of a new driver that they were hoping would fix the frame pacing and frame time variance issues seen in CrossFire, and it looked positive. The problem was that the driver wouldn't be available until summer.
As I said then: "But until that driver is perfected, is bug free and is presented to buyers as a made-for-primetime solution, I just cannot recommend an investment this large on the Radeon HD 7990."
Today could be a very big day for AMD - the release of the promised driver update that enables frame pacing on AMD 7000-series CrossFire configurations including the Radeon HD 7990 graphics cards with a pair of Tahiti GPUs.
It's not perfect yet and there are some things to keep an eye on. For example, this fix will not address Eyefinity configurations which includes multi-panel solutions and the new 4K 60 Hz displays that require a tiled display configuration. Also, we found some issues with more than two GPU CrossFire that we'll address in a later page too.
New Driver Details
Starting with 13.8 and moving forward, AMD plans to have the frame pacing fix integrated into all future drivers. The software team has implemented a software based frame pacing algorithm that simply monitors the time it takes for each GPU to render a frame, how long a frame is displayed on the screen and inserts delays into the present calls when necessary to prevent very tightly timed frame renders. This balances or "paces" the frame output to the screen without lowering the overall frame rate. The driver monitors this constantly in real-time and minor changes are made on a regular basis to keep the GPUs in check.
As you would expect, this algorithm is completely game engine independent and the games should be completely oblivious to all that is going on (other than the feedback from present calls, etc).
This fix is generic meaning it is not tied to any specific game and doesn't require profiles like CrossFire can from time to time. The current implementation will work with DX10 and DX11 based titles only with DX9 support being added later with another release. AMD claims this was simply a development time issue and since most modern GPU-bound titles are DX10/11 based they focused on that area first. In phase 2 of the frame pacing implementation AMD will add in DX9 and OpenGL support. AMD wouldn't give me a timeline for implementation though so we'll have to see how much pressure AMD continues with internally to get the job done.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | June 26, 2013 - 06:05 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Windows 8.1, radeon, amd
You should be extremely cautious about upgrading to the Windows 8.1 Release Preview. Each of your apps, and all of your desktop software, must be reinstalled when the final code is released later this year; it is a detour to a dead end.
If curiosity overwhelms reason, and your graphics card was made by AMD withing the last few years, you will at least have a driver available.
It would be a good idea to refer to the AMD article to ensure that your specific model is supported. The driver covers many graphics cards from the Radeon, APU, and FirePro product categories. Many models are certified against Windows Display Driver Model version 1.3 (WDDM 1.3) although some, pre-Graphics Core Next architecture (as far as I can tell), are left behind with WDDM 1.2 introduced with Windows 8.
WDDM 1.3, new to Windows 8.1, allows for a few new developer features:
Enumerating GPU engine capabilities
- A DirectX interface to query card capabilities
- Helps schedule work, especially in "Linked Display Adapter" (LDA, think Crossfire) configurations.
Using cross-adapter resources in a hybrid system
- For systems with both discrete and embedded GPUs, such as an APU and a Radeon Card
- Allows for automatic loading of both GPUs simultaneously for appropriate applications
- Cool, but I've already loaded separate OpenCL kernels simultaneously on both GTX 670 and Intel HD 4000 in Windows 7. Admittedly, it would be nice if it were officially supported functionality, though.
Choice in YUV format ranges, studio or extended, for Microsoft Media Foundation (MMF)
- Formerly, MMF video processing assumed 16-235 black-white, which professional studios use.
- Webcam and Point-and-Shoot use 0-255 (a full byte), which are now processed properly.
Wireless Display (Miracast)
- Attach your PC wirelessly to a Miracast display adapter attached to TV by HDMI, or whatever.
Multiplane overlay support
- Allows GPU to perform complicated compositing, such as video over a website.
- If it's the same as proposed for Linux, will also allow translucency.
AMD's advertised enhancements for Windows 8.1 are:
- Already covered, a part of WDDM 1.3.
48 Hz Dynamic Refresh rates for Video Playback
- Not a clue, unless it is part of an upcoming HFR format for consumers.
Aggressive V-sync interrupt optimization
- Again, not a clue, but it sounds like something to be Frame Rated?
Skype/Lync video conferencing acceleration
- ... just when we move to a dual-machine Skype broadcasting setup...
DX 11.1 feature: Tiled Resources
- Some sources claim DirectX 11.2???
- Will render the most apparent details to a player with higher quality.
If you own Windows 8, you can check out 8.1 by downloading it from the Windows Store... if you dare. By tomorrow, Microsoft will provide ISO version for users to create install media for users who want to fresh-install to a, hopefully unimportant, machine.
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 20, 2013 - 04:05 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, nvidia, geforce, frame rating, fcat, crossfire, amd
Well, the date has been set. AMD publicly stated on its @AMDRadeon Twitter account that a new version the prototype driver we originally previewed with the release of the Radeon HD 7990 in April will be released to the public on July 31st. For a problem that many in the industry didn't think existed.
Big news for CrossFire! We plan to release our driver that delivers improved multi-GPU frame pacing on July 31. More info soon.
— AMD Radeon Graphics (@AMDRadeon) June 20, 2013
Since that April release AMD has been very quiet about its driver changes and actually has refused to send me updated prototypes over the spring. Either they have it figured out or they are worried they haven't - but it looks like we'll find out at the end of next month and I feel pretty confident that the team will be able to address the issues we brought to light.
For those of you that might have missed the discussion, our series of Frame Rating stories will tell you all about the issues with frame pacing and stutter in regards to AMD's CrossFire multi-GPU technology.
- Frame Rating Dissected: Full Details on Capture-based Graphics Performance Testing
- Frame Rating: Visual Effects of Vsync on Gaming Animation
- Frame Rating: AMD Improves CrossFire with Prototype Driver
AMD gave the media a prototype driver in April to test with the Radeon HD 7990, a card that depends on CrossFire to work correctly, and the improvements were pretty drastic.
So what can we expect on July 31st? A driver that will give users the option to disable or enable the frame pacing technology they are developing - though I am still of the mindset that disabling is never advantageous. More to come in the next 30 days!
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 18, 2013 - 03:39 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, nvidia, geforce, frostbite 3, ea, dice, amd
The original source article at IGN.com has been updated with some new information. Now they are saying the agreement between AMD and EA is "non-exclusive and gamers using other components will be supported."
The quote from an EA rep says as follows:
DICE has a partnership with AMD specifically for Battlefield 4 on PC to showcase and optimize the game for AMD hardware," an EA spokesperson said. "This does not exclude DICE from working with other partners to ensure players have a great experience across a wide set of PCs for all their titles.
END UPDATE #3
This could be a huge deal for NVIDIA and AMD in the coming months - according to a story at IGN.com, AMD has entered into an agreement with EA that will allow them exclusive rights to optimization for all games based around the Frostbite 3 engine. That includes Battlefield 4, Mirror's Edge 2, Need for Speed Rivals and many more games due out this year and in 2014. Here is the quote that is getting my attention:
Starting with the release of Battlefield 4, all current and future titles using the Frostbite 3 engine — Need for Speed Rivals, Mirror's Edge 2, etc. — will ship optimized exclusively for AMD GPUs and CPUs. While Nvidia-based systems will be supported, the company won't be able to develop and distribute updated drivers until after each game is released.
Battlefield 4 will be exclusive optimized for AMD hardware.
This is huge news for AMD as the Frostbite 3 engine will be used for all EA published games going forward with the exception of sports titles. The three mentioned above are huge but this also includes Star Wars Battlefront, Dragon Age and even the next Mass Effect so I can't really emphasize enough how big of a win this could be for AMD's marketing and developer relations teams.
I am particularly interested in this line as well:
While Nvidia-based systems will be supported, the company won't be able to develop and distribute updated drivers until after each game is released.
The world of PC optimizations and partnerships has been around for a long time so this isn't a huge surprise for anyone that follows PC gaming. What is bothersome to me is that both EA and AMD
are saying are rumored to have agreed that NVIDIA won't get access to the game as it is being developed - something that is CRUCIAL for day-of driver releases and performance tweaks for GeForce card owners. In most cases, both AMD and NVIDIA developer relations teams get early access to game builds for PC titles in order to validate compatibility and to improve performance of these games for the public release. Without these builds, NVIDIA would be at a big disadvantage. This is exactly what happend with the recent Tomb Raider release.
AMD called me to reiterate their stance that competition does not automatically mean cutting out the other guy. In the Tomb Raider story linked above, Neil Robison, AMD's Senior Director of Consumer and Graphics Alliances, states quite plainly: "The thing that angers me the most is when I see a request to debilitate a game. I understand winning, I get that, and I understand aggressive companies, I get that. Why would you ever want to introduce a feature on purpose that would make a game not good for half the gaming audience?"
So what do we take away from that statement, made in a story published in March, and today's rumor? We have to take AMD at its word until we see solid evidence otherwise, or enough cases of this occurring to feel like I am being duped but AMD wants us all to know that they are playing the game the "right way." That stance just happens to be counter to this rumor.
NVIDIA had performance and compatibility issues with Tomb Raider upon release.
The irony in all of this is that AMD has been accusing NVIDIA of doing this exact thing for years - though without any public statements from developers, publishers or NVIDIA. When Batman: Arkham Asylum was launched AMD basically said that NVIDIA had locked them out of supporting antialiasing. In 2008, Assassin's Creed dropped DX 10.1 support supposedly because NVIDIA asked them too, who didn't have support for it at the time in GeForce cards. Or even that NVIDIA was disabling cores for PhysX CPU support to help prop up GeForce sales. At the time, AMD PR spun this as the worst possible thing for a company to do in the name of gamers, that is was bad for the industry, etc. But times change as opportunity changes.
The cold truth is that this is why AMD decided to take the chance that NVIDIA was allegedly unwilling to and take the console design wins that are often noted as being "bad business." If settling for razor thin margins on the consoles is a risk, the reward that AMD is hoping to get is exactly this: benefits in other markets thanks to better relationships with game developers.
Will the advantage be with AMD thanks to PS4 and Xbox One hardware?
At E3 I spoke in-depth with both NVIDIA and AMD executives about this debate and as you might expect both have very different opinions about what is going to transpire in the next 12-24 months. AMD views this advantage (being in the consoles) as the big bet that is going to pay off for the more profitable PC space. NVIDIA thinks that AMD still doesn't have what it takes to truly support developers in the long run and they don't have the engineers to innovate on the technology side. In my view, having Radeon-based processors in the Xbox One and Playstation 4 (as well as the Wii U I guess) gives AMD a head start but won't win them the race for the hearts and minds of PC gamers. There is still a lot of work to be done for that.
Before this story broke I was planning on outlining another editorial on this subject and it looks like it just got promoted to a top priority. There appear to be a lot of proverbial shoes left to drop in this battle, but it definitely needs more research and discussion.
Remember the issues with Batman: Arkham Asylum? I do.
I asked both NVIDIA and AMD for feedback on this story but only AMD has replied thus far. Robert Hallock, PR manager for gaming and graphics, Graphics Business Unit at AMD sent me this:
It makes sense that game developers would focus on AMD hardware with AMD hardware being the backbone of the next console generation. At this time, though, our relationship with EA is exclusively focused on Battlefield 4 and its hardware optimizations for AMD CPUs, GPUs and APUs.
Not much there, but he is also not denying of the original report coming from IGN. It might just be too early for a more official statement. I will update this story with information from NVIDIA if I hear anything else.
What do YOU think about this announcement though? Is this good news for AMD and bad news for NVIDIA? Is it good or bad for the gamer and in particular, the PC gamer? Your input will help guide or upcoming continued talks with NVIDIA and AMD on the subject.
Just so we all have some clarification on this and on the potential for validity of the rumor, this is where I sourced the story from this afternoon:
END UPDATE #2
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 7, 2013 - 02:33 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: amd, radeon, hd 7970 ghz edition, HD 7970, never settle
AMD just passed me a note that I found to be very interesting. In an obvious response to the release of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 that offers the GK104 GPU (previously only in the GTX 680) for a lower price of $399, AMD wants you to know that at least ONE Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition card is priced lower than the others.
The Sapphire Vapor-XHD 7970 GHz Edition is currently listed on Newegg.com for $419, a cool $30 less than the other HD 7970 GHz Edition cards. This is not a card-wide price drop to $419 though. AMD had this to say:
In late May I noted that we would be working with our partners to improve channel supply of the AMD Radeon™ HD 7970 GHz Edition to North American resellers like Newegg.com. Today I’m mailing to let you know that this process has begun to bear fruit, with the Sapphire Vapor-X HD 7970 GHz Edition now listing for the AMD SEP of $419 US. Of course, this GPU is also eligible for the Never Settle Reloaded AND Level Up programs!
Improving supply is an ongoing process, of course, but we’re pleased with the initial results of our efforts and hope you might pass word to your readers if you get a chance.
This "ongoing process" might mean that we'll see other partners' card sell for this lower price but it also might not. In AMD's defense, our testing proves that in single GPU configurations, the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition does very well compared to the GTX 770, especially at higher resolutions.
I did ask AMD for some more answers in regards to what other partners think about a competitor getting unique treatment with AMD to offer this lower price unit, but I haven't received an answer yet. I'll update here when we do!
For today though, if you are looking for a Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition that also comes with the AMD Never Settle game bundle (Crysis 3, Bioshock Infinite, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Tomb Raider), it's hard to go wrong with that $419 option.
The Architectural Deep Dive
AMD officially unveiled their brand new Bobcat architecture to the world at CES 2011. This was a very important release for AMD in the low power market. Even though Netbooks were a dying breed at that time, AMD experienced a good uptick in sales due to the good combination of price, performance, and power consumption for the new Brazos platform. AMD was of the opinion that a single CPU design would not be able to span the power consumption spectrum of CPUs at the time, and so Bobcat was designed to fill that space which existed from 1 watt to 25 watts. Bobcat never was able to get down to that 1 watt point, but the Z-60 was a 4.5 watt part with two cores and the full 80 Radeon cores.
The Bobcat architecture was produced on TSMC’s 40 nm process. AMD eschewed the upcoming 32 nm HKMG/SOI process that was being utilized for the upcoming Llano and Bulldozer parts. In hindsight, this was a good idea. Yields took a while to improve on GLOBALFOUNDRIES new process, while the existing 40 nm product from TSMC was running at full speed. AMD was able to provide the market in fairly short order with good quantities of Bobcat based APUs. The product more than paid for itself, and while not exactly a runaway success that garnered many points of marketshare from Intel, it helped to provide AMD with some stability in the market. Furthermore, it provided a very good foundation for AMD when it comes to low power parts that are feature rich and offer competitive performance.
The original Brazos update did not happen, instead AMD introduced Brazos 2.0 which was a more process improvement oriented product which featured slightly higher speeds but remained in the same TDP range. The uptake of this product was limited, and obviously it was a minor refresh to buoy purchases of the aging product. Competition was coming from low power Ivy Bridge based chips, as well as AMD’s new Trinity products which could reach TDPs of 17 watts. Brazos and Brazos 2.0 did find a home in low powered, but full sized notebooks that were very inexpensive. Even heavily leaning Intel based manufacturers like Toshiba released Brazos based products in the sub-$500 market. The combination of good CPU performance and above average GPU performance made this a strong product in this particular market. It was so power efficient, small batteries were typically needed, thereby further lowering the cost.
All things must pass, and Brazos is no exception. Intel has a slew of 22 nm parts that are encroaching on the sub-15 watt territory, ARM partners have quite a few products that are getting pretty decent in terms of overall performance, and the graphics on all of these parts are seeing some significant upgrades. The 40 nm based Bobcat products are no longer competitive with what the market has to offer. So at this time we are finally seeing the first Jaguar based products. Jaguar is not a revolutionary product, but it improves on nearly every aspect of performance and power usage as compared to Bobcat.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | May 8, 2013 - 09:32 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Volcanic Islands, radeon, ps4, amd
So the Southern Islands might not be entirely stable throughout 2013 as we originally reported; seismic activity being analyzed suggests the eruption of a new GPU micro-architecture as early as Q4. These Volcanic Islands, as they have been codenamed, should explode onto the scene opposing NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 700-series products.
It is times like these where GPGPU-based seismic computation becomes useful.
The rumor is based upon a source which leaked a fragment of a slide outlining the processor in block diagram form and specifications of its alleged flagship chip, "Hawaii". Of primary note, Volcanic Islands is rumored to be organized with both Serial Processing Modules (SPMs) and a Parallel Compute Module (PCM).
So apparently a discrete GPU can have serial processing units embedded on it now.
Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA) is a set of initiatives to bridge the gap between massively parallel workloads and branching logic tasks. We usually make reference to this in terms of APUs and bringing parallel-optimized hardware to the CPU. In this case, we are discussing it in terms of bringing serial processing to the discrete GPU. According to the diagram, the chip within would contain 8 processor modules each with two processing cores and an FPU for a total of 16 cores. There does not seem to be any definite identification whether these cores would be based upon their license to produce x86 processors or their other license to produce ARM processors. Unlike an APU, this is heavily skewed towards parallel computation rather than a relatively even balance between CPU, GPU, and chipset features.
Now of course, why would they do that? Graphics processors can do branching logic but it tends to sharply cut performance. With an architecture such as this, a programmer might be able to more efficiently switch between parallel and branching logic tasks without doing an expensive switch across the motherboard and PCIe bus between devices. Josh Walrath suggested a server containing these as essentially add-in card computers. For gamers, this might help out with workloads such as AI which is awkwardly split between branching logic and massively parallel visibility and path-finding tasks. Josh seems skeptical about this until HSA becomes further adopted, however.
Still, there is a reason why they are implementing this now. I wonder, if the SPMs are based upon simple x86 cores, how the PS4 will influence PC gaming. Technically, a Volcanic Island GPU would be an oversized PS4 within an add-in card. This could give AMD an edge, particularly in games ported to the PC from the Playstation.
This chip, Hawaii, is rumored to have the following specifications:
- 4096 stream processors
- 16 serial processor cores on 8 modules
- 4 geometry engines
- 256 TMUs
- 64 ROPs
- 512-bit GDDR5 memory interface, much like the PS4.
20 nm Gate-Last silicon fab process
- Unclear if TSMC or "Common Platform" (IBM/Samsung/GLOBALFOUNDRIES)
Softpedia is also reporting on this leak. Their addition claims that the GPU will be designed on a 20nm Gate-Last fabrication process. While gate-last is considered to be not worth the extra effort in production, Fully Depleted Silicon On Insulator (FD-SOI) is apparently "amazing" on gate-last at 28nm and smaller fabrication. This could mean that AMD is eying that technology and making this design with intent of switching to an FD-SOI process, without a large redesign which an initially easier gate-first production would require.
Well that is a lot to process... so I will leave you with an open question for our viewers: what do you think AMD has planned with this architecture, and what do you like and/or dislike about what your speculation would mean?