AMD’s Vega GPU

The new graph­ics pro­ces­sors will ini­tially tar­get high-end desk­tops, re­veals Agam Shah

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

AMD has been tight-lipped about its up­com­ing GPUs, co­de­named Vega, but here’s a new, key de­tail: they will start rolling out in the first half of 2017.

The first pro­cess­ing units will be aimed at high-end en­thu­si­ast PCs, Mark Paper­mas­ter, chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer at AMD, said dur­ing a re­cent talk at the Deutsche Bank 2016 Tech­nol­ogy Con­fer­ence in Las Ve­gas.

Some ear­lier es­ti­mates had put the re­lease as late this year. The chip­maker’s road map, how­ever, listed it for re­lease next year, though the time­frame wasn’t clear.

The Vega GPUs will pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant per­for­mance and power ef­fi­ciency im­prove­ments com­pared to AMD’s Po­laris, Paper­mas­ter re­vealed. They are aimed at gam­ing, vir­tual re­al­ity and other desk­top ap­pli­ca­tions that re­quire high-per­for­mance.

The new graph­ics pro­ces­sors could slot nicely into high-end desk­tops along­side AMD’s Zen chip, which will be­come widely avail­able in PCs next year. The firm hopes to re­gain its lost glory in PCs and servers with Zen, which is a new CPU de­sign that stresses per­for­mance. The ini­tial Zen chip for gam­ing PCs will have eight cores.

AMD is also mulling a mega-chip for servers and high-per­for­mance com­put­ers that com­bines a Zen CPU chip with a GPU. CEO Lisa Su hinted that chip, which could be re­leased next year, could have a Vega GPU.

The unit will have next-gen­er­a­tion HBM2 (High-Band­width Mem­ory), which is stacked mem­ory that can pro­vide through­put of up to 256GB/s (gi­ga­bytes per sec­ond), depend­ing on the con­fig­u­ra­tion.

Ear­lier this year AMD launched GPUs based on the Po­laris ar­chi­tec­ture, in­clud­ing the Radeon RX 480, which brings VR on the cheap to desk­tops. AMD will con­tinue to fo­cus Po­laris on bud­get PCs.

The chip­maker is locked in a bat­tle with Nvidia, whose GPUs, such as the GeForce GTX 1080, are based on the Pas­cal ar­chi­tec­ture and will com­pete with Vega.

AMD’s dis­crete GPU mar­ket share was 34.2 per­cent in the sec­ond quar­ter of 2016, hav­ing grown from 26.9 per­cent in the same quar­ter a year ago. Nvidia’s mar­ket share was 65.8 per­cent in the sec­ond quar­ter this year, drop­ping from 73.1 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to Mer­cury Re­search. It has lost mar­ket share by de-em­pha­siz­ing the sale of GPUs in large vol­umes through main­stream PC mak­ers, said Dean McCar­ron, prin­ci­pal an­a­lyst at Mer­cury Re­search.

That void is be­ing filled by AMD, which is the rea­son why the com­pany has gained mar­ket share. The chip­maker is also filling a space in the low-end PC gam­ing mar­ket, while Nvidia fo­cuses on sell­ing high-mar­gin GPUs through re­tail­ers and en­thu­si­ast PC mak­ers. Gam­ing PC mak­ers such as Alien­ware and Fal­con North­west pre­fer Nvidia prod­ucts for high-end PCs. While AMD is gain­ing mar­ket share, Nvidia is gen­er­at­ing more prof­its from GPU sales, McCar­ron said.

AMD’s Radeon Pro Duo graph­ics card in a desk­top

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