AMD’s Vega GPU
The new graphics processors will initially target high-end desktops, reveals Agam Shah
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