First Thoughts: A Peek At What’s To Come

Wrapping things up, while today’s reveal from AMD is only a teaser of what they have been working on over the last few years with Vega, it’s none the less an important one. Based on what we know so far, Vega stands to be the biggest change to AMD’s GPU architecture since GCN 1.0 was released 5 years ago, and the changes to the ALUs, the ROPs, the memory structure, and other aspects of Vega reinforce this notion. To be sure, Vega is not a wholly new architecture – it is clearly a further refinement of GCN – but then this is exactly why GCN was designed to be able to evolve through refinements over a very long period of time.

What we have for now then is a quick look at what’s to come from AMD. There are still many things we don’t know, not the least of which is the actual GPU configurations. But for a teaser it’s enough to show that AMD has been hard at work. It sets the stage for the hardware and marketing ramp-up to come over the next few months.

But for now, let’s close with an image. As I mentioned before, the first Vega has taped out, and Radeon Technology Group’s frontman and Chief Architect, Raja Koduri, has one. The chip was just a few weeks old as of December, and while trying to discern die size may be a little too error-prone, we can see one important detail: 2 HBM2 packages.

Raja and AMD will not tell us what chip we’re looking at – like Polaris, two Vega chips have been confirmed – but either way we are looking at one of them in all its alpha silicon glory. Bearing in mind HBM2’s much greater bandwidth per pin, we could very well be looking at a design for a Fiji-like 512GB/sec of memory bandwidth in the chip Raja holds.  And for AMD, that is one more teaser for today to keep attention focused right where they want it: on Vega ahead of its H1’17 launch.

HBM2 & “The World’s Most Scalable GPU Memory Architecture”
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  • jjj - Thursday, January 5, 2017 - link

    599$ for Titan X Pascal (or better) perf? Reply
  • nathanddrews - Thursday, January 5, 2017 - link

    If they have TitanXP performance, it's going to be more expensive than the 1080. You know NVIDIA is just waiting for a chance to release a $699 or $799 1080Ti, so whatever AMD brings out, you can bet there's gonna be a clash of titans. Er, titans and stars, that is. Reply
  • jjj - Thursday, January 5, 2017 - link

    599$ might be too aggressive but depends on where the die size lands and what Nvidia does.
    Vega has almost 15% more FLOPS than Titan XP so remains to be seen how well they utilize that computing power and how much silicon it takes.
    The likely 8GB of HMB does help on the cost side.
    It also depends on what other SKUs they got and when. A high price limits volumes but if they also have lesser SKUs at launch, they can afford to price the best SKU higher.
    Reply
  • haukionkannel - Thursday, January 5, 2017 - link

    True! Nvidia has guaranteed that fastest Vegas can be sold over 1000$...
    Lets hope that cheaper option are near 500-600$.

    The interesting part is when AMD will use these next generation GPU units in their mid and low range products. Maybe the next summer or next autumn? Then we will get interesting devices to 150-350$ slots! Most propably with gdd5 in the low end and maybe gddr5+ in the high mid range GPUs,
    Reply
  • jjj - Thursday, January 5, 2017 - link

    Why not get a 350$ card at launch. They have nothing above Polaris 10 and the 350 price band is important. Reply
  • eachus - Saturday, January 14, 2017 - link

    There is a new Polaris chip (Polaris 12) in the works. It may be intended only for APUs where it would be mounted on an interposer with a Ryzen chip. It is not clear what AMD is going to do in the gap between RX 480 and Vega 10. Vega 11 is expected to replace the RX 480*

    * Understand what replace means here. It doesn't mean that AMD will stop selling Polaris GPUs. It means that AMD expects Vega 11 to have a better price/performance than RX 480, and that the performance gap between and that the price range where RX 480 currently sells will be starved of oxygen. I do expect a dual Polaris 10 card to ship, and there is also an RX 490 design floating around. (It may be a Polaris 10 chip with a higher clock speed, more power of course, and 8 Gig of GDDR5x memory.)

    Always remember that marketing gets the last say, not engineering. So only one or none of these products may show up. It is also not clear when Vega 11 will arrive. If it is late in this year, or early in next year, there will be enough time to market the additional Polaris parts.
    Reply
  • Jad77 - Thursday, January 5, 2017 - link

    So, by the time this hits the streets, Nvidia will already have another hardware iteration out? It's likely too late, but if you still holding on, sell your AMD stock. Reply
  • Darkknight512 - Thursday, January 5, 2017 - link

    Likely Nvidia will have an answer, that has always been the case and is barely even worth mentioning anymore, at least until AMD gets the upper hand one of these days. They did it to Intel during the Athlon days. It is very much possible, they have smart engineers, they just don't have enough of them but that often does not matter if they can work more efficiently. They have one thing going for them and that is a larger team by 2x often results in <2x the work done.

    One of my former bosses while I worked in the silicon industry said "AMD has good technology, they just have terrible luck being the underdog in both industries they compete in at the same time.". I wholely agree, with some luck they actually can come out on top, Nvidia is spending a lot of money diversifying.
    Reply
  • MLSCrow - Thursday, January 5, 2017 - link

    Honestly, I for once, don't think nVidia will have an answer. I feel that their expectations of what AMD could do were so incredibly low, that they felt GP100 and all of its derivatives would be enough to lay the smack down on AMD for good. Even with Volta, which seems like it's going to be a slight tweak to Pascal, it seems that Vega might just come out on top, which would make more sense out of AMD's slide of "Poor Volta", which would be a rather idiotic move unless AMD truly had something to be that cocky about. Reply
  • Yojimbo - Thursday, January 5, 2017 - link

    NVIDIA isn't trying to lay the smackdown on AMD for good. NVIDIA has been evolving in a different direction from AMD. AMD, probably because they have been cash-strapped, has not been able to invest the money necessary to become a platform-based company the way NVIDIA has.

    Also, Volta will not be a small tweak to Pascal. Pascal was a die shrink and small tweak to Maxwell (from the point of view of the underlying architecture, not the features that it enables). Volta is supposed to have ~1.7 times the performance and efficiency of Pascal on the same process technology. It won't be out until 6 to 9 months after Vega, however. But I'm very leery about taking AMD's promises at face value. Even if Vega is as high performance and efficient as AMD claims, it still uses HBM2 which adds significant cost to the manufacture of the chip. That means they will only be able to put a limited amount of pricing pressure on NVIDIA.
    Reply

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