Over the last couple of days, we have received information that would indicate nVidia is not moving to HBM 2 for their consumer GPUs (outside of some extremely high-end models). Instead, they appear to be focusing on improvements found in GDDR5X and GDDR6. Conversely, AMD appears to be focusing on HBM for many of their high-end and even some mid-range cards. The two very different paths has sparked something of a debate amongst fans of both products (as you can imagine). The questions are, why chose one over the other at this point and is HBM a truly viable option for AMD?
It seems that AMD’s recent licensing moves and the press that Zen has been getting has given investors more confidence in the company. On Friday this confidence pushed AMD’s share price by almost 10% at $6.18 (the 52 week high) of this writing AMD’s share price has dropped some, but is still up by a little more than 5% ($6.14). Some have seen this as proof that AMD is going to have a comeback soon and that Intel should be very worried.
The experts have all weighed in. 2016 will be the year of Virtual Reality. The problem is that the experts are very often wrong. Still that has not stopped multiple companies from pushing out new VR headsets, APIs, development kits and more. The craze has gone so far as to start effecting the way that companies are making core hardware. We already know that AMD is pushing for VR mastery with new products and by showing which existing products also have a level of VR support.
On the 19th of January Samsung announced that they had begun mass production of their 4GB HBM 2.0 3D memory. This announcement was the starting gun for the next big GPU race. As we know both AMD and NVIDIA are racing to get viable products to the market in time for Oculus and HTC to launch their consumer version VR headsets. Up until now we have really only seen the developers’ kits and while these have been impressive they are not what most are hoping for in the final product.
AMD as a corporate entity is facing some rough times. As of their last earnings call we saw that they are still losing money and really do not have a product ready to combat this. The Rage Fury line of GPUs is doing ok in terms of sales, but as of this writing AMD has not been able to take a significant amount of market share from NVIDIA or even Intel. This is not to say that Radeon Graphics, or AMD’s APUs are bad products, it is just that they are not performing as well as the competition. In terms of the APU AMD still cannot compete with the compute power of Intel’s Core series even though the GPU side of the APU is a much better product.
Yesterday we talked about the possibility that AMD will launch a Dual-GPU R9 Fury X card geared for 4k and VR. This is certainly welcome news for most AMD fans and for fans of virtual reality. It was no coincidence that the first time we are seeing this in operation was at a big VR event in LA or that the launch is rumored to coincide with the launch of Oculus and HTC’s Vive headsets. This move would be a very high-end AMD card on the market around April/May of this year.
As most people are aware, AMD dropped the first GPUs to utilize HBM (High Bandwidth Memory). These GPUs use a form of HBM called 2.5D which requires the use of an interproser layer than both the memory and the GPU sit on. This is opposed to the 3D stack in which the memory sits on top of the processor that owns it. The traditional stacking of 3D Memory provides significant performance benefits, but would require a different chip for every memory density you plan on releasing. In the GPU world this can be a big problem and is why both AMD and NVIDIA have opted for the 2.5D method.
In September of 2015 (that would be this year) AMD announced that they were splitting off their GPU business into the Radeon Technologies Group (RTG). This move had a number of reasons (most good) and would serve to distance the graphics group from the CPU business. After talking to a few investors they were very optimistic about this move and would consider investing in RTG where they might not have done so in AMD. The split was a long time coming and is actually how AMD should have handled the ATi buy back in 2006 (Merger with separate business units and not a complete buy out).
Although much of the press surrounding AMD at the moment is focused on their lackluster earnings for Q2, there is some potentially good news from them. AMD’s dive into the use of High Bandwidth Memory is going to continue with their next GPU line up. According to the information available the next generation of GPUs will be code named Artic Islands and should be manufactures on a 16nm FinFET process.
At Computex 2015 Intel has announced a few nice additions to the Broadwell line up which bring Iris Pro graphics to the table. The new CPUs are touted as the first LGA CPUs to have Iris Pro in them which might not seem like a big deal, but if leveraged right could have a significant impact on the market. Intel is also pushing out mobile Core i5 CPUs with Iris Pro 6200 with this launch making their more advanced graphics available to a broader range of products.