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AMD only putting HBM into the Radeon 380 and 390... why?

by on23 March 2015 3830 times

We have talked about some of the challenges that AMD is facing due to poor sales (and bad leadership), but many of these challenges have not been as evident as what is happening in the GPU world. Although we have talked a little bit about AMD’s next generation cards from the top of the heap, we have not really looked at what is happening with the rest of the line.

So we do know that the Radeon 380 and 390X will be something new with High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) a new core design and more, but from what is being seen inside the latest Catalyst drivers the rest of the lineup is not. We will not go into the details of just what is being rebranded here as a quick search will find all of that information for you. What we are more concerned with here is why AMD would chose to only put out two top end cards and rebrand the rest of the product line.

The most probably reason for this is cost. AMD might not have the money to move their entire line to HBM and a new core design. They could be looking to validate their ability to sell these high-dollar items before they invest more money into them. This also plays into the cost to build; if you are looking at paying more to build each product due to the cost of memory then there is going to be an impact on consumer acceptance. AMD cannot be in a situation where their budget cards suddenly cost 2x what their competition is charging due to more powerful RAM.

In the realm of far less likely reasons is a potential issue where AMD’s mid-range cards perform too close to their high-end cards. This would eat into sales of these cards and create more potential for lost revenue to AMD and their partners. Can you imagine if a $450 2GB card performed almost as well as a $900 4GB card? Obviously this is not something that AMD could have happen, it is also not very likely either. Still with HBM it is potentially possible that a card with less memory could perform very well due to the extra memory bandwidth available with 2.5D memory.

We happen to think that AMD is grasping at something to get them back in the GPU game with a clear lead over NVIDIA. The attempted move to 20nm kept them behind the game with nothing really new to offer consumers. NVIDIA has had the chance to get way out in front of AMD during this time and now AMD has to do something dramatic. They need HBM in their cards now and not later. However, they really do not have the funds to do the entire line up right now due the costs of designing and paying to have the GPUs made. They need to maintain their cost to build while pushing HBM out. By putting 2.5D HBM on only the top two cards they can potentially reclaim the performance crown while making a little money in the process. This allows HBM to come down in price while AMD finds less expensive ways to build their GPUs (and APUs) with HBM.

As of this writing AMD plans to launch the 380 and 390 this year with NVIDIA not that far behind in early 2016. Both will be using the same type of memory interface (2.5D) so it will be a race to see who can build the better memory controller and GPU with the best manufacturing price.

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