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AMD's next-gen Polaris GPU architecture unveiled, arrives in mid-2016

By: Anthony Garreffa | AMD Radeon GPU in Video Cards | Posted: Jan 4, 2016 2:00 pm

Wrapping Things up with Polaris


Overall, I was impressed with what AMD discussed at RTG Technology Summit and the Polaris architecture as a whole. Going into the event, I expected to see the dual Fiji card in the form of the Radeon R9 Fury X2 but was disappointed that it wasn't on show. I thought we'd see the next-gen flagship GPU or, at least, a tease, but Polaris filled these gaps.





The most important market to dominate is the mid-range and mainstream markets, and any Polaris-based offering is going to do this. Offering gaming at 1080p 60FPS using less than 90W is a big deal, and I think AMD could nail a new mid-range offering at the $150-$200 mark that could see NVIDIA shaking - but that brings up another issue - we know NVIDIA is working on something equal. NVIDIA is working on the Pascal architecture, which should bring very similar performance per watt benefits, and it'll see NVIDIA use HBM for the first time. Where AMD was the first to use HBM1 on the Radeon R9 Fury X, NVIDIA will take its turn in 2016.


Polaris is going to introduce a lot of new things, starting with the 4th-generation GCN architecture, and new display technology including HDMI 2.0a and DP1.3. Not only that, but we're going to see it baked onto the 14nm FinFET process that is going to see AMD most likely reveal a video card unlike anything we've seen before. I think we're going to see something that can be powered by only the PCIe socket, which is going to be quite a change in what we're used to.


AMD has promised a "historical leap in performance per watt for Radeon GPUs", and this is something that they have "planned availability" for mid 2016.



Where's the Enthusiast Version of Polaris?


This is the question I don't know the answer to, but I think AMD will have an entire event dedicated to their new GPUs sometime in 2016. I think AMD could be smart by nailing resolution + frame rates in their marketing, with the first Polaris offering we've written about today nailing the 1080p 60FPS mark.


We could see a 1440p 60FPS, 1440p 144FPS, 4K 60FPS and 4K 120FPS style release - with a VR release somewhere in between. It would be interesting to see AMD being able to offer this, and push their marketing at resolutions and frame rates. This could mean consumers would know by looking at a new 2016 Radeon offering, that it's capable of offering 1080p 60FPS or 4K 60FPS - directly from the box.




But what about the performance? Personally, I'm expecting a giant leap from the Fury X on the Polaris-equivalent Fury X product. Let's say it's called the Fury X II or Fury XX (what do you think of Fury XX?) then I expect 50% performance on top of the Fury X. I want to see AMD's single-GPU flagship card capable of driving 4K 60FPS in every single game on the market, at less than 200W, and priced at less than $649.


The next-gen GPUs are going to blow people away, and it's not just going to be the enthusiast offerings, either. As you can see, AMD is aiming at the mainstream market with 1080p 60FPS at less than 90W, so we should expect the $200-$300 cards, as well as the $300+ cards to kick some serious ass. This is going to be thanks to a trio of technologies, features and APIs.


First, HBM2 will offer up to 1TB/sec of memory bandwidth - a huge 1024GB/sec, up from the 512GB/sec offered by the HBM1-based Radeon R9 Fury X. For comparison, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti offers 336GB/sec of memory bandwidth over its 384-bit memory bus, using GDDR5. Then we have the Polaris and Pascal architectures, will which boast new features and technologies - and then finally, the shrink to 14nm/16nm processes.


These shifts in the GPU market are going to be wide and felt everywhere, as it'll affect everything from the low-end offerings, right up to the enthusiast GPUs and the professional markets. From here on out, it's going to be the most exciting time to be an enthusiast, especially if you're into GPUs, display technology, and VR/AR headsets.

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