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HBM2 Graphics RAM Isn't the Hero We Deserve... Yet

By: Anthony Garreffa | Editorials in Video Cards | Posted: Aug 10, 2016 5:39 pm

GDDR5X is here, and it's more than enough for now


With each new GPU unveiling, we're getting closer to running 4K 60FPS from a single graphics card for a reasonable price. Sure, the new Titan X might cost $1200, but it's more than capable of pumping out 60FPS at 4K without a problem. In the next two to three years, we're going to see $200-$300 graphics cards that will handle that, and then we're opening up Pandora's Box and asking totally new questions about where the market will be by 2020.



GDDR5X was first used on NVIDIA's new GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card, which offers 8GB of GDDR5X at 10GHz. This is a huge upgrade from the maxed out 7GHz we've had for a while now on GDDR5-based graphics cards like the GeForce GTX 980 Ti, Titan X, and Radeon R9 390X just to name a few.


If we compare apples to apples (well, as close as we can) and compare the 8GB of GDDR5X on the GTX 1080 with the the 12GB of GDDR5X on the Titan X, and throw in the older Maxwell-based GeForce GTX Titan X with 12GB of GDDR5 (no X), we have some big changes between just these three graphics cards. Let's throw in AMD's Radeon R9 Fury X into the mix, as it has the most advanced memory of them all.




I recently did some benchmarking with triple 4K monitors running a native resolution of 11,520 x 2160, and I didn't expect the results that I did with the new Titan X. The new GDDR5X-based Titan X is around 50% faster than the GTX 1080, and faster again when we look at the last-gen Titan X. AMD's HBM1-powered Fury X is left in the new Titan X's dust, in a big way, mostly because it's limited by its 4GB framebuffer.


In nearly all of the reviews that I read, and my discussions with various friends in the industry and tech YouTubers, the new Titan X is on average of 20% faster than the GTX 1080, which was the fastest graphics card in the world, for a few months at least.




But when I tested NVIDIA's new Titan X at 11,520 x 2160, the results had me blown away. I've never tested a graphics card before where I've yelled out "what the f***," or "how is it this fast?!", but I did with the new Titan X. NVIDIA did some magical things with GDDR5X on the GTX 1080, with architectural improvements to the memory compression which have gone a long way in helping NVIDIA not need to bother with HBM2... for now.


12GB of GDDR5X with a data rate of 10Gbps on a 384-bit memory bus and we have 480GB/sec memory bandwidth, and with 50% more performance over the already fast GTX 1080 at 11,520 x 2160, is there a need for HBM2? This is the reason I run triple 4K benchmarks, not just because, but in the not too distant future, 4K 120Hz and 8K 60Hz will be the norm.


Not only that, but VR is making a big impression on the graphics card market, and there'll soon be VR HMDs with 4K per eye. This is going to need some serious bandwidth to hit 90FPS average, but do we need HBM2? Probably not.



Think Smaller Graphics Cards, New Form Factors


The benefits of HBM2 come into play by ushering in new form factors. AMD did it with the Radeon R9 Nano, which was powered by the same 4GB of HBM1 that the higher-end Fury X had, but did it in a slightly smaller card that is still today one of my favorite graphics cards, ever.




Once HBM2 is cheap enough to throw on consumer graphics cards (for under $700), then we'll see some exciting things come from it. Cards that are the size of the PCIe x16 port, but with performance exceeding the current Titan X which costs $1200.


After the release of NVIDIA's new Titan X, I'm no longer pumped for HBM2 to hit consumer graphics cards in regards to the performance side of things. GDDR5X at 10GHz has shown us that the future is here and that HBM2 is going to be awesome - sure, but it's not needed.


I'm paraphrasing Jim Gordon here, but [HBM2 is] the hero we deserve, but not the one we need right now.

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