CES 2017 - Last month when AMD unveiled their ambitious new Vega plan, I had to decompress half of it over weeks - because there's just so much. During CES, I had some one-on-one time with various RTG members, and began thinking of the future of Radeon.
I plan a series of articles on Vega, but we need to split them into a few different parts - where I want to talk more about High Bandwidth Cache, and what it could mean not just for Vega, but for the future of gaming.
More Isn't Necessarily Better
We have been stuck in this world of 'more is better' and that the larger the amount of VRAM on a graphics card, the better it is. I know that's not how it works, but after 10 years in retail IT sales selling graphics cards, custom gaming PCs and everything in between - most consumers think 'higher numbers = better/faster'.
It has been ingrained into us from a very young age, the moreMHz a CPU had, the faster it was. The more GPU cores a graphics card has, the faster it is. The more VRAM a graphics card is, the more it can handle - but VRAM is a tricky thing.
More doesn't mean better, because the framebuffer is filled differently depending on the game. Some games will allocate much more VRAM than the actual game is using to render the graphics on screen, and this has been OK... until now. We can't keep pushing into a world where 8GB or 12GB or 16GB of VRAM is normal - especially when so many gamers are stuck at 1080p - where, you simply do not need more than 4-8GB of VRAM (depending on the game, graphics settings, anti-aliasing applied, and so on).
High Bandwidth Cache, Alongside HBM2, Could Change Everything
AMD is changing that game with Vega and its beyond exciting High Bandwidth Cache, or HBC. HBC is something I covered in my initial Vega GPU architectural preview article last week, but I've spent 60 hours travelling on 6 planes, attended CES with a bunch of meetings - and personally, an anxiety attack in between (we're human, I'm human, and I like to make my articles personal - I'm not a robot).
After all of this, I've been able to get a cleaner feel for what HBC and HBM2 means for the future of AMD. AMD doesn't have the money that NVIDIA does, and while some people are aware of this, some aren't. Some look at AMD and think because they're a publicly traded company that has been around for decades and made some of the most technologically impressive consumer products ever, that they're flush with cash.
Well, they're not... and you know what? That gives them a strength that you can only have when you're in that position. When you're in a position of Intel or NVIDIA, you begin to feel more comfortable - you begin to sit inside of that 'tick, tock' pattern - or the slight iteration changes between Maxwell and Pascal.
AMD has to think outside of the box, and into the stars - beyond the stars and into a new horizon. Once they're outside of the realms of possibilities, they can swim in a pool of pure technological fantasy. This is a pool I'd love to some day swim in, and Vega is the first product of that new direction.