AMD's next-gen RDNA 3: revolutionary chiplet design could crush NVIDIA

AMD's next-gen RDNA 3 architecture, the one after Big Navi / RDNA 2, could use a revolutionary chiplet design to crush NVIDIA.

13 minute read time

The hype is beginning to feel real about AMD's next-generation Big Navi GPU, otherwise known as Navi 2X on the RDNA 2 architecture. But what about RDNA 3? Yeah, let's dive right into it.

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A fresh batch of rumors suggest that AMD is currently in the early design phase of the RDNA 3 architecture, and it could represent the most radical change of GPU design ever. AMD could shift towards using a chiplet design for its RDNA 3 architecture, similar to the chiplet design used on the revolutionary Zen architecture.

This would let AMD mix and match many different GPU IPs together, where we could see I/O like memory controllers and other parts of the chips being put on different nodes. The main GPU dies (in this case, RDNA 3 chiplets) could be on the 'Advanced Node' (5nm with TSMC) while the other parts like the memory controller, can be on a different node.

  • RDNA 3 on the next-gen 5nm node by TSMC: We heard back in May 2020 that AMD would be tapping TSMC's next-gen 5nm node for its upcoming RDNA 3 architecture. You can read more about that here.

The article from May 2020 detailed a leaked investment plant at-a-glace shows what TSMC has planned for its 5nm N5 and enhanced N5+ nodes. In the image, TSMC refers to AMD's upcoming Zen 4 architecture CPUs and RDNA 3-based GPUs, NVIDIA's next-gen Hopper GPU architecture, and many others including Qualcomm's next-gen Snapdragon 875 and Snapdragon X60 5G modem.

We don't know anything for sure just yet, but I'm sure we'll begin to hear more concrete info on RDNA 3 once AMD lifts the lid on RDNA 2 later this year. As for the chiplet rumor for RDNA 3, it is incredibly exciting -- it's not something totally new as we've heard rumors of this before, even for NVIDIA.

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All the way back in July 2017, I wrote an article about NVIDIA shifting to multiple GPUs on future GeForce graphics cards. This move would've been from the usual monolothic design (that NVIDIA continued to use with Turing, and even Ampere) towards an MCM -- or multi-chip module.

Very similar to the chiplet design that AMD could use with RDNA 3.

RDNA 3: possible chiplet design

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  • What is a chipset design? You can see in the above image, a chiplet design in the Zen 2 architecture has smaller clusters of CPU cores. Lots of those small clusters added together make for quite the number of CPU cores. This would be the same for a GPU designed on a chiplet method. Lots of small clusters of small amounts of GPU cores adding up into one gigantic chip.
  • Does RDNA 2 do this? No, even the next-gen RDNA 2 architecture is still a 'monolithic die'. It'll be pretty kick ass, but it's not a chiplet architecture.
  • Does NVIDIA have this tech? Not yet, but there have been rumors that future generations of NVIDIA GeForce graphcis cards could move towards a multi-die MCM approach.
  • What kind of performance could there be? I can only begin to imagine, it would be pretty huge. RDNA 2 is expected to deliver 2x the performance of RDNA, so if RDNA 3 provides 3x the performance of RDNA or more then we're in for some truly amazing times.
  • When is it coming out? Don't expect RDNA 3 or a chiplet GPU architecture from AMD until at least the end of 2021, and more so a good chunk into 2022.
  • RDNA 3 should be on TSMC's next-gen 5nm node: TSMC is having a 5nm party and everyone is invited, AMD's next-gen RDNA 3 architecture will reportedly be made on TSMC's 5nm node. Not only that, but NVIDIA's next-gen Hopper GPU, Intel Xe, Qualcomm chips, Apple and Huawei chips will be made on TSMC's upcoming 5nm node.
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The Very Latest Big Navi Specs

These specs are from a collection of the latest reports and rumors, and can change at any moment. I'm sure you'll know, because it'll be one of the most exciting news posts of 2020.

  • GPU: Navi 20 aka Big Navi
  • Node: 7nm+
  • Compute units: 80
  • Stream processors: 5120
  • TMUs / ROPs: 320 / 64
  • Base GPU clock: ???
  • Boost GPU clock: ???
  • Game GPU clock: ???
  • Compute power: ???
  • VRAM: 16GB GDDR6
  • Memory interface: 512-bit
  • Memory bandwidth: 896-1024GB/sec
  • TBP: 250-300W (or more)

The Very Latest on Big Navi

  • No custom Big Navi in 2020: This is unfortunate, but AMD will most likely really nail the reference cooler this time around with Big Navi. The custom cards will be even better, faster, and cooler -- oh and they'll have various designs that differ from the reference Big Navi card.
  • Big Navi AKA everything else: Big Navi is also known as Navi 2X, and is powered by the RDNA 2 architecture. So if you've heard about "Big Navi" then that is "Navi 2X" which is powered by the RDNA 2 architecture. They're all one and the same thing.
  • No HBM2 or HBM2e memory, it's GDDR6: This is the latest news... AMD is not using HBM2 or HBM2e memory and rather GDDR6 which has been a gigantic leap for current RDNA and Turing-based graphics cards on the market right now. HBM2 and HBM2e are also very expensive.
  • Big Navi launches in November: I've written about that here, but Big Navi is launching in November 2020.
  • Alongside PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X: November 2020 is going to be the hottest month of 2020 for gamers, tech enthusiasts and performance enthusiasts -- we have the launch of Microsoft's next-gen Xbox Series X, the launch of Sony's next-gen PlayStation 5, and AMD's next-gen Big Navi graphics cards.
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Previous Big Navi / RDNA 2 highlights:

  • Big Navi GPU samples are in for driver validation: This is something new, with reports suggesting that the "first validation sample was sent recently to Shanghai for driver development". This means that new rumors on Big Navi performance could be much more true than before, because AMD will now have a performance target for final revision cards.
  • RDNA 2 = 40-50% faster than GeForce RTX 2080 Ti: We have rumored performance improvements inside of RDNA 2 that would make it 40-50% faster than the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. This is impressive, as the flagship Radeon RX 5700 XT is nowhere near the RTX 2080 Ti in raw performance. You can read more on that here.
  • RDNA 2 = 195-225% faster than RDNA aka RX 5700 XT: RDNA 2 being a huge 195-225% faster than RDNA means that it will be a truly kick ass 4K gaming card, as well as being able to pump away at 1080p and 1440p resolutions at 120/144/165FPS much easier than the Radeon RX 5700 XT.
  • 7% IPC improvement: AMD is bound to have at least 6-7% IPC improvement in RDNA 2 over RDNA, I would say 10% and above, but lowering estimates now will only improve what we think when AMD unleashes in November 2020.
  • NVIDIA Killer? Maybe: If the rumors are true, then like what Jason Momoa said when he was asked if he thought the Snyder Cut of Justice League (now known and confirmed as Zack Snyder's Justice League releasing in 2021 as a HBO Max exclusive) then I have the following answer to the question is Big Navi an NVIDIA Killer: f*ck yeah.
  • November 2020 launch: This is the key. November gives AMD a couple of months to see how Ampere does, and launch it when the next-gen consoles are launching in the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. More on the November 2020 launch of RDNA 2 here.

Big Navi / RDNA 2 launching in November key points

  • November 2020 launch: Firstly, AMD aiming for November means it puts the next-gen Radeon a couple of months behind NVIDIA is the rumors (and my sources) are true about an "August 2020 launch, September 2020 release" for the next-gen Ampere-based GeForce RTX 3000 series graphics cards.
  • How AMD benefits from a November launch: It will allow the company to have a couple of months to see where NVIDIA has priced its next-gen cards, and to gauge how performance is once it hits the hands of customers. AMD would then have a couple of months to be ready for a possible KO blow (at least for 2020) with Big Navi.
  • Thanksgiving launch: This is big for obvious reasons, but AMD being able to be inside of the next-gen Xbox Series X, the next-gen PlayStation 5, and have an NVIDIA Killer with Big Navi -- all for thanksgiving? What better gift can AMD bring to the table for Thanksgiving than that?!
  • Launching alongside PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X: The stars have truly aligned for AMD to make this happen, and if performance of Big Navi is truly double that of RDNA1 and a 40-50% boost over the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti? Well, we could see AMD take out the end of 2020 with Intel and NVIDIA destroying products. Amazing.
  • Lisa Su did say Big Navi was coming in 'late 2020': You can read more about that here, but November is pretty damn spot on with "late 2020", right?!
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(Older) Quick RDNA 2 / Big Navi specs

  • GPU cores: 72 SMs (two clusters of 36 CUs)
  • GPU game clock: 2.05GHz
  • GPU boost clock: 2.15GHz
  • Power usage: 300W or so
  • Performance: 40-50% faster than RTX 2080 Ti, 100% faster than RX 5700 XT

More reading on Big Navi / RDNA 2X:

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Anthony joined the TweakTown team in 2010 and has since reviewed 100s of graphics cards. Anthony is a long time PC enthusiast with a passion of hate for games built around consoles. FPS gaming since the pre-Quake days, where you were insulted if you used a mouse to aim, he has been addicted to gaming and hardware ever since. Working in IT retail for 10 years gave him great experience with custom-built PCs. His addiction to GPU tech is unwavering.

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