Wednesday, May 8th 2013

AMD's Answer to GeForce GTX 700 Series: Volcanic Islands

GPU buyers can breathe a huge sigh of relief that AMD isn't fixated with next-generation game consoles, and that its late-2013 launch of its next GPU generation is with good reason. The company is building a new GPU micro-architecture from the ground up. Codenamed "Volcanic Islands," with members codenamed after famous islands along the Pacific Ring of Fire, the new GPU family sees AMD rearranging component-hierarchy within the GPU, in a big way.

Over the past three GPU generations that used VLIW5, VLIW4, and Graphics CoreNext SIMD architectures, the component hierarchy was essentially untouched. According to an early block-diagram of one of the GPUs in the series, codenamed "Hawaii," AMD will designate parallel and serial computing units. Serial cores based on either of the two architectures AMD is licensed to use (x86 and ARM), could handle part of the graphics processing load. The stream processors of today make up the GPU's parallel processing machinery.

We can't make out text in the rather blurry block-diagram, but are rather convinced that if it's authentic, then AMD is making some big changes. Another reason for AMD's delay could be silicon fab process. "Tahiti" as implemented on Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, already poses high thermal envelope. AMD doesn't want the 28 nm process to restrict its next-generation architecture development, and is holding out till the 20 nm process is in place at TSMC. The fab set Q4 as its tentative bulk manufacturing date for the process.

The source that leaked the block-diagram also posted specifications of the chip that's codenamed "Hawaii," which appears to be the flagship part.
  • 20 nm silicon fab process
  • 4096 stream processors
  • 16 serial processor cores
  • 4 geometry engines
  • 256 TMUs
  • 64 ROPs
  • 512-bit GDDR5 memory interface
Source: ChipHell. Many Thanks to SIGSEGV for the tip!
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145 Comments on AMD's Answer to GeForce GTX 700 Series: Volcanic Islands

#1
lobsterrock
This sounds awesome, but nvidia still has almost half a year of newly branded gpu's. That's going to be a huge cash cow for them. I know the '700-series' is mostly going to be rebrands, but people will still eat that up.
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#2
LAN_deRf_HA
I was under the impression the 700 series isn't that far off. This sounds more like it'd compete with the 800 series.
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#3
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
by: lobsterrock
This sounds awesome, but nvidia still has almost half a year of newly rebranded gpu's. That's going to be a huge cash cow for them. I know the '700-series' is mostly going to be rebrands, but people will still eat that up.
ftfy
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#4
nikolaj1651
they say it has ''16 serial processor cores'', and nvidia 690 only have 2? gonna be interesting.
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#5
RCoon
Forum Gypsy
I'm just going to ignore processor releases this year and next, as my systems really dont need the power. I am however interested in converting from crossfire to single AMD card provided this flagship product keeps up with my 120hz needs. NVidia havent taken any of my money since getting 3 GTX 570's, and never will until they get off of their pedastal.
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#6
renz496
by: nikolaj1651
they say it has ''16 serial processor cores'', and nvidia 690 only have 2? gonna be interesting.
i think you misunderstood that 16 serial core thing when you compared it to 2 gpu available in one GTX690 package. do you think amd wants to fit all 16 gpu core inside a pcb with each core consisting 4k stream processor? this thing might be more like APU (combining a cores that is good at serial task and cores that good at parallel task) though in this regard both cores will handle graphic task. so is this amd respond to nvidia 700 series? it's like 'hey we have something new next year so you should hold out for it instead of getting nvidia's rebrand (700 series)'.
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#7
nikolaj1651
by: renz496
i think you misunderstood that 16 serial core thing when you compared it to 2 gpu available in one GTX690 package. do you think amd wants to fit all 16 gpu core inside a pcb with each core consisting 4k stream processor? this thing might be more like APU (combining a cores that is good at serial task and cores that good at parallel task) though in this regard both cores will handle graphic task. so is this amd respond to nvidia 700 series? it's like 'hey we have something new next year so you should hold out for it instead of getting nvidia's rebrand (700 series)'.
ahh i see, i misunderstood sry ;)
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#8
Mathragh
Wow wut, with 16 x86 cores in there, it sounds like this will be capable of a whole lot more than just graphics, and even GPU computing.

This could have huge ramifications, such as, people modding linux/windows to run on these chips solely, completely bypassing the current schism in memory hierarchy, and much much more.


On a more current note: I wonder how this complete redesign will influence driver development.


With AMD going this route, it sounds like they're going the same way as Nvidia, who is also rumoured to include ARM cores in one of their next major revisions. After reading this, I've got the feeling that AMD will get to market first with their version, like they traditionally get to market first on a new proces node.

Edit:

I'm wondering what part of the graphics workload is actually better off being performed on serial cores? perhaps a part of the pipeline currently handled by the CPU via drivers?
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#9
buggalugs
hmmm, so the option is pay a fortune for a 780 mid-year, or wait until the end of the year for Amd.......I think I'll wait.
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#10
RCoon
Forum Gypsy
by: buggalugs
hmmm, so the option is pay a fortune for a gimped-renamed-titan, or wait until the end of the year for Amd.......I think I'll wait.
fix'd
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#12
cdawall
where the hell are my stars
by: jigar2speed
WTF is 16 serial processor cores ?
The core is going to be broken down to have x86 or ARM cores within it for additional parallel processing. I would guess ARM for power savings, but that is nothing more than a guess. God knows the top model with 4096 stream processors and 16 cpu-esque cores will use some power.
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#13
Pandora's Box
Sorry but if this is indeed a new architecture I will be going with Nvidia. AMD has barely got the 7xxx Series working properly and theres still the microstutter issue.
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#14
Mathragh
[quote="Pandora's Box, post: 2898937"]Sorry but if this is indeed a new architecture I will be going with Nvidia. AMD has barely got the 7xxx Series working properly and theres still the microstutter issue.[/quote]Perhaps those serial processors are exactly what will alleviate the current stuttering issue.
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#15
RCoon
Forum Gypsy
[quote="Pandora's Box, post: 2898937"]Sorry but if this is indeed a new architecture I will be going with Nvidia. AMD has barely got the 7xxx Series working properly and theres still the microstutter issue.[/quote]Because a company fully aware of a memory issue, fixing a memory issue, is then going to use the same process for memory as the previous architecture that caused the issue on their new architecture. Sure it might happen, or it might exist but to a lesser degree, but you'd be pretty ignorant to think it would carry over to a new architecture and base your buying options on that alone. But by all means, go nvidia if they offer you a suitable product.
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#16
lobsterrock
by: btarunr
ftfy
Yeah that's what I meant to say, I guess I just forgot to add the re- part. But at least it'll mean the 680 is getting cheaper right?
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#17
RCoon
Forum Gypsy
by: lobsterrock
Yeah that's what I meant to say, I guess I just forgot to add the re- part. But at least it'll mean the 680 is getting cheaper right?
I thought that about the 5xx series when all these new cards came out. They're all still pushing the high £200's and mid £300's to this day in the UK.
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#19
Prima.Vera
by: btarunr
  • 20 nm silicon fab process
  • 4096 stream processors
  • 16 serial processor cores
  • 4 geometry engines
  • 256 TMUs
  • 64 ROPs
  • 512-bit GDDR5 memory interface

lol.

4096 stream processors??? That's double than a 7970 GPU
512-bit GDDR5??? Prepare for some records on the bandwidth

I think AMD is preparing a monster here, and I wont be off to say that this GPU will almost be as powerful as a 7990 card.
A new 5870 on the horizon?? (compared to 4870X2 that is...)
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#20
alwayssts
What, did ya'll seriously think Maxwell was the only one heading in this direction?

64-bit ARM cores (A57) are the new black. It's all about decreasing dependance/latency associated with modern systems. You can call it an APU, but it's really just enhancing the capabilities of GPGPU beyond a GPU being a dumb processor being thrown parallel workloads by a CPU. It needs it's own brain(s) to go with the brawn. These advancements plus shared memory = huge improvements.

Wonder if they will scale this (in the sense that 1 cpu block would go with 4 ROPs and 4 Compute Units)...I bet they do...because that would make a ton of sense (and be pretty efficient I reckon). Be it one ARM block + 1 said gpu block, or 2 (say x86 blocks + 2 gpu blocks...which sounds an awful lot like the supposed specs of Kaveri).

Also, I think we all kind of figured we'd see a 512-bit bus considering bandwidth is a seriously huge (and limiting) factor, even now. Ofc we all plan on seeing GDDR6 at some point, but no word of production has been spoken about afaik.

Figuring 4096 cores and 512-bit/7gbps on the current architecture..that's around 975mhz-ish, 8000mhz, closer to 1100mhz. That is not accounting for cpu cores and perhaps very likely a more robust cache structure though. Obviously with the cpu cores, at the bare minimum cache will need to be larger/faster to feed them...I'm just throwing it out there assuming they are supplemented in conjunction with one another...or more-or-less bolted on to the current gpu spec.

Sounds plausible as while the the 1.9x density improvements are possible and touted 1.3x speed improvements at the same voltage may be approximately correct (and hence a chip this spec lines up with being the size to accompany a fast 512-bit bus), 20nm will likely target a lower nominal voltage. IE, where 28nm may have been .85v/850mhz but in reality running 1.05-1.175 (and up to 1.3v) with yields settling in-between 850-1175, this will probably be closer to .85-1.05v in reality (up to 1.175) with yields starting around 1000-1100mhz. Given the typical ~10% clock cushion per voltage...it lines up.

So...in essence...AMD is doing the exact same thing as nvidia is with Maxwell/Denver...only (conceivably) earlier and in a more flexible manner.
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#22
Mathragh
by: Prima.Vera
However, on AMD's official webpage the specs are more realistics, and actually look more like a 7970 rebrand....
hmmm...wtf?!??

http://www.amd.com/us/products/desktop/graphics/8000/pages/8000-series.aspx#2

Edit:

Or AMD is talking about the 9000 series??????????????????????????????????????????????
the big "OEM" at the top of the page gives it away. That 8000 series was just to keep OEM's happy apparently, and is just a rebrand of 7000 series cards.
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#23
lilhasselhoffer
Wow this into AMD versus Nvidea fanboyisms relatively quickly.


AMD: Please deliver a new architecture that can alleviate the micro stuttering, at a price point this side of reasonable. The 7970 was good, but Nvidea kinda ate your lunch with the 6xx series by having less issues on the driver side.

Nvidea: A rebranding of 6xx cards to the 7xx series cards might fool some people. The 6xx series is nice, but the pricing is still unreasonable. Look away from the Titan, and deliver a 7xx series without massive mark-ups and minimal performance increases.

All GPU producers: Resist the urge to rush to market. We will wait four months until you can secure reasonably priced chips, and a decent step forward on features. Just make sure whatever you release can actually be utilized. Two or three games make my current 6950 cry at moderate (1920x1080) resolution, I'm not paying more than $250 for an improvement in the two of those games I actually play.



My opinion on the architecture change is simple. Include x86 style cores for the express purpose of doing physics processing without using CPU resources. An octet of slow speed cores doesn't sound like much, but they could do everything that Physx on a CPU does. AMD offloading their shiny new Tressfx to a separate on-board processor means better performance while being transparent to the user. If the APU is adding GPU to a CPU then this move must be the opposite approach to the same goal, a decent SoC
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