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AMD RDNA 2 GPUs to Support the DirectX 12 Ultimate API

AMD today announced in the form of a blog post that its upcoming graphics cards based on RDNA 2 architecture will feature support for Microsoft's latest DirectX 12 Ultimate API. "With this architecture powering both the next generation of AMD Radeon graphics cards and the forthcoming Xbox Series X gaming console, we've been working very closely with Microsoft to help move gaming graphics to a new level of photorealism and smoothness thanks to the four key DirectX 12 Ultimate graphics features -- DirectX Raytracing (DXR), Variable Rate Shading (VRS), Mesh Shaders, and Sampler Feedback." - said AMD in the blog.

Reportedly, Microsoft and AMD have worked closely to enable this feature set and provide the best possible support for RDNA 2 based hardware, meaning that future GPUs and consoles are getting the best possible integration of the new API standard.
AMD RDNA 2 supports DirectX12 Ultimate AMD RDNA 2 supports DirectX12 Ultimate AMD RDNA 2 supports DirectX12 Ultimate AMD RDNA 2 supports DirectX12 Ultimate

Microsoft DirectX 12 Ultimate: Why it Helps Gamers Pick Future Proof Graphics Cards

Microsoft Thursday released the DirectX 12 Ultimate logo. This is not a new API with any new features, but rather a differentiator for graphics cards and game consoles that support four key modern features of DirectX 12. This helps consumers recognize the newer and upcoming GPUs, and tell them apart from some older DirectX 12 capable GPUs that were released in the mid-2010s. For a GPU to be eligible for the DirectX 12 Ultimate logo, it must feature hardware acceleration for ray-tracing with the DXR API; must support Mesh Shaders, Variable Rate Shading (VRS), and Sampler Feedback (all of the four). The upcoming Xbox Series X console features this logo by default. Microsoft made it absolutely clear that the DirectX 12 Ultimate logo isn't meant as a compatibility barrier, and that these games will work on older hardware, too.

As it stands, the "Navi"-based Radeon RX 5000 series are "obsolete", just like some Turing cards from the GeForce GTX 16-series. At this time, the only shipping product which features the logo is NVIDIA's GeForce RTX 20-series and the TITAN RTX, as they support all the above features.

Keep an Eye Out for March 19, Says NVIDIA

NVIDIA's ANZ (Australia and New Zealand) Twitter handle posted a curious-looking teaser of something to look forward to on March 19. The now-deleted Tweet contained an animation showing the shape of an eye tracking two points of light crossing its iris. This date falls just a couple of days ahead of the March 22 debut of GTC 2020, the NVIDIA-promoted trade-show covering all things graphics tech. As many on the tweet and online forums discussing have pointed out, the announcement could probably be related to a commercial release of NVIDIA's foveated rendering technology that was demonstrated way back at SIGGRAPH 2016, at a time when VR and related technologies were all the rage.

The concept of foveated rendering is straightforward: eye-tracking is leveraged to ensure that areas of the frame you're looking at are rendered in greater detail than the others, to conserve system resources and improve performance. This is achieved by tracking your foveal vision (the primary part of your vision focused on detail), while shedding resources on parts of the frame that fall within your peripheral vision. Compared to 2016, rendering technologies to facilitate foveated rendering have advanced. A related technology is variable shading rate (VRS), which allows an application to render different parts of the scene at different levels of detail, and improve performance.
A video presentation detailing NVIDIA's foveated rendering tech from 2016 follows.

AMD RDNA2 Graphics Architecture Detailed, Offers +50% Perf-per-Watt over RDNA

With its 7 nm RDNA architecture that debuted in July 2019, AMD achieved a nearly 50% gain in performance/Watt over the previous "Vega" architecture. At its 2020 Financial Analyst Day event, AMD made a big disclosure: that its upcoming RDNA2 architecture will offer a similar 50% performance/Watt jump over RDNA. The new RDNA2 graphics architecture is expected to leverage 7 nm+ (7 nm EUV), which offers up to 18% transistor-density increase over 7 nm DUV, among other process-level improvements. AMD could tap into this to increase price-performance by serving up more compute units at existing price-points, running at higher clock speeds.

AMD has two key design goals with RDNA2 that helps it close the feature-set gap with NVIDIA: real-time ray-tracing, and variable-rate shading, both of which have been standardized by Microsoft under DirectX 12 DXR and VRS APIs. AMD announced that RDNA2 will feature dedicated ray-tracing hardware on die. On the software side, the hardware will leverage industry-standard DXR 1.1 API. The company is supplying RDNA2 to next-generation game console manufacturers such as Sony and Microsoft, so it's highly likely that AMD's approach to standardized ray-tracing will have more takers than NVIDIA's RTX ecosystem that tops up DXR feature-sets with its own RTX feature-set.
AMD GPU Architecture Roadmap RDNA2 RDNA3 AMD RDNA2 Efficiency Roadmap AMD RDNA2 Performance per Watt AMD RDNA2 Raytracing

AMD Financial Analyst Day 2020 Live Blog

AMD Financial Analyst Day presents an opportunity for AMD to talk straight with the finance industry about the company's current financial health, and a taste of what's to come. Guidance and product teasers made during this time are usually very accurate due to the nature of the audience. In this live blog, we will post information from the Financial Analyst Day 2020 as it unfolds.
20:59 UTC: The event has started as of 1 PM PST. CEO Dr Lisa Su takes stage.

Microsoft Confirms Xbox Series X Specs - 12 TFLOPs, Custom APU With Zen 2, RDNA 2, H/W Accelerated Raytracing

Microsoft has confirmed the official specs for the Xbox Series X games console, due Holiday 2020 (think November). The new specs announcement confirms the powerhouse of a console this will be, with its peak 12 TFLOPs compute being 8 times that of the original Xbox One, and twice that of the Xbox One X, which already quite capable of powering true 4K experiences. This 12 TFLOPs figure is a mighty impressive one - just consider that AMD's current highest-performance graphics card, Radeon VII, features a peak 13.4 TFLOPs of computing power - and that's a graphics card that was launched just a year ago.

The confirmation also mentions support for Hardware-Accelerated raytracing, something that all but confirms the feature being built into AMD's RDNA 2 microarchitecture (of which we are expecting news anytime now). this, alongside Variable Rate Shading (VRS) support, brings AMD to feature parity with NVIDIA's Turing, and should allow developers to optimize their performance and graphical targets without any discernible quality loss.

AMD to Debut 2nd Gen RDNA Architecture in 2020

AMD CEO Dr Lisa Su, in her Q4-2019 and FY-2019 earnings call, confirmed that the company debut its second-generation RDNA graphics architecture in 2020. "In 2019 we launched our new architecture in GPUs, it's the RDNA architecture, and that was the Navi-based products. You should expect those will be refreshed in 2020, and we will have our new next-generation RDNA architecture that will be part our 2020 lineup."

Second-gen RDNA, or RDNA2, is expected to leverage the new 7 nm+ (EUV) silicon fabrication process at TSMC, to dial up transistor-counts, clock-speeds, and performance. Among the two anticipated feature additions are VRS (variable rate shading) and possibly ray-tracing. The fabled "big Navi" silicon, a GPU larger than "Navi 10," is also on the cards, according to an earlier statement by Dr Su. More details about these upcoming graphics cards are expected to be put out in March, at the 2020 AMD Investor Day conference.

Ray Tracing and Variable-Rate Shading Design Goals for AMD RDNA2

Hardware-accelerated ray tracing and variable-rate shading will be the design focal points for AMD's next-generation RDNA2 graphics architecture. Microsoft's reveal of its Xbox Series X console attributed both features to AMD's "next generation RDNA" architecture (which logically happens to be RDNA2). The Xbox Series X uses a semi-custom SoC that features CPU cores based on the "Zen 2" microarchitecture and a GPU based on RDNA2. It's highly likely that the SoC could be fabricated on TSMC's 7 nm EUV node, as the RDNA2 graphics architecture is optimized for that. This would mean an optical shrink of "Zen 2" to 7 nm EUV. Besides the SoC that powers Xbox Series X, AMD is expected to leverage 7 nm EUV for its RDNA2 discrete GPUs and CPU chiplets based on its "Zen 3" microarchitecture in 2020.

Variable-rate shading (VRS) is an API-level feature that lets GPUs conserve resources by shading certain areas of a scene at a lower rate than the other, without perceptible difference to the viewer. Microsoft developed two tiers of VRS for its DirectX 12 API, tier-1 is currently supported by NVIDIA "Turing" and Intel Gen11 architectures, while tier-2 is supported by "Turing." The current RDNA architecture doesn't support either tiers. Hardware-accelerated ray-tracing is the cornerstone of NVIDIA's "Turing" RTX 20-series graphics cards, and AMD is catching up to it. Microsoft already standardized it on the software-side with the DXR (DirectX Raytracing) API. A combination of VRS and dynamic render-resolution will be crucial for next-gen consoles to achieve playability at 4K, and to even boast of being 8K-capable.

UL Benchmarks Outs 3DMark Feature Test for Variable-Rate Shading Tier-2

UL Benchmarks today announced an update to 3DMark, with the expansion of the Variable-Rate Shading (VRS) feature-test with support for VRS Tier-2. A component of DirectX 12, VRS Tier 1 is supported by NVIDIA "Turing" and Intel Gen11 graphics architectures (Ice Lake's iGPU). VRS Tier-2 is currently supported only by NVIDIA "Turing" GPUs. VRS Tier-2 adds a few performance enhancements such as lower levels of shading for areas of the scene with low contrast to their surroundings (think areas under shadow), yielding performance gains. The 3DMark VRS test runs in two passes, pass-1 runs with VRS-off to provide a point of reference; and pass-2 with VRS-on, to test performance gained. The 3DMark update with VRS Tier-2 test will apply for the Advanced and Professional editions.

DOWNLOAD: 3DMark v2.11.6846

AMD Patents Variable Rate Shading Technique for Console, VR Performance Domination

While developers have become more and more focused on actually taking advantage of the PC platform's performance - and particularly graphical technologies - advantages over consoles, the truth remains that games are being optimized for the lowest common denominator first. Consoles also share a much more user-friendly approach to gaming - there's no need for hardware updates or software configuration, mostly - it's just a sit on the couch and leave it affair, which can't really be said for gaming PCs. And the console market, due to its needs for cheap hardware that still offers performance levels that can currently fill a 4K resolution screen, are the most important playground for companies to thrive. Enter AMD, with its almost 100% stake in the console market, and Variable Rate Shading.

As we've seen with NVIDIA's Turing implementation for Variable Rate Shading, this performance-enhancing technique works in two ways: motion adaptive shading and content adaptive shading. Motion adaptive shading basically takes input from previous frames in order to calculate which pixels are moving fast across the screen, such as with a racing perspective - fast-flying detail doesn't stay focused in our vision so much that we can discern a relative loss in shading detail, whilst stationary objects, such as the focused hypercar you're driving, are rendered in all their glory. Valuable compute time can be gained by rendering a coarse approximation of the pixels that should be in that place, and upscaling them as needed according to the relative speed they are moving across the frame. Content adaptive shading, on the other hand, analyzes detail across a scene, and by reducing shading work to be done across colors and detail that hasn't had much movement in the previous frame and frames - saves frame time.
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