ConclusionAMD chose the backdrop of the 2017 International CES to unveil its "Vega" GPU architecture. It, unfortunately, isn't backed by any new graphics card announcements, and sources are telling us that you may have to wait a while longer before you see high-end graphics cards that put all this amazing new technology to use. AMD could focus on getting its Ryzen (Zen) processor and compatible socket AM4 motherboard ecosystem out in Q1-2017. This makes Intel's 7th generation Core "Kaby Lake" processor the only big PC hardware launch this January.
That said, the "Vega" GPU architecture is perhaps the biggest change to AMD GPU design since its move to Graphics CoreNext almost five years ago. The company addressed various fundamental problems and bottlenecks affecting its GPUs. The first "Vega" processor will almost definitely be a high-performance enthusiast part that succeeds the "Fiji" silicon, which drove the Radeon R9 Fury series. The chip will be a multi-chip module with HBM2 memory on the package and will come with a revamped memory hierarchy that minimizes wasteful memory access.
At every stage of the rendering pipeline, AMD has made structural improvements that minimize wasted clock cycles, data fetches, and enable it to make the most out of the available memory bandwidth - of which there is plenty. The Next-Generation Compute Unit (NCU) features some huge changes with Rapid Packed Math, support for simpler 8-bit ops besides 16-bit (half-precision) ops introduced by "Polaris."
These and more make "Vega" a significantly newer assemblage of technology. Over the past few generations preceding "Polaris," AMD has only been making incremental changes to compute unit efficiency and minor updates to the front-end and render back-ends. "Vega" is a shakedown at every level of the GPU, and although the essential component hierarchy hasn't significantly changed, there isn't a single component on the chip that hasn't had a structural change that improves performance or efficiency. Our only hope is in seeing a "Vega" based high-end graphics card out on shelves as soon as possible. NVIDIA is taking advantage of its performance leadership by pricing its current GeForce 10 series graphics cards significantly higher than their predecessors. It's about time there's some real competition in this segment.