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AMD shares details about GPU using 14nm FinFET process

Posted: 06 Jan 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:AMD? FinFET? DRAM? graphics processor? GPU?

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has announced some information pertaining to its next-generation graphics processor set to be unleashed later this year. Polaris uses a novel architecture made in a 14nm FinFET process to bring roughly twice the performance per watt of its prior-generation GPU.

The chip, also known as AMD's Graphics Core Next (GCN) 4.0, was shown running at less than 86W compared to 152W for a current GPU. Both chips were running the same videogame at 60fps and 1080-progressive resolution. AMD will demo the chip at CES this week and has sampled it to some customers.

Presumably AMD is using a 14nm process at Globalfoundries, formerly its internal chip-making division. Samsung developed the 14nm process that comes in two flavours, an early-to-market and a performance optimised version.

An AMD spokesman said the company is "working with multiple foundries on our FinFET products, including GlobalFoundries."


AMD suggested Polaris also sports an improved display engine, geometry processor, L2 cache and memory controller but provided no details on them. (Image: AMD)

David Kanter, a senior analyst with the Linley Group, said he expects AMD waited to use the optimised second version of the 14nm process. "I think the goal of the first process was to serve Apple and Samsung and I expect they locked up almost all the wafers," Kanter said.

Overall, Kanter expects AMD will make evolutionary but not revolutionary changes in all the graphics-related subsystems of Polaris, in part because AMD's chips are in all videogame consoles as well as a hefty share of PCs. "There's a lot of benefits in sticking with what works in software optimised for developers," he said.

AMD made the disclosure in a YouTube video. In the video one architect said Polaris uses a new architecture. It supports deeper instruction buffers to improved single-thread performance and features tighter clock and power gating than previous chips, he said.

Polaris also sports improvements in its instruction pre-fetch engine, memory compression, primitive discard accelerator, scheduler and shader efficiency. It will support HDMI 2.0a, Display Port 1.3 and a hardware codec for H.265 including 4K encoding 60fps.

The company did not comment on the memory architecture of the chip. Last year, AMD released its first graphics chip using the High-Bandwidth Memory stacked DRAMs of Hynix to increase the capacity and memory bandwidth of a GPU.

Nvidia is expected to release this year its Pascal chip, likely using a TSMC 16nm FinFET process and the Hybrid Memory Cube stacked DRAM technology from Micron. One source said the Pascal chip delivers up to 12 TFlops performance.

In a brief encounter in June, Nvidia's CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said he aims to use chip stacks with up to 32GB memory compared to the Fiji part AMD announced in June using 4GB DRAM.

"At this time we've only publicly demonstrated a GDDR5 configuration of the Polaris architecture," an AMD spokesperson said. "It's important to understand that HBM isn't (currently) suitable for all GPU segments due to the current HBM cost structure. In the mainstream GPU segment, GDDR5 remains an extremely cost-effective, efficient and viable memory technology," the spokesperson added.

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