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AMD’s Next-Generation Navi GPU Could Ship by Late 2018

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AMD’s Navi has been of interest to AMD fans since it first popped up on roadmaps, with hints of a next-generation memory subsystem and a “scalability” option that might be similar to the modular GPU designs that Nvidia is supposedly considering for its own products. First, the hints. As Hot Hardware reports, some driver notes for a Linux driver update back in July that were recently discovered reported:

[WARNING]: Should use –pci when using create_asic_from_script()
new_chip.gfx10.mmSUPER_SECRET => 0x12345670
new_chip.gfx10.mmSUPER_SECRET.enable[0:0]

GFX10 is a Navi reference, and there are plenty of other hints to ongoing Navi work at AMD, from a job opening for a senior ASIC design and layout engineer (Shanghai, China) to various statements from AMD that it’s working on 7nm ramps already (the remarks date to May of this year). A Navi tape-out now or in the next few months would clear the way for a professional product introduction late next summer or fall, with consumer cards arriving a few months later.

59428_03_amds-next-gen-navi-gpu-launching-august-2018

A hypothetical modular GPU

As for what the GPU will be, that’s anyone’s guess. AMD and Nvidia have both made noise about scalability and building distributed GPUs, but such designs come with a lot of potential issues that need to be addressed. GPU internal bandwidth is much, much higher than what we’ve seen in multi-core CPUs interconnects — think along the lines of 300GB/s, as opposed to 30GB/s. Building an interconnect that could keep all the subdivided GPU components suitably fed would be a very careful balancing act. I’m not suggesting that NV, AMD, or both won’t build it, but it may not be an easy road to delivery.

Frankly, I’m not sure now is the right time for AMD to be clever as far as GPU design is concerned. HBM and HBM2 may have delivered some benefits to AMD’s overall power consumption profile, but the company has had to push all of its GPU designs extremely hard to match Nvidia’s performance going back as far as Hawaii in 2013. Granted, Vega doesn’t hit the 95C temperatures that Hawaii did, but AMD didn’t really deliver the performance or power consumption that people were hoping for in 2017, either. If Navi cleans up cruft in the Vega design and delivers a large performance uplift thanks to further design refinements, so much the better, even if it isn’t a brand-new architecture or major design shift compared with Vega. Either way, repeated rumors are pointing to 2H 2018 for a refresh from Team Red.

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