A block away from Intel’s Developer Forum in San Francisco, AMD brought together a select group of media and analysts to make one thing clear: Its long-awaited Zen processor actually exists, and it’s on track to ship early next year for desktops. Surprisingly, the company is aiming directly at the high-end PC gaming market, whereas its last few chips appealed more to budget builders.
“Our focus is on high-performance CPUs and GPUs,” AMD CEO Lisa Su said, as she listed off the company’s most recent accomplishments. Those include building the chips powering both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (as well as the One S and the upcoming Project Scorpio), and delivering a surprisingly powerful $200 video card in the Radeon RX480.
Beaming like a proud papa, AMD CTO Mark Papermaster listed off what makes the Zen processor so special: It’s built from the ground up with a focus on “performance, throughput and efficiency.” Using a 14nm FinFET (3D transistor) architecture, AMD’s engineers have increased the chip’s performance by 40 percent, compared to their last-gen hardware, all the while making it more power efficient. AMD has also finally implemented Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT), which lets Zen’s cores run multiple threads at the same time (basically, its own version of Intel’s HyperThreading).
“We have to be faster, we have to be more agile, we have to be more creative, because we’re the smallest player,” Papermaster said. Digging a bit deeper into the technical details, AMD says it increased Zen’s instruction scheduler by 1.75x and execution resources by 1.5x, added an 8MB L3 cache, and also implemented a larger shared L2 cache. Altogether, Zen should push around five times the amount of bandwidth to its core than AMD’s previous Excavator design.
So what does all that mean to you? Basically, you can expect the company’s Zen chip to be better at massive processing tasks (think 4K video and gaming, as well as VR), and easier on laptop battery life. It sounds like the sort of leap in performance AMD needs to better compete with Intel in high-end computing, but there’s still much we don’t know. Zen’s thermal profile, which would tell us just how efficient it actually is, remains a mystery. And naturally, AMD isn’t ready to talk about final clock speeds or pricing just yet. Papermaster says more technical details will be divulged at the Hot Chips conference next week.
AMD’s first product based on Zen will be an 8-core, 16-thread desktop chip called Summit Ridge, which will run on the new AM4 platform and will support DDR4 memory and “next-gen I/O.” But the company also hopes Zen will help it get back into the lucrative server market with “Naples,” a 32-core, 64-thread behemoth. AMD also expects to see the new chip design reach embedded computers in the future (mostly due to its increased power efficiency). Surprisingly, the company’s engineers are already hard at work on its followup platform, Zen+, Papermaster revealed.
To give us a sense of Summit Ridge’s performance, AMD pitted it against a Core i7-6900K, Intel’s top-of-the-line 8-core chip (which currently sells for around $1,100), using the Blender rendering benchmark. With both chips clocked at 3Ghz, the Summit Ridge machine managed to finish rendering a scene around half-a-second faster than Intel’s processor. AMD had to downclock its competitor from 3.2GHz to make the fight fair, but the benchmark as still a notable win. We also saw Summit Ridge, together with AMD’s R9 Fury X, playing Deux Ex: Mankind Divided in 4K with smooth frame rates (of course, we weren’t told the exact FPS figure).
You can expect Summit Ridge to hit the market in the first quarter of 2017, while Naples will launch in the second quarter. And if you’re aching to get Zen in a laptop, keep an eye out during the second half of next year (the company announced its latest batch of laptop chips back in May). Despite its progress with Zen, AMD will surely have competition from Intel, which is expected to debut its seventh-generation Core CPUs this fall.
AMD said that the Radeon RX 480 would be followed up by lower-cost models this summer, and it’s acting on that promise in a timely fashion. Both the RX 470 and RX 460 (not pictured above) are now slated to arrive on August 4th and August 8th respectively. While AMD hasn’t outlined the specific pricing, these newer boards should cost significantly less than the $199 RX 480 — the RX 460 should sit closer to the coveted $100 mark.
The imminent launch is also shedding some light on details of the cards themselves. The RX 470 may not be VR-friendly like its more advanced sibling, but it’s surprisingly close. You can expect up to 4.9 teraflops of computing power (versus 5.8 for the RX 480), and you’re still getting 4GB of RAM on a healthy 256-bit memory interface. Think of it as the “good enough” card — you can play many new games at 60 frames per second, just at 1080p instead of 1440p.
The RX 460, meanwhile, is really a budget counterpart to last year’s Radeon R9 Nano. It’s much less powerful than the other RX cards (just 2.2 teraflops) and starts with 2GB of RAM on a 128-bit interface, but it’s also far smaller and more power-efficient — it uses less than 75W. The desktop card is ostensibly aimed at eSports gamers who only need brisk frame rates in titles like Overwatch or Rocket League, but it’s also built for small form factor desktops and even laptops.
Both cards help fill out an AMD strategy that’s very different than in past years. Rather than take NVIDIA head-on in the graphics arena, it’s trying to carve out a niche by offering a lot of bang for the buck. This is partly dictated by its own limitations (NVIDIA has generally led the high end for a while), but it could pay off if it gives AMD a relatively uncontested audience. Mind you, NVIDIA’s newer graphics technology is becoming increasingly affordable — it’s entirely possible that the green team will encroach on AMD’s turf.
Source: AMD (1), (2)
Instead of trying to build the biggest and most powerful video card on the market, AMD aimed at the low end for the Radeon RX 480. But that doesn’t make it any less exciting than NVIDIA’s recent powerhouse GeForce GTX 1080 and 1070 cards. AMD’s pitch for the RX 480 is simple: It’s a $200 card that’s VR-ready. That’s huge, especially since the current batch of GPUs that meet minimum VR specs cost around $350 today. I’ll admit, I was skeptical when AMD announced the RX 480 at Computex last month. But after putting one through its paces over the past few days, I feel like Han Solo in The Force Awakens. It’s true. All of it.
To be fair, AMD did prime the pump a bit by sending me the 8GB version of the RX 480. That version of the card will retail around $239, a bit more than the $200 figure it reached with the 4GB model. There will be some performance differences between the two cards, but they likely won’t be significant with most games today. AMD admits the 8GB version is a better bet if you want to future-proof your system for future titles, though.
Compared to the last AMD card I tested — the mammoth R9 Fury X — the RX 480 is elegant in its simplicity. It’s basically a black box with some classy dimpling on the front and a single fan. It’s based on AMD’s new Polaris architecture, which is built on a 14nm FinFET (a type of 3D transistor) process. That means the chip itself is significantly smaller than the cards using the company’s previous 28nm design, which first debuted back in 2011. Polaris’s tiny size allows it to be more power efficient, and it also lets AMD reach higher clock speeds than ever before (1,120MHz with boost speeds up 1,266Mhz).
Installing the RX 480 was like any other GPU: Plug it in a PCI Express slot and connect additional power (in this case, it’s a single 6-pin PSU cable). I hooked up a 4K monitor into one of the three DisplayPort slots (there’s also an HDMI slot), installed AMD’s latest drivers, and I was off to start gaming. It wasn’t long before I forgot I was testing a $240 video card in my rig (which consists of a 4GHz Core i7-4790K CPU, 16GB of 2400Mz DDR3 RAM and a 512GB Crucial MX100 SSD on a ASUS Z97-A motherboard).
|AMD Radeon RX 480||Standard 10,279/ Extreme 5,146/ Ultra 2,688||X4,588|
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080||Standard 15,859/ Extreme 9,316/ Ultra 5,021||X9,423|
|AMD R9 Fury X||Standard 13,337/ Extreme 7,249/ Ultra 3,899||X,6457|
In most of the 3DMark tests, the RX 480 scored around half as well as the GTX 1080. That’s actually quite impressive, considering that the 1080 retails upwards of $600. Notably, the RX 480 was also slightly faster than comparable benchmarks from NVIDIA’s GTX 970, which still costs more than $300 today (and was previously the bare minimum you needed for VR).
|AMD Radeon RX 480||20||25|
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080||43||48|
|AMD R9 Fury X||35||38|
Average FPS performance in 4K with all graphics set to maximum, NVIDIA Hairworks turned off.
I knew from the get-go that this card wouldn’t be much of a 4K contender, and while the results I found weren’t playable, I’m still surprised at how well it did compare to the GTX 1080 and the R9 Fury X. What really impressed me, though, was the RX 480’s 1440p performance with maxed out settings. It managed to reach near 60 frames per second in most titles, which has been my PC gaming goal for the past few years. What you lose out in resolution compared to 4K, you get back in overall smoother performance (and the ability to use more elaborate graphical settings).
|AMD Radeon RX 480||43||45||58||60|
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|AMD R9 Fury X||N/A||70||N/A||N/A|
Average FPS performance in 1440p with all graphics set to maximum, NVIDIA Hairworks turned off.
The RX 480 also cleaned up well in 1080p gaming, but that’s no surprise. If you’re buying a new video card today though, you’re far better aiming for the 1440p milestone (even if you don’t have a compatible monitor yet).
When it comes to real-world performance, the RX480 felt just as smooth as the GTX 1080 when playing Overwatch in 1440p with all graphical settings at their maximum. It never dipped below 60FPS, even when things got incredibly hectic. These days, that’s all I really ask for in a video card. With the new Doom, it hovered between 55FPS and 60FPS, which is still commendable given how demanding that game can be. It didn’t fare as well with The Witcher 3, getting around 43FPS, but that’s also a game that eats GPUs for breakfast.
As for VR, the RX 480 delivered a solid experience without much slowdown. It didn’t matter if I was dogfighting in Eve Valkyrie; exploring alien worlds in Farlands; or platforming in Lucky’s Tale. I kept a particular eye out for stuttering or anything that could lead to motion sickness, but couldn’t detect any major issues. AMD wasn’t lying: This is a VR-ready card alright. There’s a chance that the 4GB version of the RX 480 could have some issues dealing with VR, but given the speeds I saw with traditional games, even that card should be able to handle basic VR requirements (pumping out a 1200 by 1080 resolution at 90FPS).
Temperature-wise, the RX 480 idled around 35c and reached 69c while benchmarking and gaming. Its fan was normally quiet, but when things heated up it was definitely audible. Since it’s a small fan, it’s whinier and higher pitched than the larger fans you find on most video cards. That might be overly annoying for some, but it never really bugged me in the middle of gaming sessions.
Similar to the GTX 1080 and 1070, there simply isn’t anything else in the budget video card market that can compete with the Radeon RX 480. Last year’s cards all cost more, and offer less performance. The real problem is deciding between the $200 4GB model, or the $239 8GB version. For peace of mind (and for a likely smoother VR experience), I’d recommend splurging for the additional memory. AMD will also offer cheaper Polaris cards, the RX 460 and 470, but those are meant for esports and less demanding systems.
In the end, AMD has successfully delivered on its promise of making a VR-ready card that everyone can afford. And what’s most intriguing is that NVIDIA doesn’t yet have a viable budget competitor. The door is wide open for AMD to redefine what a low-end GPU can do.
After surprising us with the $200 VR-ready Radeon RX 480 at Computex, AMD has rounded out its new GPU lineup at E3. The Radeon RX 470 will offer “power-efficient HD gaming,” which means it’s targeted at people who just need things to run smoothly at 1080p. And at the low-end, there’s the Radeon RX 460, which is meant for less demanding esports titles. AMD is basically just teasing the cards at E3, so there aren’t any pricing or availability details yet. But given the RX 480 is starting at $200, I’d imagine they’d come in significantly less.
All of the Radeon RX cards are powered by AMD’s new Polaris architecture, which is built on a 14nm FinFET (a type of 3D transistor) process. That allows them to draw far less power than the company’s previous cards, while also packing in more graphical performance. AMD says the RX 480 will be able to run games at 1440p with high settings, and it’ll meet minimum requirements for VR headsets, both of which are things you’ve previously needed to spend upwards of $300 to achieve.
AMD’s new lineup isn’t just about desktops, either. Its new chips can be scaled down to ultraportable desktops to offer 1080p gaming experiences at 60Hz. Previously, gamers who wanted powerful laptop experiences only had NVIDIA GPUs to chose from.
By targeting lower price points, AMD is aiming to differentiate itself from NVIDIA, whose new GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 GPUs are now the go-to choices for high-end and mid-range gaming.
Just like that, Computex 2016 has come to an end. As in previous years, the show kicked off with ASUS’ big keynote presentation, but this time it wasn’t just laptops, tablets and smartphones — the company also unveiled its first home robot, Zenbo. We met up with Chairman Jonney Shih who gave us an exclusive demo of this $599 machine, so do check out our interview wit him. We also saw Intel launch its first 10-core desktop processor geared towards hardcore gamers, followed by yet another exclusive interview — this time with the company’s new consumer head, Navin Shenoy.
The rest of the show gave us a lot of opportunities to play around in virtual reality. HTC was there with several cool Vive demos; MSI showed off its Backpack PC; AMD announced its $199 Radeon RX480 graphics card to lower the entry barrier for VR; and even Microsoft is opening up its Windows Holographic platform to embrace the virtual world. Find all that and more in the video above.
AMD shook things up at its Computex press conference in Taipei by announcing the Polaris Radeon Series RX 480 graphics card.
At first glance the Radeon RX 480 might not seem much of a match for competitor Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080, but AMD demonstrated convincingly that it is ready to give the pricey rival a run for its money. It even claims the new card can actually outperform its rival for less money.
At more than half the price, the RX 480 is capable of more than five teraflops while Nvidia’s GTX 1080 is capable of nine. By simply using dual RX 480’s the benchmarks provided showed that not only was the card outperforming the GTX 1080, it was doing so with plenty of headroom left – using only around 50 per cent of the available power.
Dual RX 480s cost less than one Nvidia GTX 1080, hence the claims.
You’re also looking at 4GB or 8GB memory on the RX 480 and it’s compatible with both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, making it an inexpensive option to match with a VR headset.
The AMD Radeon RX 480 will be available from the end of June, with a price tag starting at $199 (£160). Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 costs $600. We think that AMD’s description as “disruptive technology” is fair enough in that case.
We’ll have to wait and see if Nvidia will rest on its laurels or consider lowering its prices in response. Either way it’s great news for VR enthusiasts as costs start to come down on this currently expensive hobby.
AMD has always been the cheaper alternative to Intel’s processors, but with its latest generation of mobile chips, it’s also aiming to close the performance gap. Announced at Computex today, the new high-end FX chips are 56 percent faster compared to AMD’s previous generation of laptop processors, while its entry-level chips are 52 percent faster compared to the last-gen. And compared to Intel’s fastest Core i7 mobile chip, the 7th gen AMD FX offers 53 percent faster graphics and a 51 percent bump in compute performance. Basically, these are the laptop chips AMD fans have been waiting for.
As is usually the case with major processor upgrades, AMD also focused on power efficiency for the new chips. The company claims its high-end FX chips now use 12 percent less power than the last gen, and the latest A9 processors use 41 percent less power when playing local 1080p videos. At the lower-end, AMD added “Excavator” cores to the new A9, A6 and E2 processors, which gives them a decent performance bump and makes them more efficient at playing HD video.
AMD says its new manufacturing process also allowed it to reach faster clock speeds with the chips. Its high-end FX 9830P offers 3GHz base speeds (with maximum speeds of 3.7GHz), while the lowest end E2-9010 is clocked at 2GHz (max up to 2.2GHz). The new A9 chip, which is being positioned as an Intel Core i3 competitor, gets max speeds 1.5GHz faster than the i3-6100U.
While AMD isn’t talking about specific pricing details for these chips (it’s not like you can buy them on their own), partners including Dell, HP, ASUS and Lenovo are already using them in new system designs. And of course, you can expect them to reach even more laptops (and some all-in-ones) throughout the year.
For its upcoming Polaris GPUs, AMD doesn’t just want to entice hardcore gamers. Instead, it’s aiming to bring virtual reality-capable PCs to just about everyone with its new Radeon RX480 video card, which will retail for a mere $199. The RX480 is capable of more than 5 teraflops of computing power, whereas NVIDIA’s new GTX 1070 packs in over 6 teraflops for $380, and the high-end GTX 1080 sports around 9 teraflops for $600. On paper alone, AMD’s new card is an astounding value (and one that NVIDIA can’t yet counter without lowering prices).
The RX480 is based on AMD’s new Polaris architecture, and it’ll be available in 4GB and 8GB memory configurations. It’ll support AMD’s Freesync technology to smooth out frame rates, as well as HDR gaming with DisplayPort 1.3/1.4 support.
Really though, the key selling point of the RX480 is its cost. Currently, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift require video cards costing around $300 at the minimum. By delivering a $199 card that’s VR capable, AMD has dramatically lowered the cost of entry to VR for consumers. It’s also a smart strategy for AMD, since NVIDIA has currently sewn up the high-end and mid-range market with the GTX 1080 and 1070.
Still, it’s not as if the RX480 won’t be good for gamers. In a remote video, Id developers praised its ability to run the new Doom remake (though we didn’t get exact frame rate numbers). You could also run two RX480 units simultaneously, a configuration that managed to beat out NVIDIA’s GTX 1080 while playing Ashes of Singularity. (And better yet, that configuration would only be around $400, compared to $600 or more for the 1070.)
The RX480 clocked in 62.5FPS, while the GTX 1080 was a bit lower at 58.7FPS. Koduri also proudly pointed out that the dual-RX480 system only reached around 50 percent of its computing capacity, while the NVIDIA card was maxed near 100 percent.
The RX480 will hit store shelves on June 29th, and we’re aiming to get our hands on it soon for testing.
Just like Intel’s Apollo Lake processors, AMD’s high-performance Zen (codename Summit Ridge) CPU is coming out in late 2016. Zen has 8 Cores with 16 threads, promises a 40 percent increase in computing power and is geared towards mid-range to high-end rigs. Lisa Su, the chipmaker’s CEO, announced at Computex in Taiwan that the desktop chip will be available to manufacturing partners by the third quarter of the year. That means we could see Zen-based products by the end of 2016 or early 2017. AMD has big plans for Zen, though, and is working to scale it across different device types: The company aims to follow the desktop version with one for servers, and eventually one for laptops.
Zen has 8 Cores with 16 threads and promises a 40 percent increase in computing performance.
AMD isn’t just depending on ever-faster chipsets to boost graphics performance — it thinks coders can lend a hand, too. The company’s new GPUOpen effort gives developers the kind of open source code and documentation they need to use low-level PC video card features, port apps and otherwise understand GPU aspects that are normally kept hush-hush (outside of game consoles, at least). If everything goes smoothly, you’ll see games that look nicer on current hardware, and general computing tasks that lean more on GPUs to crunch numbers.
It’s potentially an important effort, and AMD is promising to accommodate multiple platforms. With that said, AMD isn’t necessarily doing this purely out of generosity. It’s being squeezed at the high end by NVIDIA (which rules the dedicated video card market), and the low end by Intel (whose processor sales lead gives it the de facto lead in integrated graphics). To some degree, GPUOpen is about making AMD’s Radeon graphics chips more attractive to developers, giving the company a better chance in a tough market.