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AMD Vega Shoots for GPU Stars

August 29, 2017

Author: Loyd Case

AMD’s CPU group has been on a new-product roll; now its GPU group—called the Radeon Technology Group (RTG)—is joining in with a new Radeon RX product. Code-named Vega, this offering is the most substantial revamp of an AMD GPU architecture since the company introduced Graphics Core Next in 2011. The Vega 64 and Vega 56 chips break a long drought at the high end that began after the company shipped its Fiji GPUs in 2014. Graphics cards based on Vega 64 are shipping now; Vega 56 cards are slated for a September release.

The first iteration, dubbed Vega 64, includes 64 compute units (CUs) operating at up to 1.67GHz. Each CU in turn consists of 64 shaders for a total of 4,096 ALUs in the chip. The GPU comprises 12.5 billion transistors on a 486mm2 die. AMD builds Vega 64 in GlobalFoundries’ 14nm FinFET process. The high-end Fiji GPU has 64 earlier-generation CUs and is manufactured in a 28nm process with 8.9 billion transistors, requiring a 596mm2 die. The company will also market a version called Vega 56 using the same die with 56 CUs enabled, reducing performance by about 10–15% relative to Vega 64.

Accompanying Vega’s additional shader horsepower and high-speed memory are new graphics features. AMD says the GPU offers graphics capabilities beyond current APIs but declined to provide details; we assume it’s been working closely with Microsoft and the Khronos Group. Any extended capabilities will likely appear in upcoming versions of DirectX, OpenGL, and Vulkan, and perhaps earlier as extensions to these APIs.

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