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Jun 19 2015

AMD Gets 'Furious' About Graphics Cards


In their constant battle with NVIDIA, the makers of the Radeon™ GPU have now introduced a new line of flagship models, dubbed the R9 Fury series. The most notable improvements over previous models will reportedly come from an innovative technology called High-Bandwidth Memory, or HBM for short.

According to AMD's press release, the new product line is set out to "revolutionize" computer graphics and achieve breakthrough performance in fields like VR, simulation, and gaming. To this end, the Fury cards use HBM, a special graphics memory technology developed by an AMD-led consortium and manufactured by SK Hynix, South Korea's No. 2 memory powerhouse after Samsung. HBM utilizes through-silicon-via technology and microbumps to interconnect four DRAM dice and one base die to achieve higher density per device. The memory chip is then assembled onto interposers, which in turn link to matching high speed memory interconnects to GPUs, CPUs, ASICs and FPGAs. A less abstract description was given by SK Hynix researchers Joonyoung Kim and Younsu Kim at the Hot Chips symposium in August last year. As per their presentation, each HBM chip contains a "3D packaging of several memory chips," four of which are stacked together and then spliced onto a base die that provides the required logic and physical layer. Further according to their definition, HBM uses a total of up to 1,024 I/O pins per memory package, thus exceeding by far the limits existing in competing, but more conventional technologies like GDDR5. With four of these modules packed into the Radeon™ R9 Fury X, the first of at least four Fury designs, AMD delivers a graphics card with an industry-first 4096-bit memory interface that packs 60% more bandwidth and 200% more performance per watt than GDDR5-based cards in a 94% smaller PCB area, and also eats up less power than those. Effectively, each HBM module allows for a throughput of 128 GB/s; the total per card amounts to 512 GB/s. As one may already expect from these specs, the R9 Fury X was specifically designed to deliver an extra smooth 4K gaming and VR experience. However, as you may also expect, this entails a massive TDP of 275 watts.

Alongside HBM, the R9 Fury X utilizes and/or supports a broad selection of advanced graphics technologies and APIs, including DirectX® 12, OpenGL® 4.5, and Vulkan™ as well as the proprietary FreeSync, Liquid VR, and Mantle. Because of the card's compact design with external liquid cooling (see above), AMD expects it to kick off a development round for new PC form factors, with the graphics card itself serving as some sort of eye candy.

The AMD Radeon™ R9 Fury X goes on sale this upcoming Wednesday (June 24) for a price of US-$649. An 'air-conditioned' model is scheduled for release in mid-July and will cost $100 less. A super-small, 6-inch model (R9 Nano) will appear in Q3/2015, accompanying an even larger flagship equipped with two HBM-based GPUs.


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