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AMD Vega: Radeon RX Vega GPU May Face Stiff Challenge From Nvidia Volta GPU In Q3

23 April 2017, 10:22 am EDT By Carl Velasco Tech Times
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AMD and Nvidia are both expected to unveil brand-new cards this year, with the former’s Radeon RX Vega GPUs, and the latter’s Volta-architecture cards. Nvidia, however, may have a leg up in this race.  ( Justin Sullivan | Getty Images )

Two of the biggest chipmakers are in for a potential high-stakes battle. With rumors about AMD's Radeon RX Vega GPU making the rounds, a flurry of reports about Nvidia's counterattack has also surfaced: a new GeForce GTX 20-series based on Volta Architecture.

AMD Radeon RX Vega GPUs

The Radeon RX Vega leaked recently via a teaser, offering the first look at the GPUs in addition to the limited-edition models AMD will sell. As leaks suggest, the high-end GPU variant will come in a unique packaging, complete with specialized LEDs that glow beneath the "R," signifying the Radeon brand.

Beyond that, however, the video had precious little else. But previously leaked details paint a better picture of the Radeon RX Vega's specs as well as the final design.

The AMD Radeon RX Vega graphics card, which uses the Vega 10 GPU, will come with an AIO liquid cooler. The card will have a heatsink that leverages liquid cooling to output better thermal performance.

In terms of internals, here's what we know so far: The Vega 10 GPU will utilize with the latest 14-nanometer GFX9 core architecture. It will feature 4,096 stream processors and 64 compute units. AMD has plans to increase throughput via increased clock speeds.

The cards will feature two HBM2 stacks of up to 16 GB in total. However, AMD has said that it will allow partners to ship the card in various memory configurations. As such, the consumer variant will only have 8 GB of HBM2 VRAM. This would pave the way for authorized board partners to alter the Vega GPU's memory die stacks or the total number of stacks.

The chip's server part is expected to come with 225 W TDP with around 1,526 MHz in terms of clock speeds, although consumer variants may feature higher speeds. In terms of memory, the Vega 10 GPU will mimic the Radeon R9 Fury's four layers per stack configuration with 256 MB per layer, but it's expected that these layers will feature higher densities.

The high-end Vega 10 GPU is expected to launch in the first half 2017.

What We Know So Far About Nvidia's Volta Architecture

Now, let's look at Nvidia. Recent rumors say that Nvidia is gearing up to release chips based on the successor to its Pascal architecture. This is known as Volta, as The Motley Fool reports.

Based on the company's traditional upgrade cycle, Nvidia is bound to release new cards by the end of the year or early 2018, especially with the GTX 10-series lineup nearing the end of its life. The release, however, has been pushed to Q3 2017, earlier than expected.

The reason behind this, according to the report, is poor market conditions. Nvidia's Q1 2017 results gave "very meager" profits due to a number of reasons. With the new Volta chips, Nvidia's goal is to boost prices and attempt to raise profits.

The primary lineup will be divided into four main GPUs: GV100, GV104, GV102, and GV110. They will be marketed as Nvidia GeForce GTX 20-series cards. Rumors say these cards will also finally feature HMB2 for its RAM interface like the Vega is expected to.

Core count and frequencies are metrics we're completely left in the dark with, but expect those specs to surface soon as the launch becomes more imminent. These cards are also expected to improve memory speeds on the GDDR5X platform.

Why Nvidia Volta May Threaten AMD Radeon RX Vega

Because Nvidia's Volta cards are expected to launch a little later than AMD's Radeon RX Vega cards, the GeForce GTX 20-series stands to enjoy a more significant market capture because it can potentially take away from Vega sales.

If AMD launches Vega GPUs in June, and if Nvidia launches Volta GPUs around July to September, the hype around Vega would have already died down. Nvidia then would have the perfect opportunity to launch Volta with the proper fanfare.

There's also the potential of Volta being quite a significant improvement over Pascal. If true, then it's easy to imagine that all eyes would be on Volta. But until specific metrics become available, such as core count and performance, then it's all guesswork for now. One thing is clear, however: Expect a GPU shootout from the two biggest chipmakers this year.

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