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AMD talks up High Bandwidth Memory that will power its next GPUs, pokes Nvidia too

Gordon Mah Ung | May 20, 2015
AMD's next-gen 3D GPU memory is cooler, faster and ahead of anything Nvidia has, the company claims.

Macri said the problem Intel and Micron are trying to solve with HMC is one that affects supercomputers and isn't likely to be at odds with HBM, as the former is more an expensive technology for a different application. Intel officials would seem to agree.

"As a strong supporter of industry standards, Intel is a partner in the High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) development within JEDEC and is exploring the usage of HBM in Intel platforms," an Intel spokesman said in a statement to PCWorld. "While Intel is not a member of the Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium (HMCC), we did collaborate with Micron Technology on a custom derivative of HMC optimized for Intel Xeon Phi "Knights Landing" processor."

In other words, those expecting to see HBM and HMC re-litigate the brutal Rambus vs. DDR wars of the 1990s will be disappointed. Intel is down with HBM too.

First HBM cards limited to 4GB?

Although Macri did not discuss any particulars of AMD GPUs with HBM, the Internet has been rampant with leaks and rumors about a card believed to be named the Radeon R9 390X using HBM. Many believe the 390X will put AMD back in contention with Nvidia, which has held the performance crown for some time. AMD's only answer to Nvidia's GeForce 9-series cards has been to continue to cut prices for its top-end Radeon cards.

Even worse, those Radeon cards have long had a reputation for running hot and consuming more power than Nvidia's products. If AMD is to be believed, HBM will certainly help with power and thermal issues, but one perceived weakness  Nvidia is likely to try to exploit is the amount of RAM.

Macri didn't specifically say that the company's first HBM card would be limited to 4GB of RAM, but with most of AMD's illustrations, including one used here, showing four stacks each with 1GB, it isn't hard to do the math. With Nvidia pushing 12GB in its GeForce Titan X, it's easy to see total memory used as a marketing lever to work consumer buying emotions.

"This might be a marketing problem," he said, "but the end user values performance, values form factor and values power consumption."

Macri also said 4GB is an "enormous" amount of RAM and there are other ways to approach it than just ladling on more and more memory.

Custom GPU designs might be a little less custom

One last concern Macri addressed was concern over highly customized video cards. Typically when a new graphics core is introduced, AMD and Nvidia make reference designs available to board partners. These are essentially the completed boards with RAM, GPU, coolers and voltage components ready to go. But the more advanced vendors will set their engineers to work creating customized board layouts with beefier components and cooling to appeal to the gamer and overclocking crowd. 


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