Vega Gigahertz Edition at GDC – Not quite as versatile

Continueing my dubious legacy of AMD related tech predictions – I give you the Vega Gigahertz Edition! It almost certainly won’t sport the moniker “Gigahertz Edition”, but it will in many ways mirror the re-release of the 7970 some six years ago. It’s what you do when you don’t have anything new in a market that expects a twelve month product cycle.

amd-radeon-vega-ghz-edition.png

This is not to say it will be a bad product.

So, what will it be? Perhaps it is better to say what it is not:

We know it won’t be a 12nm refresh, i’m not telling you anything new here.
We know it won’t be a 7nm Vega, that is saved for a compute heavy HPC product.
We know it isn’t a new arch, Navi as a consumer product won’t show before Q2 2019.

What your left with is:

A new stepping of the Vega chip, mainly to improve yield and power efficiency.
Faster HBM2 memory (supplied with 2.0Gbps instead of O/C’ed 1.6Gbps memory).
More importantly, we’ll see higher volume HBM2 production, to reduce cost.
We’ll see refined power circuitry, letting it run full-tilt for longer at the same power ceiling.
We’ll see it produced as a separate SKU with a distinct and unique BIOS id, and…
… we’ll see a separate driver package specific to that SKU that strips out the blockchain compute instructions.

A product for gamers, not for miners. It won’t be the fastest GPU in the world, it won’t really be the most versatile either (despite its all-purpose architecture).
Existing Vega owners won’t be penalised, their products will continue to mine with maximum efficiency on their separate driver branch.
If you have investment plans for new mining capacity, AMD will be pleased to direct you toward its Frontier Edition products, which will “continue to see innovation in blockchain compute efficiency”.

Is it worth doing:
Q – How much does crypto price gouging damage their core gaming market? A lot.
Q – How much are Amd missing out by selling a $450 card to retailers who rake in the margin by reselling those same cards for $900 to miners? A lot.
Vs.
How many crossover gamer/miners are there as a percentage of the total who’d be miffed at losing 20% crypto efficiency on their ‘gaming’ card? Some few.
How many miners would be furious at paying $900 for vegaFE versus $900 for a vega64. Only a fool.

When will all this happen? Well it needs to be soon if Nvidia is releasing consumer Volta sometime in Q2 2018, so why not beat them to the punch by launching at the Game Developers Conference. What better way of announcing a new gamer-centric GPU (with real availability to actual gamers).

Not a bad product if it sells at a competive price. Not an exciting product either, but enough for AMD to maintain mindshare in the consumer graphics market until Navi arrives.

Not long to be proved wrong…

Update 12.05.18 – Whither the mid-range?

I’m still not convinced that amd has anything more than a re-launched Vega10 on 14nm for thwe high-end. However, i’m becoming more and more convinced that the vega mid-range that disappeared may reappear as a 12nm product using a single stack of 2.4Gbps 8GB HBM2. There are rumours swirling that the Zen team has been parachuted into to help RTG, but you don’t just create new products with a click of ones fingers, but expertise in porting an existing design from 14nm to 12nm might be doable in this timeframe.

Update – 25.05.2019 – File this one under “utterly wrong” as we approach the announcement of 7nm Navi.

 

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