AMD reveals Polaris 10/RX480 and Zen APUs

Computex 2016: Efficiency is the theme of the day

AMD Zen LogoAMD did a surprise reveal of RX480/Polaris 10 and Zen at Computex. SemiAccurate thinks both products are going to be really big for the company, ending a long drought of minor product updates.

The first and biggest bang was the reveal of some of the specs for the RX480 and more importantly the price. In a seemingly atypical move, AMD released the mid-range part first countering the usual halo launch followed by the volume parts. SemiAccurate said this would happen months ago, and all is going according to plans. There have been a lot of unfounded rumors lately about AMD’s schedule and pending division sales, before you believe that nonsense look for ulterior motives from the ‘source’. Anyway here are the details.

AMD Polaris 10 RX480 specs

The specs with Raja’s head for size comparisons

First the technical side, >5 TF puts the RX480 at a higher performance level than both the PS4 and way way higher than the XBox One. It has 36 CUs or 2304 shaders in the old way of counting, mostly made possible by the 14nm Globalfoundries process. 4 or 8GB of GDDR5 on a 256b bus puts the RX480 on par with high-end cards of a generation or two ago and that isn’t counting some interesting low-level changes that we can’t talk about yet. Do note the DP1.3 and DP1.4HDR line though.

AMD RX480 card with reflections

Artsy reflections are in now, right?

When you look at the power consumed, 150W, things get a lot more interesting. Not only is this a solid mid-range part, it should go nicely into notebooks downclocks or not. A binned part with different power management settings could effectively be dropped right into a gaming notebook with no other changes but a clock reduction would probably be smarter. Do note that the clocks aren’t directly listed but knowing that one shader can do two FLOPs/clock gets you ~1.1GHz (5000/2304*2) or about the range that you would expect. This is backed up by other data from Computex but don’t take any numbers solid. Unfortunately we can’t explain that part yet but stay tuned, we will, just don’t take numbers as hard or definitive this round yet.

AMD RX480 specs

Ancillary data slide #7

Then there is the price. If you saw the AMD Computex webcast you know that AMD is aiming for volume and marketshare right now. If the high-end of their new introductions, that would be the RX480, is priced at $199 for the 4GB version, this should grab wads of marketshare for the company. We think it will, the price/performance ratio here is really solid, Nvidia will have a hard time competing with this for reasons we will talk about in a few days. This card and presumably others to come should hit the market sweet spot this round.

AMD Zen logo

The new Zen logo in case you can’t tell

That brings us to the next item revealed, the new Zen core also known as Summit Ridge. This part uses the same AM4 platforms just released for Bristol Ridge/Carrizo with all the latest goodies you want from a platform. Summit/Zen is sampling now and ran several demos at the show. There were two systems running on the floor but the closed boxes didn’t look like much, see?

AMD Zen boxes

Black boxes for Zen, how, err… Zen?

As as side note, if you want to annoy a bringup engineer, try this patented SemiAccurate method. Talk to one of them and say that you knew these boxes were the new chip even though they were closed. When he/she asks how you knew, put your hand on it and say, “it is burning hot”. This is guaranteed to annoy them, more so if you can pull it off with a straight face. Also do note that the Zen boxes were NOT hot or even warm, they contained form factor accurate development boards and ran cool, the heat bit was strictly humor.

AMD Zen chip

A Zen in the hand

What specs were revealed about Zen? 40% more IPC, presumably over Carrizo, 8 cores with 16 threads, and all for the new AM4 platform. The performance number should put Zen on par with Haswell, not bleeding edge but more than in the game, and the core count is borderline pointless for consumers but chopped dies will probably be really solid. That said it is obviously a ground-up new architecture and the first threaded core AMD is doing. Expect sea changes when the numbers come out. AMD also said the very different Zen server part will sample to a few OEMs in Q3 with mass samples in Q4, that should give you a nice window for launch.

Both of the new AMD offerings have a theme, vastly greater efficiency than their predecessors. Both are the first really new architectures we have seen from the company in a long, long time. Polaris 10/RX480 is a bit more iterative but a big step in functionality which should translate into marketshare as intended. Zen brings AMD back into the CPU core game, it is the first new architecture since Bulldozer. I can’t wait to see how they line up in real world testing, it has been too long since there was real competition in the enthusiast market.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also a council member with Gerson Lehman Group. FullyAccurate