Updated 2/15/13 - AMD Next-Gen Graphics May Slip To End of 2013, Not Necessarily A Bad Thing

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News Posted: Sun, Feb 10 2013 11:51 PM
AMD has yet to make an official statement on this topic, but several unofficial remarks and leaks point in the same direction.  Contrary to rumor, there won't be a new GCN 2.0 GPU out this spring to head up the Radeon HD 8000 family. This breaks with a pattern AMD has followed for nearly six years.

Starting with the HD 3000 family, which debuted in November 2007, each successive generation appeared 9-13 months later. The HD 4000 series debuted in June 2008, the HD 5000 products launched in September 2009, the HD 6000's in October 2010, and the HD 7000 family in January, 2011.

By that calendar, we should have seen a new HD 8000 GPU within the next few months. AMD recently refreshed its mobile product lines with HD 8000M hardware, replacing some old 40nm parts with new 28nm GPUs based on GCN. In desktop, it's a different story. AMD is already shipping "HD 8000" cards to OEMs, but these cards are HD 7000 cards with new model numbers. RAM, TDP, core counts, and architectural features are all identical to the HD 7000 lineup.

GPU rebadges are nothing new, but this is the first time in at least six years that AMD has rebadged the top end of a product line. Combine that with leaked slides like this one:



And Twitter remarks like this:



And it looks increasingly less likely that AMD will field a true second-generation Graphics Core Next processor before the end of 2013.

Why A GPU Delay Isn't (Necessarily) A Bad Thing

Obviously any delay in a cutthroat market against Nvidia is a non-optimal situation, but consider the problem from AMD's point of view. The company has been through multiple rounds of layoffs, its credit rating is one notch above Paris Hilton's reputation, and it's been fighting against both Intel and Nvidia across multiple markets.

We know AMD built the GPU inside Wii U. It's credibly rumored to have designed the CPU and GPU for the Xbox Durango and possibly both of those components for the PS4 as well. We know AMD is launching the 28nm successor to Brazos, codenamed Kabini, in the first half of this year, and that the chip's success is absolutely critical to the company's ability to survive as a going concern.

The Richland refresh of Trinity is due in late March, with its own set of improvements. Kaveri is rumored for a late-2013 introduction, and it'll be the first desktop APU with a GCN-derived APU. Each one of these projects represents a non-trivial allocation of resources. Despite this, AMD's recent "Never Settle" bundles and the company's rapid response to reports of high frame latencies are both examples of a strong commitment to GPU development in software that also helps boost the adoption of APU technology. It's possible that in the company has opted to focus on the technologies most vital to its survival over the next 12 months.

Because in the end, that's the question here. Fitch cut AMD's credit rating because it doesn't believe the company will weather the storm facing it in Q1 and Q2. Brave remarks aside, AMD is at a critical juncture. If the rumors are true, and the next-generation GCN processor slips to late this year, it may yet result in a better final product.

Update - February 15 (Marco Chiappetta):
We just finished up a conference call with a number of representatives from AMD and have some additional news to share related to this story.

On the call, AMD wanted to be clear that they have new graphics products in the pipeline and that we would be hearing about them soon. AMD also explicitly stated that they want to bring back the “GPU wars” with NVIDIA, that they do not lack resources or imagination, and that they feel they’ve got the best products at their given price points. The company’s efforts over the next few months will be focused on repositioning their current parts and clearly establishing them as the “best” options in their respective market segments. AMD plans to further improve upon existing products through software updates and by fostering relationships with content providers to further evolve game bundles, like the current Never Settle Reloaded bundle.

According to AMD, sales of Radeon HD 7000 series products are still ramping and it would not be prudent to announce or talk about next-gen products until demand for current solutions begins to wane. Some new products, however, will still be introduced into the channel in the not too distant future—they just won’t be high-end products. AMD’s Sea Islands GPUs, variants of which already power the recently announced Radeon HD 8000M series of mobile parts, will eventually find their way to new desktop products. Those products will not compete at the high-end, though. They will be mainstream, low-power products, most likely targeted at mid-range systems.

With that said, AMD did state that “before 2014” they will have (or at least reveal) a new top-to-bottom graphics line-up and that there will still be updates to the Radeon HD 7000 series during this year. We suspect we’ll know more about true, next-gen products in the November timeframe, when the AMD Fusion Developer Summit is scheduled to take place and that AMD may have more to say after NVIDIA shows its hand. Though, when talking about NVIDIA’s upcoming GeForce GTX Titan, AMD did say that they know about it, they are not afraid of it, and the will react accordingly when it arrives. I guess we’ll know what that means soon enough.
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turtle replied on Mon, Feb 11 2013 3:32 AM

Truly a fair argument on it's face, and fwiw I believe them since they chose to broadcast the decision.

That said, what will oland (8700/8600m and 8600/8500m oem) be then? 7500/7600? It would make absolutely no sense to launch Richland without it's gpu counterpart to the channel. This is not to mention Richland carries an 8000 series gpu title that exactly correspond to the oem specs (8670d and 8570d). Will we get a full-line RETAIL rebrand for 7700-7900? Either way, it's already a fallacy to state 7000 will remain stable.

Also, while one can make the argument the xbox and ps3 are specialized hardware, it is foolish to believe they are not based on conventional gpus that are or will be available in the market (like the g70/'rsx' to the ps3 or redwood/'latte' to the wii u). For example, it's pretty well accepted the ps4 uses a 1024sp design at ~800-900mhz (or perhaps a slightly slower gpu like 768sp) with an amd apu (perhaps 256sp). The xbox is all but definitively using a 768sp part at 800mhz (or again, maybe Trinity/richland + oland/mars, perhaps even one chip or single package). Pretty sure (at least the xbox) didn't spawn from Pitcairn, nor did Cape Verde magically spawn more processors. Like was said, AMD's resources are too thin to develop COMPLETELY different designs that will not be on the market.

While launch dates can change because of market conditions, this whole situation reeks of self-inflicted FUD.

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Joel H replied on Mon, Feb 11 2013 10:35 AM

Turtle,

You need to distinguish between an actual new GPU and a new nomenclature.

For example:

AMD sells Brazos as an HD 5000 and HD 6000 part. In reality, it's only HD 5000 -- Cypress.

The GPU inside Trinity is derived from Cayman, not GCN. Richland may have a GCN GPU -- or it may be a Cayman part with a clock speed nudge. AMD has implied that it will be the former.

If Richland has a Cayman GPU, it'll still be HD 6000-class, even if they call it HD 8000.

Oland isn't shipping yet. The HD 8000 OEM parts aren't based on the Oland GPU. 

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RWilliams replied on Mon, Feb 11 2013 12:06 PM

We'll just have to see what NVIDIA's move will be, because as it stands, both companies offer great products at the moment. I don't consider this to be much of a downside; if anything, the masses that own HD 7000 cards will be able to retain that "it's new!" feeling much longer :D

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Dorkstar replied on Mon, Feb 11 2013 1:13 PM

Sigh...I hate that this is standard practice for GPU's.

@RWilliams I've read that Nvidia is also doing the same thing as AMD. It appears both companies are waiting on similar technologies to release their new lines.

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Joel H replied on Mon, Feb 11 2013 2:59 PM

Dorkstar,

As I've said, if AMD rebrands the high-end, this will be a first for them. Nvidia caught a lot of flack for rebranding G92-based hardware from the NV 8xxx to NV 9xxx, but the situation at the top-end was rather more complex -- the GTX 9800 with 512MB of RAM was faster than the 8800 GTS 320 and generally faster than the 8800 GTS 640.

AMD has previously rebranded the midrange Cypress parts but not, to my knowledge, done the same for anything above the x870 family. The HD 6870 and HD 6970 were new parts, as was the HD 7870 and 7850. Obviously the highest end hardware was also refreshed every cycle.

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Joel H replied on Fri, Feb 15 2013 3:27 PM

Is there any evidence suggesting that the GPU inside the HD 8000M series is a second-gen GCN part? AMD refers to these as "Second generation of GCN products" but not "Second-generation GCN architecture." And that's a telling difference.

It's particularly noteworthy when considering that the HD 8000M parts replaced older chips that were still based on 40nm. It's a good upgrade. That's not in question. But I haven' t seen data on whether or not these GPUs are materially different from the HD 7000's core architecture.

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Marco C replied on Fri, Feb 15 2013 6:24 PM

No. No evidence. Sea Islands is still GCN 1.0.

Marco Chiappetta
Managing Editor @ HotHardware.com

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realneil replied on Sat, Feb 16 2013 12:00 AM

OK, I can accept all of this, as long as they have an immediate price war.

Dogs are great judges of character, and if your dog doesn't like somebody being around, you shouldn't trust them.

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Joel H replied on Sat, Feb 16 2013 5:01 PM

Realneil,

AMD can't afford a price war. They make very little money on Radeon as-is. Their net profit on GPU sales is typically 3-4%.

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Only way to survive is to have at least a 7770 class GPU an their APU. 1080P playable (at least 45fps) graphics performance is a must. Anything less is not worth doing. The Playstation APU is rumored to have a 7850 GPU equivalent so they can actually produce the chip. Maybe even have dedicated GDDR5 ram for the GPU side of the chip would be possible to bring down the costs. And 22nm would also help a lot. . The APU could be incorporated in mid to high range HDTV's (with XBMC and Linux- a steam box with a socketed APU)

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