AMD’s Vega GPU Architecture Preview: What Do We Know?

At CES 2017, everybody has been waiting for AMD to drop all the pricing and performance information on their next generation GPU architecture codenamed Vega, but AMD couldn’t do that simply due to the fact that Vega is still in active development. Engineering samples have been shown running both Star Wars: Battlefront and DOOM in 4K at max settings, but that is all.

What AMD did do at CES was release technical information describing the Vega GPU architecture improvements and redesign. Steve from GamersNexus and Ryan from PCPerspective have explained the whole thing in excellent detail. We recommend reading both of those previews if this leaves you wanting more.

In short, AMD decided to redesign their core GPU architecture (GCN – Graphics Core Next) and called it NCU (Next-generation Compute Unit). This approach, together with other substantial changes to how AMD’s GPUs function, will help better leverage what high-bandwidth memory (HBM) has to offer, at the same time improving performance in gaming applications.

Vega introduces HBM2, with more than 2-times the bandwidth per pin compared to HBM and 8-times the capacity per stack. AMD’s R9 Fury GPUs used the original HBM, but were limited to only 4GB of it. With the new progress on capacity with HBM2, we should see higher memory counts in Vega cards (which they now call “High Bandwidth Cache”).

With Vega, AMD will make a return to the landscape of high-end GPUs, finally toppling the R9 Fury X, which was released in mid-2015 and still stands as AMD’s most powerful graphics card. Since that time, NVIDIA has surpassed AMD with the GTX 1070, GTX 1080, and Titan X.

Vega-based GPUs are supposed to be released during the first half of 2017, which means anywhere from February to July, but as AMD has a major CPU launch in the first quarter of 2017 (Ryzen), we’re most likely looking at a May-June release of Vega-based graphics cards at the earliest. Don’t be surprised if AMD misses the “first half of 2017” launch window for Vega.

We will come back to the topic once more information on Vega is released.