After all the years I've been chasing pixels, it is astounding to me to be astounded still, but here I am, mouth open in awe.
AMD disclosed some of the details of its Graphics Core Next 2.0 architecture code named Hawaii. CGN 2.0 is a true multimedia machine, containing an excellent graphics engine, astounding audio processing and capabilities to drive multiple ultra high-resolution displays.
Here are a few numbers supporting my gushiness: Versions of the chip have more than 2,800 shader cores with more than 5 GFLOPS of compute power. They packs several DSPs, new VESA UHD compatibility, and a bold -- and powerful -- new API called Mantle.
The new API lets game developers get at all of the GPU's features with minimum overheard, reducing draw calls by 19x. In multi-display support AMD has been leading the market. It's Stony Brook packs 1.5 billion pixels using 416 displays at 2,560 x 1,440 resolution. That impresses me, but then I'm a pixel head.
The chip's new audio capabilities, demonstrated in January at the Consumer Electronics Show, are the equivalent of Atmos by Dolby Labs. Incidentally, I had the pleasure of seeing a screening of "Gravity" in Atmos audio that made its stereo 3D graphics come alive with speakers everywhere.
The Battlefield 4 game exploits the new AMD audio features. If you've got the speakers, you are going to be blown away by the sound in B4.
The new GPU can scale from use in single-Watt devices to kilowatt workstations. Nvidia can do that too, but typically Nvidia has offered such scaling by using chips from multiple chip generations.
AMD crammed more than 6 billion transistors into this 28nm chip. Yet I expect it will have relatively high yields and high volumes, allowing AMD to drop its prices, putting pressure on the competition and attracting more customers.
Indeed, Nvidia has already responded. On October 7, AMD lowered prices on its high-end GeForce GTX 660 boards to $179 and the 650 with a GByte of memory to $129 at major online outlets. Some partners are expected to lower prices even further.
A combination of forces brought this all together, including a new management team in 2011 that totally signed up for, and funded, the graphics division's plans. It paid off: The disclosure of the GCN 2.0 design helped drive a clean sweep of design wins in the console market. In fact, the addition of new audio processing features was encouraged by the console folks.
AMD put an offer up on NewEgg for a high-end R9 290X bundle with Battlefield 4 and no price and it sold out 8,000 units. That's the enthusiasm this game and new boards from AMD are generating.