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Updated at 12:35 pm PST with comments from analyst Patrick Moorhead

LOS ANGELES — Advanced Micro Devices, one of the major graphics chip manufacturers, is trying to help players keep up with two of the most recent advancements in PC gaming: 4K resolution and virtual-reality systems.

On Tuesday, AMD held its own press briefing during the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show. It announced new additions to its graphics cards lineup, including the AMD Radeon R9 Fury X for high-end PCs (coming out on June 24 for $649). During the presentation, AMD president and chief executive Lisa Su said the Fury X is the first card in the market to have high-bandwidth memory (HBM) built-in, making it “perfect” for meeting the requirements of 4K (or even higher resolutions) and VR. HBM is faster and consumes less power than the current GDDR5 memory standard.

“HBM enables a few things. The first thing it can do is radically change the power draw of memory,” said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. “This enables smaller form factors in PC performance gaming but also a robust future as GDDR memory could soon be running out of gas as it relates to performance per watt.”

High-bandwidth memory also takes up less space overall, enabling AMD to create products with smaller form factors, like the upcoming 6-inch R9 Nano card (out sometime this summer). According to AMD product chief technology officer Joe Macri, the Nano has 80 to 90 percent of the performance of the Fury X.

“Our strategy is — we built a huge chip. We have as many transistors, if not more, than the competition’s chip,” said Macri in a meeting with the press after the briefing. “We can put two of ’em on a card and have them run at an unbelievably high performance that crushes the competition’s big stuff. The water-cool [Fury X] guy blasts the [Nvidia 980Ti card]. The Nano has no comparison in the competition. We built three distinct form factors to target three separate parts of the market, all enabled with this memory technology and the Fiji die.”

Memory chip types don’t change that often. AMD began its research on high-bandwidth memory about seven years ago because it believed that GDDR5 would eventually limit the power of future graphics cards.

“In the future, I can see [HBM] changing other markets like HPC, where if implemented with a robust software stack, provides a massive performance improvement in the same power envelope. HBM is an industry transforming technology,” said Moorhead.


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