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AMD R9 390X Possible Specs Spotted!

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Posted November 11, 2014 by Josh Jackson in Hardware

Maxwell did an amazing job of bringing the graphics card industry to a whole new level. Honestly, the architecture involved is quite amazing and we haven’t even seen the “Big Daddy” Maxwell card yet. (The 980 is by no means the top dog coming from Nvidia.) This put AMD under a lot of pressure to deliver something that could compare. The good news is that not only does AMD have a response, but if the leaked specs combined with HBM is true, the R9 390X could be as big of a game changer as Maxwell was a month ago.

First, let’s take a quick peek at some of the more prevalent specs. The 390X is slated to sport 4096 GCN Cores. When compared to the 2816 Cores of the 290X, that leap seems pretty massive. It looks like we’re still showing 4GB of memory with a 1Ghz boost clock speed, but the next interesting fact about the Fiji architecture is the Manufacturing Process. These will be the first chips to feature the TSMC 20nm node which should help with efficiency and performance. The tiny taste of Tonga last month showed that AMD was heading down the path of better efficiency with better performance. However, outside of major architectural advantages that while extremely possible have not been seen yet, the improvements here may not seem out of this world. That is until we take a closer look at the memory being used.

HBMSome of you may have heard of HBM before but others may be scratching your heads. HBM stands for High Bandwidth Memory and sounds very much like a giant game changer for the hardware world. At first glance, the 1.25 Ghz memory clock speed doesn’t sound too impressive, especially when you compare it to the 5 and 6 Ghz speeds of previous cards. It’s only when you look at the memory bandwidth and the concept of HBM that things start to heat up. HBM is more than just increasing bandwidth. It’s a new process of manufacturing DRAM by literally stacking the dies on top of each other (Three Dimensional). This allows much slower RAM to work at exponentially higher bandwidth than before. To put this in perspective, the expected bandwidth is around 533GB/s. When compared to the 336GB/s of the GTX 780 Ti memory, the potential of HBM is quite dramatic. Also, GPUs aren’t the only application. We could see HBM in our desktop memory as well as our L2/L3 caches in CPUs.

It’s quite possible that 2015 will be the year of AMD, at least in the GPU market. If the Fiji architecture makes good performance strides on it’s own, the combination of that with HBM will make the R9 390X pretty unstoppable. Not only does Nvidia have to wait on HBM, but they also won’t be leaving the 28nm process until 2016 when they start to utilize 16nm. I have no doubt that their “Big Daddy” Maxwell will have something to say to all of this, but ultimately, it looks like we are seeing some extremely stiff competition. What can I say? The industry is winning with great innovation and consumers are winning with great prices. Only time will tell if this speculation is true, but I have a feeling that CES 2015 is going to be pretty exciting!


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