What does FinFET mean for Gamers?
There’s a ton of leaks and rumors circulating about the AMD Arctic Islands and NVIDIA Pascal GPUs slated to release next year. Right now, it’s hard to get too excited about anything. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the new releases are going to be phenomenal, but we’re so early before the release of these products that any actual performance numbers are still a long ways off. However, there are still a couple of pieces of information being leaked that are intriguing and quite frankly, should be getting gamers very excited about the games of 2017 and beyond.
FinFET is a new process that helps shrink the size of the transistor to 14nm or 16nm. Both TSMC and Global Foundries have managed to get their processes mature enough that they can begin mass production shortly, but we still have to see how good the yields are for determining what the cost of the new GPUs will be. Since graphics cards have been stuck on the 28nm process for quite some time now, it makes sense that efficiency and performance are going to improve significantly. While AMD is claiming double the performance per watt, that can mean little until actual gaming performance is measured. Many times, that double per watt slogan can translate into something quite a bit less than what it sounds like. However, the other factor is the massive amount of transistors that can be squeezed into one die as a result of the shrink. The flagship chip should contain up to 18 billion transistors, over double of what the Fury X contains, which makes me wonder if double performance overall is attainable.
But FinFET isn’t the only amazing thing happening next year. Memory bandwidth took a huge leap with HBM, but Fury X was limited to 4 GB of it since the process was so new. With HBM2, both AMD and NVIDIA are claiming flagship cards with up to 32 GB of memory! That number is absolutely ridiculous, but I believe it’s going to be a key stat for entering a new era of gaming. In spite of only having 4GB of memory, the Fury X kept up surprisingly well with the likes of the GTX 980 Ti and the Titan X. Perhaps the biggest reason for this is that many games, even at 4k resolution, will only need about 4 GB of VRAM. This is a sign that while 4k is looking more viable down the road, it also shows some untapped potential with APIs and programming. Here’s hoping that with the introduction of new high memory capacity cards, developers find new ways to tap into all of the potential and upcoming titles start blowing our minds with features, graphics, and gameplay features.
We’re all still waiting for the huge reveals of some top tier gaming cards, but with the massive improvements coming in 2016, I wouldn’t be surprised to see following game releases unveil new horizons once developers see how much hardware potential there is. I think we’ll be seeing some huge increases in graphics. Details that are typically too resource intensive will be embraced as the norm giving us better looking environments and character features. I also think physics will take a big leap because rather than making one large object that has a skin over it to interact with the environment, we’ll have several connected objects that not only have there own individual interactions, but have the connected interaction as well. Think of it this way; Lara will be able to put her hand on any wall you walk close to, rather than bumping into it or stopping, during tomb exploration. That’s just one possibility!
(Now, we just need Kojima in the right place to make use of all this great hardware. Why Konami? Why!?!)