Introducing AMD's Radeon HD 8970M

Company: AMD
Author: James Prior
Editor: Sean Ridgeley
Date: May 15th, 2013

Could be the notebook's new best friend

AMD's second generation APU Trinity was revised and improved in March, and is known as Richland. While the silicon is the same, the capabilities were increased -- most notably, it could permit dual graphics with GCN architecture GPUs.

Solar System Mobility GPU's

AMD's GCN based mobility line is codenamed Solar System and is the mobile counterpoint to the limited update cards for the desktop, codenamed Sea Islands. At CES 2013 we saw Mars and Venus launch in the HD 8600M, HD 8700M and HD 8800M parts with a teaser for a HD 8900 card to follow. The eagle-eyed among you will notice a product or two has disappeared from the roadmap: previously two placeholders were visible at the top of the stack. However, Q2 '13 isn't over for a while yet, so there may be a new GPU or two to come.

Mars, Venus, and Neptune

Teasing time is now over, and the world's fastest notebook GPU is here: give a warm welcome to the AMD Radeon HD 8970M, codenamed Neptune. Full technical details are lacking for the new GPU; the promised speeds and feeds didn't materialize in time for publication but I can tell you AMD claim a 25-30% performance increase over the outgoing Radeon HD 7970M.

"The AMD Radeon HD 8970M allows users to maintain decent framerates and a smooth experience without sacrificing quality"

- Jay Marsden, AMD Product Marketing Manager

The best I can tell, the 7970M and 8970M share the same silicon, as both are based on the Wimbledon XT package but the 8970M includes boosted clocks for both core and memory. Thus, no improvements to Enduro switching can be found. It's the same hardware; software improvements are the way for AMD to elevate the user experience.

Again, no official details are available but the same 100W TDP is offered for Neptune as was Wimbledon, meaning a lot of binning and perhaps driver work has been done to get the head line grabbing 30% performance lift maximum claimed by AMD. AMD's own testing shows the Radeon HD 8970M to be 21% faster than the Geforce GTX 680M in 3DMark FireStrike.

Neptune offers six percent more raw compute power than Wimbledon with the same 1280 stream processors. The 256-bit memory bus is still in play to offer 76.8GB/s memory bandwidth to feed the 2.3TFLOPS of SP compute. The specifications show Neptune gains Boost abilities, running the same base 850MHz engine clock as Wimbledon, but now with a 50MHz Boost depending on TDP and workload. Memory is increased a healthy 20%, up to 1.2GHz in Neptune from the 1GHz of Wimbledon.

Power Management

First to jump on the new Richland and Neptune combination is MSI, with the GX 70 notebook. This is an update to their GX 60 notebook and should increase the already potent capabilities of the device. Whether the Neptune GPU gains some wins from the NVIDIA Kepler mobile line up for Intel notebooks remains to be seen.

"AMD are working closely with developers to increase immersion through technologies and filters"

- Jay Marsden, AMD Product Marketing Manager

AMD now have a top to bottom 28nm mobility GPU stack featuring GCN architecture for their Richland APUs and the upcoming Intel Haswell notebook lineup. It's disappointing we're not seeing the hardware improvements shown in the Radeon HD 7790 Bonaire product; the improved Powertune capabilities would make even more use of the 100W TDP, allowing the mobility GPU to push even harder, something you can bet on NVIDIA improving in their refresh 28nm mobility GPUs.