AMD Announces GCN 2.0 Graphics Cards! But don't get too excited just yet...

AMD Announces GCN 2.0 Graphics Cards! But don’t get too excited just yet…

AMD Announces GCN 2.0 Graphics Cards! But don’t get too excited just yet…


Yes, that’s right, as we said, AMD’s HD 8000 series graphics cards are on the way – the embargo has been lifted and I can tell you now that the next generation Graphics Core (GCN) 2.0-gen GPUs are on the way.

But unfortunately, they may not be very close to you when they come to the laptop in the first place.

This time last year, I was giddy and excited when the first-generation GCN cards arrived on my testbed, the HD 7970 and HD 7950. Ah, peaceful days. But all that Santa can bring me from Texas this year is a mobile version of AMD’s GCN 2.0 architecture.

AMD advertises the first product lines of the HD 8000 series as the HD 8500M, HD 8600M, HD 8700M and HD 8800M. This takes care of mainstream and low-end audiophile platforms, and the high-end HD 8900M series looks set to launch later next year.

What AMD thinks is important is the fact that this generation represents the first to have a top-down lineup of 28nm GCN cards. Last year, anything from the HD 7600M and below was based on the older 40nm technology.

That’s why AMD calls the HD 8000M series GCN 2.0.

As far as I can tell, there doesn’t appear to be any architectural changes, and an AMD spokesperson explained during the briefing call that “2.0” simply refers to the second-generation GPU, which uses the GCN core architecture.

This change does represent an issue with their Fusion/Trinity laptops, though.

Traditionally, AMD and its partners could pair an APU with a compatible GPU and enter a hybrid CrossFireX mode. Since the two chips have different GPU architectures, they are not compatible with each other in this dual-graphics mode.

We will have to wait for the next APU to become a reality with the GCN GPU integrated in it. I’m still a bit concerned that this Kaveri APU might not even be available in 2013, and rumor has it that launch orders for this next-gen APU have slipped.

However, the GCN architecture will give laptop gamers more battery life for gaming on the go. With zero-core technology and the switchable graphics modes of AMD’s mobile parts, it effectively shuts down the discrete GPU portion of the laptop completely when only using the integrated graphics.

What’s more, GCN technology has scalable performance when using discrete GPU components. The example given is a YouTube HD video that only requires the GPU to turn on a few of its cores for a given workload, where a 3D game requires all cores and more power to run.

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Wilbert Wood
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