Why the two largest electronics manufacturers joined forces in a new GPU project

    Samsung and AMD have launched a joint project in the field of GPU architectures. We will figure out what are the prerequisites for this partnership and discuss other companies working in this area. Photos - Louis Reed - Unsplash

    Strategic partnership

    Samsung licenses AMD IP Graphics Units for SoC . The Korean company will pay royalties for the use of technology by an American manufacturer. According to preliminary data, they plan to introduce new graphics chips in smartphones, tablets and IoT devices. The latter today - according to experts - are one of the main drivers of cloud technology development.

    The IP blocks provided by AMD are based on the RDNA (Radeon DNA) architecture. It will be the basis of the upcoming Navi generation video cards built on 7-nm processors. Deliveries of the first devices - in particular, the Radeon RX 5700 - will begin this week.

    The RDNA architecture has a new computing unit structure, a multi-level hierarchy of cache memory, support for GDDR6 and PCI Express 4.0. Although part of the computing blocks of RDNA migrated from the architecture of the previous generation - GCN (Graphics Core Next).

    As representatives of the IT company say, GCN has been around for ten years, and a large number of applications and games have been optimized for it. Switching to a completely new architecture could lead to software crashes.

    Thus, the first Navi boosters will be hybrids between RDNA and GCN. Despite this fact, AMD claims a 25% increase in performance per cycle.

    According to Anandtech editors , Samsung will need at least two years to integrate AMD's new IP-units into its chips and tune their performance. Therefore, expect a SoC based on Radeon from a Korean company should not be earlier than 2022.

    Reasons and prospects of the transaction

    AMD expands portfolio. In the early 2010s, the company launched a custom chip production program for large IT companies and cloud providers. For example, AMD worked with the Chinese PlayRuyi, creating Zen and Polaris processors for their gaming station. Intel ordered Vega-based GPUs for its Kaby Lake G architecture. Similar chips were chosen this year by Google for the Stadia streaming service.

    The partnership with Samsung is the first time in a long time that AMD has entered the mobile device market. The head of the American corporation Lisa Su (Lisa Su) expects that the collaboration will open up new opportunities for the company, help build up the user base and expand the ecosystem of Radeon.

    Samsung is improving its products ... In 2012, a Korean company developed its own GPUs. She sells SoC under the Exynos brand. Since 2014, they have been using ARM graphics technology. Experts say partnering with AMD will help improve this technology.

    ... and gets patent protection. The industry of graphics accelerators has accumulated a fairly large number of patents. It is believed that Samsung entered into a partnership agreement with AMD in order to avoid the risks associated with an accidental violation of patent rights when developing its chips. As an illustration, experts cite a case when AMD accused MediaTek of illegal use of APU technologiesand GPUs on smart devices and TVs. Such a trial could drag on for a long time (in the case of MediaTek, it has been going on since 2017), and Samsung decided to go the "safe way."

    Who else works with "mobile graphics"

    In the field of mobile graphics processors, several other iconic companies can be noted. Since 2008, Nvidia has been developing a system based on the Tegra chip, but it is not very widespread. Although used in infotainment systems of several automakers , augmented reality glasses Magic Leap and in the Nintendo Switch console .

    Photo - Skitterphoto - Pixabay License

    It is also worth noting the development of the British startup Imagination Technologies. This is one of the first companies to bring TBDR (tile delayed rendering) to the market . One time their PowerVR chipused on iPhone and iPad. Later Apple decided to design its own accelerator, and Imagination (having lost the main client) was put up for sale and acquired by the Chinese fund Canyon Bridge Capital Partners for 550 million pounds.

    Another example is Qualcomm with an Adreno processor. By the way, Adreno previously worked at Samsung. The chips were developed at AMD (ATI Technologies) until the company sold the Qualcomm division. In fact, AMD returned to where they started and are again working with the Korean giant. What prospects await the company further remains to be seen.

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