RX 9900 XTX Against NVIDIA

AMD Prepares a Technological Breakthrough: The Chiplet-Based Radeon RX 9900 XTX to Challenge NVIDIA

AMD is gearing up for a significant technological leap with its upcoming Radeon RX 9900 XTX, a chiplet-based graphics card that insiders believe has the potential to lead the desktop graphics market.

For some time, it’s been a puzzle why AMD keeps its graphics division afloat. Developing new architectures involves substantial costs, and the profit margins from graphics card sales have been slim. While the engineering efforts are commendable, they haven’t always been flawless. For instance, the Radeon RX 6900 XT slightly lagged behind NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 3090. However, Radeon RX 6950 XT‘s faster memory allowed it to surpass NVIDIA’s flagship. This occurred even with the presence of the GeForce RTX 3090 Ti on the market, highlighting that AMD does have competitive products.

RX 9900 XTX

The current generation’s RDNA architecture faced setbacks, limiting performance improvements in the mid and upper-mid-range segments. For example, the Radeon RX 7800 XT was only marginally faster than its predecessor, the RX 6800 XT. Additionally, AMD’s presence in retail graphics card shelves has been dwindling.

CEO Lisa Su’s thoughts on this are not clear, but overall, AMD is faring well, especially with server processors being a major revenue source. Meanwhile, graphics solutions remain a niche market segment. AMD possesses cutting-edge technologies but has yet to challenge NVIDIA equally. Despite promises over the last decade to outpace NVIDIA, those goals remain unfulfilled.

A new patent, however, sparks interest. It details the next-generation graphics cards’ architecture, potentially revolutionizing the graphics world. Based on the complex chiplet architecture, similar to the previously rumored Radeon RX 8900 XTX, these new cards might be built on principles laid out in this patent.

The patent focuses on a flexible GPU architecture comprising 12 chiplets working in parallel without central control. These chiplets are distributed across specialized blocks, including a command processor, geometry engine, shader engine, and rasterizers. Each chiplet processes indices independently, functioning like multiple mini-GPUs in a MIMD model. For instance, when a rendering call is made, each chiplet’s geometry engine independently calculates the necessary parts of the index buffer, enabling parallel execution without synchronization. The chiplets interact with the main memory and CPU through the PCIe bus and are interconnected by Infinity Fabric crosslink. The patent describes a state management scheme to synchronize the chiplets, with each command processor generating a state identifier corresponding to multiple processing pipelines executed by the chiplets. It also outlines methods for managing geometry engines for efficient index distribution, ensuring parallel execution with minimal synchronization.

Insiders have long suggested that chiplet technology could be AMD’s key to regaining lost ground in the graphics market. However, such a graphics chip would be more expensive to produce, potentially raising consumer prices. Convincing potential buyers to invest in AMD’s offerings, especially if a flagship model is priced at $2000, might be challenging. Additionally, using chiplets requires a new approach to driver development, and there’s uncertainty whether games can deliver the expected performance gains. While the card might excel in synthetic benchmarks, it could lag behind NVIDIA’s offerings in real-world scenarios.

Nonetheless, it’s premature to dismiss this promising technology. Insiders are confident that the Radeon RX 9900 XTX, based on the RDNA 5 architecture, could be the first graphics chip using chiplets. However, its release date remains uncertain, possibly not until 2025. The graphics market is currently saturated, and existing solutions still have considerable potential for improvement. For instance, NVIDIA is expected to release the GeForce RTX 40 Super series in early 2024, and AMD may follow suit with its own offering. The ensuing competition for enthusiast wallets will likely heat up later, but for now, there are no clear indications of an imminent breakthrough from AMD’s “red team.”