AMD’s future graphics cards promise to be groundbreaking, regardless of performance. According to AMD Chair and CEO Dr. Lisa Su, the forthcoming AMD Radeon RX 7000 series of graphics cards will be the first based on a chiplet design. She also mentioned that AMD’s first next-gen graphics cards, based on RDNA 3 architecture and 5nm process technology, will arrive later this year.
If you’ve followed AMD’s Ryzen processors, you may realise how significant the chiplet component of this tease is. It might help reduce GPU costs. Let’s set the stage before discussing Dr. Su’s hints.
Chiplets vs. Monoliths
AMD and Intel have lately improved chiplet designs. A chiplet design combines two or more silicon chips into a single package. Intel’s graphic shows a single-chip silicon package on the left and a four-chiplet package on the right.
Chiplets can ease product development and cut production costs. A minor flaw can render a silicon processor nonfunctional. This makes huge chips more prone to deadly faults and more expensive to produce due to the extra time and resources needed. The opposite is true for smaller chips.
Consider a 20mm2 chip. Create four 5mm2 chips next to it for a total of 20mm2. The giant chip is the same size as the four smaller chips and may have required the same resources. A particle of dust can damage a 20mm2 die during manufacturing. If the dust speck landed on one of the other four chips, only that 5mm2 die would be ruined, wasting fewer resources.
Using smaller chips has many benefits, but this is one. Chiplets provide product versatility. AMD would need numerous versions of a graphics chip to feed its whole product range using a standard chip-design approach. AMD produced four Navi CPUs for the Ryzen RX 6000 series: 21, 22, 23, and 24.
Other GPUs will feature a partially deactivated chip to make lower-end goods. The Radeon RX 6900 XT features 5,120 stream processors, while the Radeon RX 6800 XT has 4,608. This wastes resources.
Multiple smaller chips can be cheaper. AMD may employ five RDNA 3 chips to produce a graphics card with the same amount of streaming processors as the Radeon RX 6900 XT. Using one chiplet, it might make a cheap graphics card. This saves resources and streamlines production because you only need to build one chip and package it in many configurations.
Chiplets have a performance penalty, though. Single-chip designs allow chip portions to communicate faster than chiplet designs. Pros and drawbacks of each solution must be weighed. CPUs and GPUs have favoured large, monolithic devices for decades.
Chiplets weren’t extensively used until AMD debuted its initial Ryzen processors, and considering how well that went, it seems clear that AMD feels it can help its graphics-card industry, too.