Though it didn’t garner much attention at the time, in 2011 AMD and memory manufacturer Hynix (now SK Hynix) publicly announced plans to work together on the development and deployment of a next generation memory standard: High Bandwidth Memory (HBM). Essentially pitched as the successor to GDDR, HBM would implement some very significant changes in the working of memory in order to further improve memory bandwidth and turn back the dial on memory power consumption.

AMD (and graphics predecessor ATI) for their part have in the last decade been on the cutting edge of adopting new memory technologies in the graphics space, being the first to deploy products based on the last 2 graphics DDR standards, GDDR4, and GDDR5. Consequently, AMD and Hynix’s announcement, though not a big deal at the time, was a logical extension of AMD’s past behavior in continuing to explore new memory technologies for future products. Assuming everything were to go well for the AMD and Hynix coalition – something that was likely, but not necessarily a given – in a few years the two companies would be able to bring the technology to market.

AMD Financial Analyst Day 2015

It’s now 4 years later, and successful experimentation has given way to productization. Earlier this month at AMD’s 2015 Financial Analyst day, the company announced that they would be releasing their first HBM-equipped GPU – the world’s first HBM-equipped GPU, in fact – to the retail market this quarter. Since then there have been a number of questions of just what AMD intends to do with HBM and just what it means for their products (is it as big of a deal as it seems?), and while AMD is not yet ready to reveal the details of their forthcoming HBM-equipped GPU, the company is looking to hit the ground running on HBM in order to explain what the technology is and what it can do for their products ahead of the GPU launch later that quarter.

To date there have been a number of presentations released on HBM, including by memory manufactures, the JEDEC groups responsible for shaping HBM, AMD, and even NVIDIA. So although the first HBM products have yet to hit retail shelves, the underpinnings of HBM are well understood, at least inside of engineering circles. In fact it’s the fact that HBM is really only well understood within those technical circles that’s driving AMD’s latest disclosure today. AMD sees HBM as a significant competitive advantage over the next year, and with existing HBM presentations having been geared towards engineers, academia, and investors, AMD is looking to take the next step and reach out to end-users about HBM technology.

This brings us to the topic of today’s article: AMD’s deep dive disclosure on High Bandwidth Memory. Looking to set the stage ahead of their next GPU launch, AMD is reaching out to technical and gaming press to get the word out about HBM and what it means for AMD’s products. Ideally for AMD, an early disclosure on HBM can help to drum up interest in their forthcoming GPU before it launches later this quarter, but if nothing else it can help answer some burning questions about what to expect ahead of the launch. So with that in mind, let’s dive in.

I'd also like to throw out a quick thank you to AMD Product CTO and Corporate Fellow Joe Macri, who fielded far too many questions about HBM.

History: Where GDDR5 Reaches Its Limits
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  • chizow - Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - link

    I guess we will find out soon enough!
  • chizow - Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - link

    @robinspi: Looks like Ryan Shrout at PCPer all but confirms 1xGPU Fiji will be limited to 4GB this round, Joe Macri at AMD was discussing it with him and all but confirms it:
    "Will gaming suffer on the high end with only 4GB? Macri doesn’t believe so; mainly because of a renewed interest in optimizing frame buffer utilization. Macri admitted that in the past very little effort was put into measuring and improving the utilization of the graphics memory system, calling it “exceedingly poor.” The solution was to just add more memory – it was easy to do and relatively cheap. With HBM that isn’t the case as there is a ceiling of what can be offered this generation. Macri told us that with just a couple of engineers it was easy to find ways to improve utilization and he believes that modern resolutions and gaming engines will not suffer at all from a 4GB graphics memory limit. It will require some finesse from the marketing folks at AMD though…"

    Looks like certain folks who trashed the 980 at launch for having only 4GB are going to have a tough time respinning their stories to fit an $850 AMD part with only 4GB.....
  • Crunchy005 - Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - link

    how are you so sure it will be $850? Stop making stuff up before it comes out.
  • chizow - Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - link

    How are you so sure it wont' be $850? Stop getting all butthurt and maybe read the typical rumor sites that have gotten everything else to-date correct? 4GB HBM check. X2 check. Water cooled check. And today, multiple sources from these sites saying $850 and a new premium AMD GPU tier to try and compete with Titan.
  • testbug00 - Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - link

    that price doesn't make sense given the cost differences between GDDR5 and HBM once you take into account some cost savings that offset a portion of the added HBM cost.

    I'm guessing if they found a way to make an 8GB version, it would be 800-900 dollars, as, that would eliminate the cost benefits of moving away from GDDR5 as far as I can tell.

    a 4GB version I would expect to be 500-550 and 650-700 respectively. Well, to be honest, I personally think they will have 3 different core counts coming from Fiji, given the large cap in CUs from Hawaii to Fiji (given that it has 64 CU, which, everything still points towards)
  • chizow - Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - link

    Huh? Do you think HBM costs more than GDDR5 to implement, or not? There are minor savings on cheaper components/processes, like the PCB, but HBM could be 3-4-10x more expensive per GB; given historical new RAM pricing none of this is that far out there. We also know there's added complexity and cost with the interposer, and AMD is not putting expensive HBM on lower end parts, rebadges, or APUs. This all points to the fact the BoM is high and they are looking to be rewarded for their R&D.

    In any case, keep hoping for an 8GB (single-GPU version), it seems pretty obvious the 4GB limits for HBM1 are true as AMD is now in full damage control mode saying 4GB is enough.
  • medi03 - Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - link

    Wow another AMD article and again nVidia trolls all over the place.
  • chizow - Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - link

    Well, it is always fun to watch AMD overpromise and underdeliver. Oops, was that a troll? :)
  • Horza - Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - link

    You know you are chiz that's why you responded to his comment in the first place!
  • chizow - Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - link

    Heheh nah, always fun jabbing AMD fanboys like medi03 that I've gone back and forth with over the years, he's been really quiet lately, he may actually be disheartened by AMD's recent bad fortunes, which is uncommon for these die hard AMD fans!

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