It has now been a year since the formation of AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group and the graphics driven division has proven itself rather successful. Looking back with hindsight, AMD's new graphics division has enjoyed several wins with new products and advancements in driver support reclaiming market share from NVIDIA and new initiatives advancing VR, HDR, and open source visual effects.
Specifically, the Radeon Technologies Group, led by Raja Koduri, has managed to launch its new "Polaris" graphics architecture based on a 14nm FinFET process with the RX 400 series for consumers and the Radeon Pro Duo, Radeon Pro WX series, and Radeon Pro SSG (Solid State Graphics) for professionals. The company asl hit a milestone on FreeSync monitor design wins with a total of 101 displays launched to date.
Along with actual hardware, the graphics division has shaken up branding by rolling out new driver software under the Radeon Crimson Edition brand (with 21 driver releases since release) and dropping FirePro in favor of carrying over the Radeon name to create new Radeon Pro branding for its professional series of graphics cards. Driver support has also been enhanced on Linux and the AMDGPU-Pro driver works for RX 400 series.
Further, the Radeon Technologies Group launched its GPUOpen initiative back in December to foster the creation and advancement of free and open source visual effects and productivity code that developers are free to download, modify, and share.
Speaking of market share, AMD has managed to claw back some discrete GPU market share from a lowly 18% of GPUs in Q2 2015 to nearly 30% last quarter (Q2'16). That is a very respectable jump in just a year's time especially against NVIDIA's successful Pascal launches helped both by the price/performance of RX 400 as well as much needed focus on improving driver quality and timeliness of releases.
Where does this leave AMD and its RTG? Honestly, the graphics division is in a much better place than it was last year and it is in a decent position to survive and make a difference. There are still many unknowns and just as AMD's processor division is dependent on a successful Zen release, the graphics division will need Vega to be a hit in order for AMD to get wins on the high end and compete with NVIDIA on the flagship and performance fronts. They will further need Vega to update their professional series of cards many of which are still using the company's Fiji architecture which is not as power efficient as Pascal or future Volta (the competition).
With that said, the team had solid wins since their formation and are gearing up for the future. According to the announcement, the Radeon Technologies Group will be focusing on pushing virtual reality (VR) and HDR (high dynamic range) in gaming by working with developers, improving drivers, adding to their GPUOpen software collection, and launching new products.
From the press release:
"We’re passionate about perfecting pixels and delivering an unrivaled gaming experience for our community, and uncompromising power and creative freedom for developers and content creators. And if you think our first year was exciting, wait until you see what RTG has lined up for the future."
In the near future, Raja Koduri told Venture Beat to expect VR backpacks to be on show at CES in January and to look out for mobile Polaris graphics cards. Also, Radeon Crimson Edition may be incorporating features from recently acquired startup HiAlgo who developed software to dynamically monitor gameplay and adjust the resolution to maintain maximum frame rates and prevent overheating during long game sessions. One of their techniques called HiAlgo Switch would allow gamers to switch from full to half resolution (and back again) at the press of a hot-key button so as to keep FPS high if a gamer anticipates they are about to enter a demanding area that would normally result in low frame rates. While these techniques are not very important for desktop gaming (especially the CPU/GPU limiter to prevent overheating), all three would come in handy for mobile gamers using laptops with discrete cards or especially APUs.
I am looking forward to seeing where Raja and the RTG team go from here and what they have in store for AMD graphics.