AMD's New 400-Series 'Polaris' Graphics Chips Headed for 2016 Macs

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Following up on its rumor of a major AMD design win reported last October, WCCFtech has confirmed via multiple sources that the customer in question is indeed Apple. The latest design win follows Apple's use of AMD 200/300 series GPUs in the top-end 27-inch Retina iMac and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, and is a boon for the chipmaker that has seen its share of the graphics market dwindle over the past several years.

The design wins make mention of two graphics processor families, Polaris 10 and Polaris 11. The former carries a code name "Ellesmere" and is believed to be in the power range that would make it suitable for an upgrade to the iMac. Polaris 11 has the code name "Baffin" and it is believed to be in the power range suitable for an upgrade to the Retina MacBook Pro.


While Apple has limited discrete graphics chips to the top of its MacBook Pro and iMac lines, there would be suitable chips for all but the smallest form factors of Apple notebooks, should the company choose to embrace discrete graphics on a broader array of models.

As we previously noted, the switch to the new Polaris line of GPUs is set to be a significant performance upgrade over the previous 28nm GPUs. Announced by AMD at Computex, the lower-power AMD GPUs are set to be built on Global Foundries' 14nm process. Through an agreement between multiple foundries, the process is equivalent to Samsung's own second-generation 14nm FinFET process, which is the successor of the process used for the A9 and A9X featured in the latest iPhones and iPads.


Performance of these new graphics chips from AMD is expected to be double that of their predecessors, measured on a per-watt basis. This is thanks to the large size reduction and performance gains in going from the 28nm node first seen in 2011 for graphics processors to the new 16/14nm FinFET processes. This would certainly be welcome to the Mac lineup due to the increased graphics demands of the high-resolution Retina screens featured in both the iMac and MacBook Pro computers. It is reasonable to expect that Apple would allocate roughly the same power budget as on current models, meaning the 2x performance could be seen by users in some cases.

According to earlier reports, the chips should be ready to ship in consumer products in time for the back-to-school shopping season. It is not unheard of for Apple to receive priority on new chip designs, though WWDC would be the most logical time to expect these new Macs to debut. The future of the Mac Pro is less certain, though there will certainly be suitable high-end chips from AMD manufactured on TSMC's 16nm process this year.

Article Link: AMD's New 400-Series 'Polaris' Graphics Chips Headed for 2016 Macs
 
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mattthecoolguy

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As someone who isn't up to date on the info, how much of a performance jump will this be from the AMD Radeon R9 M370X with 2GB GDDR5 memory and AMD Radeon R9 M395X with 4GB video memory offered in the current Mbp and Retina Mac?
 
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pedrom

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I know how Apple sees Intel (stalled) and Nvidia (useless pieces of garbage) and dGPUs in general (power hungry, outdated processes, points of failure, useless on any lightweight/well built mobile PC). But frankly, they are paid to find alternatives.

I can't get excited for any of this until Apple resolves the big picture: OS X and its graphical performance that is milleniuns behind Windows. Looking at how FCP takes advantage of OS X and Apple hardware (enough to annihilate competition) one can only imagine what they would be able to do if the support was up-to-date.
 

KdParker

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I know how Apple sees Intel (stalled) and Nvidia (useless pieces of garbage) and dGPUs in general (power hungry, outdated processes, points of failure, useless on any lightweight/well built mobile PC). But frankly, they are paid to find alternatives.

I can't get excited for any of this until Apple resolves the big picture: OS X and its graphical performance that is milleniuns behind Windows. Looking at how FCP takes advantage of OS X and Apple hardware (enough to annihilate competition) one can only imagine what they would be able to do if the support was up-to-date.
I agree with you about OS X when is comes to graphical performance and sound cards. Running windows on my mac makes those differences clear.
 
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duervo

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This will be great if Polaris turns out to be as good (or nearly as good) as hyped. I've heard nothing but good things about Polaris so it looks like AMD might be back in the game.
After seeing over 23 years of products not living up to the hype, I'm hugely sceptical about these claims, especially since the source is also the creator.

I'll believe it when I see it, but the norm is that people get all hyped up about the numbers, and then the product hits the real world. Then, people quickly find out that those specs were only for "optimal conditions" or maximum possible values that can never be sustained for very long.

I think what's more important for mobile systems is the power management. Performance is important too, but I think that for long term reliability, the power usage of them will be more important. Less power usually equates to less heat, which in the case of mobile systems (Mac's especially) is a good thing. Hopefully this marks the end of the failing mobile dGPU's, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that either.
 

wizard

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This will be great if Polaris turns out to be as good (or nearly as good) as hyped. I've heard nothing but good things about Polaris so it looks like AMD might be back in the game.
Contrary to popular belief AMD never left the GPU game. They in fact have very good GPU's with a slightly different forces than Nvidia and often far better performance than Nvidia.
 

wizard

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As someone who isn't up to date on the info, how much of a performance jump will this be from the AMD Radeon R9 M370X with 2GB GDDR5 memory and AMD Radeon R9 M395X with 4GB video memory offered in the current Mbp and Retina Mac?
It is hard to say because we don't know exactly what will be shipped in the new Macs. However 50% is very possible. If Apple chooses a chip with HBM built in they might be even faster. HBM being High Bandwidth Memory of course.

In other words there is a huge amount of potential upside here but this is Apple and we know how they tend to focus on less than high end. Apples focus here probably isn't a bad thing as this can lead to more reliable hardware.
 

Mums

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When you quit dancing with the ones that brought you (the Pro computer users) then you can expect to be left alone at the end of the dance. Lets see if Apple thinks their Ivy League MBAs can evade reality.
Exactly. Remember when Apple was a grassroots effort up to the early 2000s? Like with TekServe in New York? We LOVED Apple because it brought beautiful capabilities into our lives. Now it's a hollow commodity double of itself.