AMD’s Graphics Chief Wants to Make a Splash With New Chips, Virtual Reality and AI

While rival Nvidia  (NVDA) was in the spotlight at CES thanks to a keynote address and a pair of big new autonomous driving wins, AMD’s (AMD) time at the conference was hardly uneventful, either. The company followed up on the recent unveiling of its Ryzen PC CPU line — the first processors based on AMD’s next-gen Zen CPU architecture — by officially announcing its anticipated Vega GPU architecture, which the company hopes will make a splash in the data center as well as in the PC market.

I had a chance to talk with Raja Koduri, the head of AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group and thus its GPU efforts, about Vega as well as some related subjects. Before returning to AMD in 2013, Koduri was Apple’s director of graphics architecture for four years.

AMD’s Processor Demos

Prior to my talk, AMD showed me a pair of demos meant to highlight what Ryzen and Vega can do. One involved a desktop with a Vega GPU and Ryzen CPU smoothly playing Doom at 4K resolution and 60 frames per second (fps), with high-quality settings turned on. Others who have taken stock of the demo point out it looks as if the GPU outperforms Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080, currently the company’s second-most-powerful GPU behind the Titan X.

Most GTX 1080 cards on Newegg sell for over $600. The pending launch (according to reports) of Nvidia’s GTX 1080 Ti GPU could yield price cuts for the standard 1080.

Another AMD demo had a desktop with an 8-core, 16-thread, Ryzen CPU placed side-by-side with a system using Intel’s (INTC)  Core i7-6900K CPU, which typically sells for over $1,000 online. Both systems were simultaneously playing a 3-D game and streaming it to a laptop, with the Ryzen system at least holding its own. AMD hasn’t set pricing for the demoed Ryzen chip, but promised it would cost a lot less than the i7-6900K.

Ryzen and Vega are unlikely to blow Intel and Nvidia’s best offerings out of the water. However, it does look like they’ll respectively provide a level of competition in the high-end CPU and GPU markets that hasn’t existed for a while, and should help AMD take some share and exert price pressure in the process.

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