At the end of November 2020, AMD released new graphics cards – the Radeon RX 6800 and 6800XT. Among other things, they have new technologies Infinity Cache and Smart Access Memory. Let’s see what these chips are and how they affect performance.
To compete with NVIDIA and make high-performance graphics cards, AMD needed to increase memory bandwidth. Last year’s RX 5700 and 5700 XT used GDDR6 on a 256-bit bus with 448 GB / s – this is clearly not enough for 4K. There were two obvious ways to increase speed.
First, AMD could switch to HBM2 memory, which it once used in the Radeon VII. The second option is to use the same GDDR6, but with a 512-bit bus. Both options guaranteed throughput in the region of 1 TB / s. However, the company was not satisfied with the high price of memory chips. To solve this problem, a third option was developed.
AMD GPU engineers used an unobvious but simple solution – they increased the L3 cache. This idea came from the developers of the EPYC server processors. Recall that the cache is ultra-fast memory located in the video core itself. Usually it is very small, in the region of 2-4 MB. But in the 6000 series cards it was made just huge – as much as 128 MB.
To accommodate such a volume, the layout of the L3 cache itself had to be cut fourfold. This is where development for servers came in handy. Infinity Cache is so fast that it can bump up the bandwidth of the entire 16GB of storage. This is due to the fact that it is visible to the entire graphics core and provides instant access.
We managed not only to catch up, but also to bypass the competitor NVIDIA. The top GeForce RTX 3090 and RTX 3080 have 384-bit and 320-bit buses. This allows them to develop bandwidth up to 936 GB / s and 760 GB / s, respectively. To do this, “green” had to cooperate with Micronto develop a new ultra-fast memory type – GDDR6X.
AMD installed last year’s 256-bit GRRD6 memory on all flagship models (RX 6900 XT, RX 6800 XT, RX 6800). But, thanks to Infinity Cache, its bandwidth was increased to an incredible 1664 GB / s. As a result, the new Radeon is not that expensive to manufacture, while they have high energy efficiency and performance.
Smart Access Memory
Another new technology from AMD is Smart Access Memory. At the presentation, it was presented as something exclusive, available only for the new Ryzen 5000 series processors and RX 6000 video cards.
In fact, it was just a marketing ploy. It turned out that SAM is an old trick that used to be used in game consoles. In fact, it is based on fairly ancient PCI-e specifications. In short, Smart Access Memory allows the CPU to use the entire video memory of the graphics card, which helps avoid unnecessary copying of data into RAM. Previously, in regular Windows PCs, there was a 256MB limit.
When it became clear that the new technology was not an exclusive, but only an open standard, NVIDIA immediately began developing its own software solution. It will be available for both Intel and Ryzen processors (if AMD doesn’t mind). So far, support for 3000 series video cards has been announced. Perhaps in the future, past generations of GeForce will also receive it.
A strange situation developed: AMD traditionally advocated open technologies, and NVIDIA tried to use proprietary software. But now it turns out that Smart Access Memory only supports the latest 5000 series CPUs, ignoring the popular models of previous generations (e.g. Ryzen 3600). And the upcoming analog from the “green” will allow GeForce video cards to work with any modern processors.
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