AMD Launches High-End RX 480 GPU, Buys Software Startup

The chip maker's GPU is based on its Polaris architecture, and the HiAlgo acquisition will bring more software capabilities to its RX graphics cards.

AMD buys software startup

Advanced Micro Devices continues to push the capabilities of its graphics cards for gaming and virtual reality engines, announcing the launch of its latest high-end GPU based on the new Polaris architecture and the acquisition of a startup developing technologies for PC gaming that takes advantage of GPUs.

The company on June 29 released its Radeon RX 480 graphics card, which AMD officials previewed at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January and which they said will drive such strong performance-per-dollar metrics that it will help bring virtual reality (VR) capabilities to a broader market. The announcement comes two weeks after AMD officials unveiled the entire line of Radeon RX GPUs, which also includes graphics cards for high-efficiency computing and low-end e-sports gaming.

All of the GPUs are designed to bring high-end graphics capabilities to more end users. At the time, Raja Koduri, senior vice president and chief architect of AMD's Radeon Technologies Group, noted that only the top 16 percent of PC gamers are buying high-end GPUs that can provide premium VR and gaming experiences. The other "hundreds of millions of gamers have been relegated to using outdated surgery," Koduri said in a statement. Many playing games on notebooks can read about advances in PC VR technologies, but can't afford them, he said.

AMD in January at CES also introduced the Polaris architecture, with GPUs being built on a 14-nanomter 3D FinFET transistor design for improved performance and power efficiency. The architecture will more than double the performance-per-watt of previous Radeon graphics technologies, and enabled AMD to drop its graphics offerings in size from 28nm—where the company had been for five years—to 14nm, allowing it to better compete against rivals Nvidia and Intel.

Polaris also includes such features as High-Bandwidth Memory.

The Radeon RX 480 GPUs will start at $199 for the 4GB chip and $239 for the 8GB card, and not only will deliver a premium gaming experience, but also support Oculus Rift VR system. They also will use LiquidVR technologies for enhanced VR experiences, AMD officials said.

The new GPUs are getting support not only from system makers like Dell's Alienware business, HP Inc. and Lenovo, but also from game and VR software makers, including Bethesda, EA and Ubisoft and VR headset manufacturers Oculus and HTC.

AMD officials said they are bolstering the software for the Radeon RX GPUs with the acquisition of startup software company HiAlgo, which makes products for PC gaming that take advantage of graphics cards. Included among the products is HiAlgoBoost, an acceleration engine which is designed to make the gaming experience smoother, with less lag. Other products include HiAlgoSwitch, which players can use to double the framerate when needed, and HiAlgoChill for keeping the systems cooler.

"Software is an integral part of advancing the science of graphics, enabling us to best harness the silicon of the GPU to maximize performance and deliver outstanding experiences in games and applications," Koduri said in a statement.

Highlighting the importance of software to the GPUs, AMD also announced nine new features in the Radeon Software Crimson Edition that are designed to enhance such capabilities in areas like multi-GPUs, displays, overclocking and power efficiency.

GPUs are a key part of the plan by AMD officials to grow the vendor's business and return it to sustainable profitability. They also will enable the company to expand in a broad range of growth areas, including gaming, immersive computing and VR and better compete with Nvidia.