While we talk a lot about energy sobriety and the climate situation is more than worrying, the CPU/GPU world seems to live on another planet. Preaching for his parish, Sam Naffziger, architecture manager at AMD, looks back on the progress made by his company in this area and gives us a glimpse of future developments.

Objectives largely achieved

Logically, it returns in the first place to the ambitious objective that AMD set itself in 2014, the “25 x 20”. The aim was to achieve 25 times greater energy efficiency on CPUs and GPUs by 2020.

AMD specifies that this objective has been exceeded – it advances a factor of more than 30 in the space of 6 years – and that today the company is embarking on a new ambition, the “30 x 25”. As you will have understood, energy efficiency still 30 times higher by 2025.

However, it is important to emphasize that this goal does not apply to consumer GPUs. AMD focuses here on machine learning, artificial intelligence and data centers through its EPYC processors and Instinct accelerators.

Not far from 700 W in 2025?

The quest for efficiency is obviously not abandoned when it comes to “our” GPUs. Thus, Sam Naffziger explains that RDNA 3 should improve the performance per Watt of RDNA 2 by approximately 50%. However, the engine remains the power, as he pointed out not long ago:

“Performance is king. So even though our architecture is more power efficient, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t increase power levels if the competition is doing the same. It’s just that they will have to push them much higher than us. »

AMD predicts GPUs will reach 600-700W power consumption by 2025

recent rumors about upcoming graphics cards have fueled fears of increased power consumption. Nvidia and AMD haven’t completely pulled the shroud off the GPUs they plan to launch later this year, but the company revealed some disturbing numbers in its future roadmap this week.

Sam Naffziger, included visuals showing the company’s predictions for near-future hardware. While Naffziger expresses confidence that AMD can achieve its ambitions for energy efficiency gains over the next few years, AMD’s numbers paint a worrying picture of growing energy demand.

As engineers around the world come up against the limits of Moore’s Law, consumers fear that GPU TDPs are reaching alarming levels. Rumors suggest that Nvidia’s next-gen flagship, the RTX 4090, which could launch later this year, could require up to 600W. The company’s current best card – the 3090 Ti – consumes 450W.

If we don’t see 600W cards in the next generation, AMD’s chart suggests we’ll see them in the sequel or soon after. It shows the dramatic increase in power consumption around 2018, with GPUs reaching 600W and then 700W before 2025. However, the visual doesn’t indicate whether it’s only considering high-end hardware. Currently, the most popular cards on the market consume a fraction of this power, but even future consumer GPUs will need more power.

Naffziger said AMD could get the performance boosts consumers expect from new graphics cards while addressing the power consumption issue. The company pushed Infinity Cache as a unique advantage, but Naffziger also highlights chip design as an area where it leads Nvidia.

AMD plans 700W TDP GPUs in 2025…

An interview with Sam Naffziger, Senior Vice President, Corporate Fellow, and Product Technology Architect at AMD, contains a compelling slide: it suggests the launch of high-performance GPUs with 700 W TDPs in a few years. Paradoxically, throughout the article, Sam Naffziger insists on the constantly improving efficiency of the company’s graphics cards.

They would consume more energy than the Radeon RX 6000s, but put the “blame” a little on consumers and NVIDIA, two parties maintaining a sort of race for power, to the detriment of energy frugality.

The era of 30×25

In fact, the gains in GPU power efficiency have been significant in recent years. As Sam Naffziger points out, AMD has delivered on its 25×20 commitment. In 2014, the company announced its ambition to offer 25 times greater energy efficiency for its processors and graphics cards by 2020. The challenge was met, and even exceeded. For mobile processors, for example, AMD engineers have multiplied energy efficiency by 31.7 in 6 years. From now on, the cap is 30×25, or 30 times better energy efficiency by 2025. The 30×25 does not concern consumer GPUs, however, but rather AMD EPYC processors and AMD Instinct accelerators.

AMD’s strength: designing CPUs and GPUs

Either way, Sam Naffziger says GPU power efficiency remains AMD’s top priority. The RDNA 3 architecture would offer a 50% improvement in performance per watt compared to RDNA 2. Gains made possible in particular thanks to the lessons learned from the design of the CPUs.

Sam Naffziger adds: “We are taking advantage of the unique strengths of AMD, which has cutting-edge CPU and GPU technology. Our competitors have either good CPUs or good GPUs, but no one has both, at least not yet. We have a very collaborative engineering culture here. We like to innovate, solve tough problems and work together across the company. When we considered what it would take to achieve our GPU efficiency goals, we turned to our CPU designers, who had done a fantastic job with the Zen architecture.”

AMD plans 600 to 700 W of consumption for GPUs by 2025

While there are still a lot of questions about the upcoming RTX 40 and RDNA3 cards, AMD Senior VP Sam Naffziger’s recent outing at VB about his company’s future products is cause for concern. Naffziger said AMD’s GPUs and CPUs have seen big changes over the past few generations as the company tries to balance the demands of avid gamers, data center computing, and the need to deliver better energy efficiency, particularly with regard to the performance ratio per watt.

The performance per watt ratio improves but the TGP continues to explode

Indeed, if from a technology point of view, the performance per watt ratio continues to improve, the competition and the demand for graphics power generates a surge in consumption that a good ratio cannot hide. Because clearly, for a few weeks, the rumors suggest an inflation of the TGP of the next cards. We regularly talk about the next RTX 4090 which could be launched at the end of this year and which could swallow up to 600 W. A consumption to be compared with the 3090 Ti and its “small” 450W.

Always more performance = always more consumption

In his speech, Sam Naffziger mentioned the progress of graphics cards in recent years. Mention is made of the dramatic increase in power consumption around 2018 but also of a trajectory leading GPUs to 600 W and then 700 W before 2025. The main reason would clearly be the race for computing power and these figures could be exceeded much sooner. Indeed, AMD’s graph seems to be an average and therefore does not only concern high-end GPUs…Not really good news for the planet or for our finances.

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