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AMD Radeon Community Update: More Control Over GPU Power and Performance, Enhanced Thermal Monitoring, Maximized Performance

A few weeks ago, we made our biggest GPU product launch to date with the introduction of the new AMD Radeon™ RX 5700 series graphics cards. And I believe we’ve struck a positive chord with the community and AMD fans as I read the many responses from you in the forums and on social media.

Many of you have commented on the great 1440p gaming experiences enabled by the all-new RDNA gaming architecture and new software features like Radeon™ Image Sharpening and Radeon™ Anti-Lag. I’m also thrilled to see feedback that these products provide incredible value and bring much-needed competition back to the market.

And this is just the beginning. Just as AMD transformed the CPU market with the launch of Ryzen™ processors in 2017, we’re reinvigorating the GPU market with a renewed spirit of innovation and competition that will power amazing gaming experiences for years to come.

To this end, we’re dedicated to fueling the great experiences gamers have come to expect from their PC hardware, which continues to evolve with the introduction of new games, form factors and use cases, such as eSports, game streaming and more. With the GPU playing such a pivotal role in these experiences, the AMD team has worked tirelessly to introduce new features and capabilities with the AMD Radeon™ RX 5700 series graphics cards that deliver the best balance of performance and efficiency.

With an all-new architecture (and associated software stack) comes questions and educational opportunities to help users get the most out of these new GPUs. With that in mind, I wanted to provide more information on some of the key product features and capabilities, and address questions that have arisen in community discussions. Read on to see how we’ve evolved our approach with the latest Radeon™ graphics cards to supercharge your experience.

More Control Over GPU Power and Performance

Up until the AMD Radeon™ RX Vega and the RX 500 series GPUs, the clock speed (and associated voltage) of the GPUs was dictated by a small number of fixed, discrete DPM states. Depending on the workload, and available thermal and electrical headroom, the GPU would alternate between one of these fixed DPM states. As a result, the GPU had a lot less flexibility in finding and residing at the most optimum state since it had to be one of these valid DPM states, and nothing in between. Often, this meant leaving performance on the table if the ideal voltage-frequency (Vf) state happened to be in between two of the fixed DPM states.

In addition, for every single GPU within a SKU family (for example, reference Radeon™ RX Vega 64 GPUs), the DPM states or Vf points were identical. Given that there is always a die-to-die variance in performance even between two pieces of otherwise identical silicon, once again this meant giving up performance while catering to the lowest common denominator within the wafer population.

Discrete, fixed DPM states on Radeon™ RX Vega 64

Starting with the AMD Radeon™ VII, and further optimized and refined with the Radeon™ RX 5700 series GPUs, AMD has implemented a much more granular ‘fine grain DPM’ mechanism vs. the fixed, discrete DPM states on previous Radeon™ RX GPUs. Instead of the small number of fixed DPM states, the Radeon™ RX 5700 series GPU have hundreds of Vf ‘states’ between the bookends of the idle clock and the theoretical ‘Fmax’ frequency defined for each GPU SKU. This more granular and responsive approach to managing GPU Vf states is further paired with a more sophisticated Adaptive Voltage Frequency Scaling (AVFS) architecture on the Radeon™ RX 5700 series GPUs.

Fine-grained DPM on Radeon™ RX 5700 GPU, with optimized Vf curve

As a result, each AMD Radeon™ RX 5700 GPU can find and run at the most optimum frequency, tailored to the specific workload, electrical, thermal and acoustic conditions – down to the last MHz. Paired with a Vf curve that is optimized for each individual Radeon™ RX 5700 series GPU, Radeon™ Adrenalin software and the Radeon™ WattMan tool provide much more granular control over the power and performance of the GPU.

Junction Temperature: Enhanced Thermal Monitoring

In the past, the GPU core temperature was read by a single sensor that was placed in the vicinity of the legacy thermal diode. This singular sensor was used to make all power-performance optimization decisions across the entire GPU. However, depending on the game being run, the type of GPU cooling and other related metrics, different parts of the GPU might have been at different levels of utilization. As a result, ramping up or throttling down the entire GPU based on this single measurement was inefficient, often leaving significant thermal headroom – and resulting performance – on the table.

With the AMD Radeon™ VII GPU we introduced enhanced thermal monitoring to further optimize GPU performance. We built upon that foundation with the Radeon™ RX 5700 series GPUs, and now utilize an extensive network of thermal sensors distributed across the entire GPU die to intelligently monitor and tune performance in response to granular GPU activity in real time.

Paired with this array of sensors is the ability to identify the ‘hotspot’ across the GPU die. Instead of setting a conservative, ‘worst case’ throttling temperature for the entire die, the Radeon™ RX 5700 series GPUs will continue to opportunistically and aggressively ramp clocks until any one of the many available sensors hits the ‘hotspot’ or ‘Junction’ temperature of 110 degrees Celsius. Operating at up to 110C Junction Temperature during typical gaming usage is expected and within spec. This enables the Radeon™ RX 5700 series GPUs to offer much higher performance and clocks out of the box, while maintaining acoustic and reliability targets.

We provide users with both measurements – the average GPU Temperature and Junction Temperature – so that they have the best and most complete visibility into the operation of their Radeon™ RX 5700 series GPUs.

Maximized Performance, Right Out of the Box

Under typical gaming workloads the Radeon™ RX 5700 series GPUs will have their clock speeds at or above the published Game Clock frequencies. Leveraging the RDNA architecture and advanced 7nm process technology, completely out of the box, the GPUs will automatically and opportunistically utilize all available electrical, acoustic and thermal headroom in real time to ramp clock speed and deliver improved performance.

Since all of this is done in real time, on a per die basis, some AMD Radeon™ RX 5700 GPUs may exceed published Boost frequencies regularly, and with no input whatsoever from the end user. Of course, using the Radeon™ WattMan1 tool built into Radeon™ software, gamers and enthusiasts alike have additional control and insight to adjust the frequency, voltage, and acoustic/power limits as they see fit for their unique setup and environment – and to enable the best possible gaming experience.

At the end of the day, we know that gamers have different preferences. Some prioritize acoustics while others want to crank out every last bit of performance from their GPUs. This is why we provide them with the flexibility to tweak and customize settings as they see fit.

We’re thrilled to see so many of you embrace the new AMD Radeon™ RX 5700 series graphics cards to push the boundaries of high-performance mainstream gaming, and we’re just getting started.

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