Nvidia, AMD stances differ on new memory technology

While AMD is touting GDDR5 for its next-generation graphics products, Nvidia is being more circumspect.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

While AMD is touting next-generation memory for its upcoming graphics products, Nvidia is being more circumspect.

AMD announced Tuesday that it will adopt the first commercial implementation of Graphics Double Data Rate, version 5 (GDDR5) memory in its forthcoming next generation of ATI Radeon graphics board products. (See: AMD: We're first with GDDR5 memory)

The new AMD boards will be based on AMD HD 4850 and 4870 graphics chips, as widely reported.

"The higher data rates supported by GDDR5--up to 5x that of GDDR3 and 4x that of GDDR4--enable more bandwidth over a narrower memory interface, which can translate into superior performance delivered from smaller, more cost-effective chips," AMD said in a statement.

Nvidia is supporting the technology but taking a more cautious approach. The Santa Clara, CA-based graphics chipmaker is a vice chair in the GDDR5 task group, said Barry Wagner, director of technical marketing at Nvidia. "We're involved in the specification of GDDR5 so if we want to build products around it, at least the spec is architected in a way that we would be content with," Wagner said.

Nvidia will announce its next-generation GeForce GTX 260 and GTX 280 graphics chips in mid-June, according to sources familiar with Nvidia's plans.

"We aren't particularly attached to any given interface technology," Wagner said. Nvidia does support GDDR3 in its products but did not use the GDDR4 interface. Wagner said Nvidia didn't use GDDR4 because "at the end of the day, we built a better architecture and better product line and were able to attach a better price-performance memory to it."

He added that GDDR4 did not always perform as well in the market as other interfaces.

Nvidia may use GDDR5 if the segment calls for it, Wagner said. "If it looks like it makes sense for some segments of our business, we would adopt it."

Memory chipmakers Qimonda, Hynix, and Samsung are shipping chips using the JEDEC-specified GDDR5 interface.

Qimonda said it collaborated with AMD. "Qimonda has worked closely with AMD to ensure that GDDR5 is available in volume to best support AMD's next-generation graphics products," said Thomas Seifert, Chief Operating Officer of Qimonda AG in a statement.

AMD also cited GDDR5 for stream processing: "In addition to the potential for improved gaming and PC application performance, GDDR5 also holds a number of benefits for stream processing, where GPUs are applied to address complex, massively parallel calculations."