AMD Radeon R9-290 and 290X preview

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A new Island and Technology

Is the Crossfire connector going AWOL ?

Allow me to deal with this item straight away, Yes and No. Not for the refresh products just yet, but starting with the Radeon R9 290 and 290X the Crossfire bridges will dissapear.
 

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Here's a fun fact - that Crossfire bridge we all know and learned to love is slowly being phased out, starting with R9-290/290X. In the near future Crossfire bridges will be thing of the past as AMD is going to run Crossfire over the PCI Express bus. Especially with standards like PCI-E Gen 3.0 there's plenty of bandwidth there, but even at Gen 2.0, it reallyshould not be an issue.

For the R290 cards setup in Crossfire, PCIE Gen 3.0 is recommended. We'll be performing some bus flood tests over Gen 3.0 in a later stage. What if you do not have PCIE 3.0 compatibility ? Well, the bus will revert to Gen 2.0 which will probably not make more then a marginal difference as it is really hard to flood even two x8 Gen 2.0 ports. 

True Audio

AMD presented the following as a pretty big feature. Thus far however this new feature has been received with a bit of sceptisism as most enthusiast PC users already have a  dedicated soundcard. Anyhow, audio immersion is a key factor for AMD as they are now implementing an audio pipeline into the newest GPUs. Now first, please understand that AMD True Audio only is available at the R7 260X and the upcoming Radeon R9-290 and R9-290X. Next to that future products based on new silicon will get this as well. But NOT the rest of this R7/R9 series as those products are respins of oder GPUs like Pitcairn and Tahiti. 

 

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And AMD is implementing a fully programmable audio engine, True Audio technology. You guys know programmable shaders for visuals right ? To some extent that now applies for audio as well; to improve audio effects (real-time voices and audio channels in your game opposed to what is possible with CPUs today) enabling directional (surround) audio over input. To do so AMD injected DSPs into the GPU that can do some magic on the audio channels. 

For the geeks:

  • There are multiple Audio optimized DSP cores
  • Tensilica HiFi2 EP instruction set
  • Tensilica Xtensa SP Fload support
  • The DSPs have 32KB instruction and data caches
  • 8KB of scratch RAM for local operation.

So yes, an audio processor is onboard the 260X and the 290 series. For example surround with stereo could be virtualized. There isn't enough CPU power left to run complex audio mechanisms and this is where the technology kicks in. So professional grade audio is now closer to the PC with this new audio technology. Try to imaging High Quality Reverbs, Room Simulation True 3D audio dedicated audio processing. Game developers can use what is called a Wwise audio plugin to get all this going over the AMD True Audio DPS. This is going to help with CPU load. A few simple Audio effects can use up-to 14% of your CPU, this is now offloaded to the graphics card. That's always good stuff. But not available for the R9-270 and 280 though.

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