Sapphire Begins to Evaluate Next-Gen AMD Radeon HD Graphics Card with Select Customers – Report

AMD Radeon HD “Curacao” Uses Ultra-Advanced Printed-Circuit Board

by Anton Shilov
07/10/2013 | 11:09 PM

Sapphire Technologies, the largest graphics cards maker among the partners of Advanced Micro Devices, has reportedly begun to evaluate next-generation AMD Radeon HD 9970 “Curacao XT” graphics card with select customers. In addition, it turns out that the new flagship graphics solution from AMD and Sapphire will utilize extremely advanced printed-circuit board (PCB).


Pre-production Sapphire Radeon HD 9970 “Curacao XT” graphics card has been sent to select channel partners, according to a short report from Chinese-language Chiphell web-site, some of which stories appeared to be accurate in the past. The current version of the next-generation flagship graphics card from Sapphire uses twelve-layer PCB, which most likely means that the reference design of the product has similar printed-circuit board. At present Sapphire evaluates seven types of cooling systems for the product.

Usage of 12-layer PCB indicates that the graphics processing unit (GPU) either has very complex power supply system, or 512-bit memory bus, or the design of the card is shortened in a bid to make it compatible with smaller PC cases.

AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics card, which is the current flagship single-chip graphics solution from AMD, utilizes 10-layer PCB. Dual-chip graphics solutions traditionally use 12-layer printed-circuit boards, whereas mainstream graphics boards utilize PCBs with 4 – 8 layers.

An image of AMD Radeon HD "Curacao" XT graphics card has recently emerged on the web. The all new AMD Radeon HD graphics card has two fans, a rather unprecedented cooling solution for a single-chip graphics card by AMD. Besides, the new Radeon HD “Curacao XT” has an 8-pin and a 6-pin PCI Express power connectors, something that clearly points to a high-end graphics solution. Finally, the new board has two CrossFireX connectors and thus supports 2-way, 3-way and 4-way multi-GPU technology.

Cooling solution of the new AMD Radeon HD “Curacao XT” graphics card employs numerous heat-pipes, an indicator that the novelty is rather hot. At the same time, two fans should either offer very high thermal performance or be rather quiet in operation. It is currently believed that the new graphics card has 250W thermal design power.

It is expected that the code-named Curacao XT graphics solution is AMD’s next-generation high-end GPU. AMD is projected to release code-named Curacao and Hainan graphics processing units that will belong to GCN 2.0 family of products in late Q3 or early Q4 2013, according to a media report. The new architecture will have a number of enhancements, but the only thing currently known is that it will come with improved front-end (4 asynchronous computing engines [ACEs], 3 geometry engines) as well as increased amount of stream processors. Both Curacao and Hainan belong to Sea Islands family of GPUs, hence they do not feature advance heterogeneous compute capabilities.

The two chips are expected to be made using 28nm process technology, which is logical, keeping in mind that AMD’s manufacturing partner Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. will only start risk production using 20nm fabrication process in Q4 2013.

The Curacao XT graphics processor is expected to feature 2304 stream processors (36 compute units), 144 texture units, 48 render back ends and 384-bit memory controller. The Hainan is projected to have 1792 stream processors (28 compute units), 112 texture units, 32 render back ends and 256-bit memory controller. Both chips will share the same front-end (just-like current-gen Radeon HD 7900 and 7800 do) with 4 asynchronous computing engines [ACEs], 3 geometry engines, command processor, global data share and so on.

AMD did not comment on the news-story.