- AMD plans to release its new Polaris graphics card around September this year.
- Polaris will compete with Nvidia's to-be-launched Pascal products for market share.
- Will Polaris cards help AMD to claw back the GPU market share it has lost to Nvidia over the years?.
With graphics card manufacturer NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) recently announcing that it will demo its much-awaited Pascal graphics cards at the company’s GTC conference to be held from April 4-7, chatter has started among AMD (NASDAQ:AMD) investors whether the company’s upcoming Polaris graphics cards will finally allow it to claw back the GPU market share it has lost to Nvidia over the years. Can the Polaris cards help to revive the battered AMD stock?
Whereas Nvidia expects to start shipping Pascal-based products sometime in mid-June, AMD expects to start shipping its first Polaris-based products in mid-July to mid-September. Nvidia will therefore not enjoy a definitive first-mover advantage for its new architecture as has been the case in the past.
On the technical front, Pascal does appear quite impressive. Pascal-based GPUs will be manufactured using Taiwan Semiconductor's (NYSE:TSM) 16nm FinFET process which Nvidia says will give the GPUs a 2x performance/watt advantage over current 28nm Maxwell GPUs. Pascal GPUs will feature a host of other impressive specs including 12 TFLOPs of computing ability, 1TB/s of memory bandwidth, and 32GB of High Bandwidth Memory, or HBM. Nvidia adds that the GPUs will be able to support its NVLink high-speed interconnect.
But AMD’s Polaris will not be a slouch in this regard either. Polaris GPUs will be manufactured using GlobalFoundries' 14nm FinFET process with 2x performance improvement over current Radeon GPUs. Indeed, AMD has demonstrated that Polaris is significantly more energy efficient than Nvidia’s mid-range GTX 950 graphics cards by a margin of almost 40%.
Apart from that, little else is known about the specs of the two competing GPUs. Both companies would of course like to keep this a closely-guarded secret in a bid to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.
At this point, the jury is still divided on whether AMD’s Polaris or Nvidia’s Pascal will steal the show when the graphics cards hit the market a couple of months from now. But the fact that AMD is already making claims that Polaris offers much better performance than Nvidia’s popular graphics cards is a shot at Nvidia because Nvidia has traditionally been highly dominant in the mid-range and high-end segment of the market where margins are fatter. Moreover, AMD says that Polaris represents the most revolutionary jump in performance by the company so far so that should help too. AMD’s Fury X graphics cards managed to grab back about 1% market share from Nvidia despite having been in acute short supply. Polaris should do a lot better.
The stakes for AMD are high. The company’s PC processor segment has continued to deteriorate due to a weak PC market and competition from Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) x86 CPUs. During the last quarter (Q4 2015), AMD’s Computing and Gaming segment posted a huge 29% Y/Y decline in revenue to $470M primarily due to ongoing weakness in the PC market. Although the PC market is expected to begin recovering somewhat later this year or sometime in 2017, a full-blown recovery might not be in the offing till maybe 2018. So AMD will be pinning its hopes on Polaris to drive a wave of new interest in its graphics cards and PC segments.
AMD is very optimistic that 2016 will feature the company’s strongest product portfolio in a long time. The company expects to post revenue growth during the current year after many quarters of revenue declines, and even become GAAP-profitable in 2017. If Polaris performs according to expectations, then AMD stock will receive a new lease on life.