AMD has just confirmed that its next flagship graphics card, commonly referred to as the R9 390X, will come with 4GB of memory. This will be the first ever GPU to incorporate its brand new high bandwidth memory (HBM) technology. Full specifications of the card have yet to be revealed, however, AMD has made it clear that the new GPU will be targeting the higher end of the spectrum, and as such will be priced accordingly. The company has also suggested that consumers will be able pick one up right off store shelves within the next few months.
As to why the graphics memory is currently limited to 4GB, this is AMD’s first attempt at a significantly more compact and power efficient memory design. As such, the company is still busy experimenting with its stacked memory chips. At present, these chips can only stack up four dies. The limitation stems from the fact that each stack is currently limited to 1 gigabyte. and the technology currently only allows 4 stacks around the GPU, thereby restricting the total memory to 4GB.
Even though HBM memory offers higher bandwidth, AMD’s new flagship GPU being limited to 4GB may not be the best scenario for gaming at resolutions as high as 4K, as games get more and more demanding and memory intensive with the passage of time. It doesn’t help that Nvidia currently offers 12GB of memory with its $1000 flagship card, the GTX Titan X. As always, pricing is the key factor that will determine the card’s success. Either way, HBM is here to stay, and it’s only a matter of time until AMD doubles the capacity to 2GB per stack, allowing future graphics cards to come with 8GB of memory.