AMD's CEO Lisa Su confirms ray tracing GPU development, hints at more 3rd-gen Ryzen cores

This is shaping up to be one heck of a year for AMD.

Credit: Gordon Mah Ung/IDG

While rival Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang took a few potshots at AMD’s new Radeon VII GPU, AMD chief executive Lisa Su dropped some bombshells of her own: yes, AMD has its own raytracing GPUs in development, and she hinted strongly that AMD’s 3rd-generation Ryzen chips will launch with more than eight cores.

Su sat down with PCWorld and a few other reporters following her CES keynote address on Wednesday, where she formally launched the 3rd-generation Ryzen and the 7nm “Vega” GPU, known now as the Radeon VII.

Su invited reporters to pepper her with questions, and she responded candidly. The back and forth yielded several pieces of news.

More 3rd-generation Ryzen cores

While Su didn’t say for certain that the upcoming 3rd-generation Ryzen would ship with more than the eight cores that she announced on stage, well, it wasn’t hard to read between the lines. “If you look at the evolution of Ryzen, we’ve always had an advantage in core count,” Su said.

In the demonstration showed onstage—comparing a 3rd-generation eight-core, 16-thread Ryzen against an Intel Core i9-9900K, which lost to the Ryzen chip in the Cinebench benchmark—Su said that she wanted to establish a head-to-head comparison, using comparable core counts. 

“Some people may have noticed on the package some extra room,” she said with a chuckle. “There is some extra room on that package and I think you might expect we will have more than eight cores.”

AMD has ray tracing GPUs in development, too

Nvidia is pushing its RTX ray tracing technology hard, both in terms of desktop graphics cards as well as the introduction of its first mobile RTX GPUs here at CES. But Su said that AMD also has its own ray tracing technology in development, though she was cagey when asked about details.

rtx2070 Zotac

Does AMD have an RTX 2070 competitor waiting in the wings?

“I think ray tracing is an important technology, and it’s something we’re working on as well, both from a hardware and software standpoint,” Su said. “The most important thing, and that’s why we talk so much about the development community, is technology for technology’s sake is okay, but technology done together with partners who are fully engaged is really important.”

Nvidia has received some criticism from enthusiasts concerning the price of its RTX cards and the relative of lack of game support at present. Su indicated that building a development ecosystem was important. 

Later, Su expanded on her thought.  “I don’t think we should say that we are ‘waiting,’” Su said, in response to this reporter’s question. “We are deep in development, and that development is concurrent between hardware and software.”

“The consumer doesn’t see a lot of benefit today because the other parts of the ecosystem are not ready,” Su added.

Does AMD want to have the fastest single-core chips?

Intel has pushed hard to establish itself as the supplier of the fastest desktop processor, leaning hard on its manufacturing prowess and the fact that many games still don’t take advantage of multi-core, parallel chips.

“Our first priority is overall system performance, but we know how important single-thread performance is,” Su said. “So you will see us push single-threaded performance.”

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