China-based Moore Treads on Friday began sales of its latest MTT S80 graphics card based on the Chunxiao architecture for client PCs. The add-in-board promises compute performance comparable to Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, but its performance in real games remains unknown. Meanwhile, it is available at JD.com, a store that delivers worldwide. However, there is a catch.
A GeForce RTX 3060 Ti-Like GPU from China
Moore Threads' MTT S80 graphics board is based on the company's Chunxiao graphics processor featuring 4,096 stream processors, 128 tensor cores, 256 texture units and 256 render outputs clocked at 1.80 GHz. In addition, the card carries 16GB of GDDR6 memory with a 14 GT/s data transfer rate connected to the GPU using a 256-bit interface (up to 448 GB/s peak bandwidth).
From a compute performance point of view, the MTT S80 delivers up to 14.4 FP32 TFLOPS, slightly below the peak compute performance of Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3060 Ti (16.2 FP32 TFLOPS), which is one of the best graphics cards. Meanwhile, the actual performance of the MTT S80 AIB in real games needs to be tested.
The GPU comes with drivers that support Microsoft's DirectX application programming interface, Khronos Group's OpenGL/OpenGL ES, proprietary MUSA, and multiple specialized APIs. However, Moore Threads openly says that its DirectX support is in its infancy, and only 20 popular titles are initially supported (e.g., Call of Duty, Crossfire, Counter-Strike, Diablo 3, League of Legends, etc.), so do not expect much from the card for now. Meanwhile, the company says that it is working closely with developers of Unity and Unreal Engine as well as designers of actual games to ensure compatibility and performance with the two popular engines.
The Chunxiao graphics chip also has a capable video engine that can handle AV1, H.264, and H.265 codecs for up to 8K videos. Unfortunately, Moore Threads does not disclose which players support its hardware-assisted video decoding. Meanwhile, the MTT S80 AIB has three DisplayPort 1.4 and one HDMI 2.1 interface.
Interestingly, the MTT S80 is the world's first client graphics card with a PCIe 5.0 x16 interface, as Nvidia's Ada Lovelace GPUs support a PCIe Gen4 bus. AMD has yet to disclose the host interface of its latest RDNA 3 GPUs in general and Radeon RX 7900 XT and Radeon 7900 XTX in particular.
Only Available in Bundles
The Moore Threads MTT S80 graphics card is now available at JD.com (opens in new tab) (via VideoCardz) for ￥2999 ($373 without VAT). However, the AIB does not come alone, as it is bundled with the Asus TUF Gaming B660M-PLUS D4 motherboard priced at ￥1029. If you subtract the value of the motherboard, then the graphics board will cost $245 without VAT, which is relatively cheap given its compute capabilities. Still, since the performance of the product is unclear, we can only wonder whether it is actually worth $245.
Another thing to point out is that according to VideoCardz, the initial release of the MTT S80 will be very limited, and it is unclear how many units were actually made. It is also unclear when the second batch is set to come and how big it is.
A New Kid on the Block?
There are about a dozen known developers of graphics processors in China. Some target only datacenters (including AI and HPC), while others design client GPUs yet only aim local market. Founded in October 2020, Moore Threads designs GPUs for many applications (except HPC) and seems intent on selling its products outside of China. This is why the company makes its MTT S80 available at JD.com, which ships worldwide and works with developers of popular engines and games to ensure compatibility with western titles.
Will it succeed? That depends on multiple factors, including engineering talent availability, willingness to invest, and ability to execute. Moore Threads is a very young company, and while so far it has released four AIBs (MTT S10, MTT S50, MTT S60, and MTT S2000) with two incoming (MTT S80 and MTT S3000), we can only wonder whether it has enough people to address all of its declared market opportunities. After all, AMD, Intel, and Nvidia employ thousands of people to work on gaming and datacenter GPUs.
Furthermore, it remains to be seen whether western companies will work closely with a Chinese entity even on such things as video games. Given the strict curbs the U.S. government imposes against Chinese semiconductor and supercomputing sectors, some companies may consider it risky to work with China-based high-tech companies. In fact, there are things that they might deem potentially toxic.
The Chunxiao GPU in its MTT S80 form is aimed at consumer applications and therefore is not designed for any artificial intelligence or high-performance computing applications. Also, Moore Threads has the MTT S3000 32GB server grade board that offers a 15.2 FP32 TFLOPS throughput and supports datacenter-oriented features, such as up to 32-way GPU partitioning as well as SR-IOV PCIe virtualization. Meanwhile, the Chunxiao graphics processor supports FP32, FP16, and INT8 precision. Therefore, assuming that it also supports an appropriate instruction set, it can theoretically be used for AI or even some light HPC workloads that do not need FP64.
Based on what we know about the Chunxiao graphics processor, we believe it is aimed primarily at gaming and entertainment applications. The datacenter MTT S3000 will likely mainly be used for remote Android games rendering, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), and video streaming services.
Whether the MTT S3000 can actually be used for non-consumer AI and technical computing applications in datacenters efficiently is something we do not know. We have reasonable doubts given the form factor, power consumption, and performance. Yet, if the U.S. further tightens its sanctions against the Chinese high-tech industry, there might be ramifications even for a consumer-oriented company like Moore Threads.