If Nvidia has things it's way, AMD's latest new performance-boosting technology for RX 6000 "Big Navi" graphics cards might not be a huge one-sided advantage, after all.
According to a statement Nvidia gave to Gamer's Nexus, the company says it will soon enable a feature similar to AMD's Smart Access Memory (SAM) tech, which boosts data transfer efficiency between the GPU and CPU. In fact, Nvidia already has the feature working on its Ampere graphics cards in its labs.
Additionally, Nvidia claims its feature will work equally well with Intel and AMD processors and can use the PCIe 3.0 bus, while AMD has already said that its solution requires an AMD Ryzen 5000 series processor, X570 motherboard, and Radeon RX 6000 GPU to work.
Nivida also suggests that AMD's feature, which it hasn't fully detailed yet, consists of adjusting PCIe's resizeable bar feature, which can be done on almost any modern motherboard if the manufacturer supports the option.
From NVIDIA, re:SAM: “The capability for resizable BAR is part of the PCI Express spec. NVIDIA hardware supports this functionality and will enable it on Ampere GPUs through future software updates. We have it working internally and are seeing similar performance results."November 12, 2020
AMD says that Smart Access Memory allows the CPU and GPU to share information across a broader PCIe pipe, but the company hasn't divulged the details of the tech fully yet. AMD merely says that the CPU and GPU are usually constrained to a 256MB ‘aperture’ for data transfers. That limits game developers and requires frequent trips between the CPU and main memory if the data set exceeds that size, causing inefficiencies and capping performance. Smart Access Memory removes that limitation, thus boosting performance due to more efficient data transfer between the CPU and GPU.
However, the feature looks akin to the PCIe resizable bar feature, a standard feature of the PCIe spec. Nvidia's statement surely suggests that the company feels likewise. If the GPU supports it, adjusting this setting in the motherboard BIOS essentially allows mapping of the full frame buffer, thus improving performance.
Nvidia says its hardware already supports the feature, though it will need to be enabled. Any PCIe-compliant CPU, be it either Intel or AMD, should also be able to use the tech with Nvidia's graphics cards.
That seemingly takes the shine off of AMD's requirement of an AMD GPU, CPU, and high-end X570 motherboard, especially given that Nvidia plans to enable its competing (yet similar) functionality on all platforms - Intel, AMD, and PCIe 3.0 motherboards included.
Nvidia says that its early testing shows similar performance gains to AMD's SAM and that it will enable the feature through future firmware updates. However, the company hasn't announced a timeline for the updates.
It certainly feels like Nvidia is trying to steal AMD's thunder. If Nvidia's Ampere silicon experiences similar gains from the Smart Access Memory-like tech, it will definitely complicate matters for AMD's push to create a walled all-AMD gaming PC garden.