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Ampere Delivers Big Graphics Boost

October 6, 2020

Author: Aakash Jani

The new Ampere graphics cards deliver one of Nvidia’s largest generational performance increases ever, besting the predecessor Turing cards by 56% on average. Much of this gain comes from doubling the floating-point throughput per core. The GPU’s second-generation ray-tracing engine doubles throughput and improves hardware acceleration for motion-blur effects. This new graphics chip, designated the GA102, is based on the same architecture the company introduced recently in the Ampere A100 data-center accelerator, but the PC version adds ray tracing and other graphics-oriented features.

Nvidia introduced three Ampere-based graphics cards. The flagship RTX 3090 sets a new performance level, featuring 10 more shader cores and more than twice the floating-point throughput (flop/s) of the fastest Turing card (Titan RTX) at a lower price. The more mainstream RTX 3080 has the same $699 price as the two-year-old RTX 2080 but triples the flop/s. The new RTX 3070 matches the RTX 2070 price with more than double the flop/s. Gaming performance improves considerably, but not at the same multiple as the floating-point throughput. The new cards all require considerably more power than their predecessors, with the 3080 leading the way at a scorching 350W.

The Ampere GPUs employ streaming multiprocessors (SMs) as their main compute cores. The SMs each comprise four quadrants. In each quadrant, both Turing and Ampere cards have two math units: the former uses one for INT32 calculations and one for FP32, whereas the latter doubles the FP32 throughput by altering the integer unit to handle both FP32 and INT32. Ampere’s FP32-only data path contains 16 FP32 ALUs, while its mixed FP32/INT32 data path contains 16 FP32 ALUs and 16 INT32 ALUs. In Nvidia parlance, each SM now has 128 Cuda cores (FP32 MAC units) instead of 64, doubling FP32 throughput.

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