[Update 2: Launching within 2 years] Samsung licenses AMD Radeon graphics technology for smartphones, brings 1 month free Hatch game streaming to the Galaxy S10 5G
Apple may be getting a lot of attention today for various announcements during the WWDC keynote, but Samsung isn’t about to sit idly by and let Cupertino get all of the headlines. Today, the company has made two separate announcements involving two different products. First, we have learned that Samsung has partnered with Hatch to bring 1 free month of its mobile game streaming service to Galaxy S10 5G owners in the United States. Secondly, and possibly the bigger announcement is a strategic partnership with AMD for in “ultra-low power, high-performance graphics technologies.”
High-speed bandwidth and low latency could make video game streaming on mobile devices a solid service. These are two big features being touted about with 5G right now and Samsung feels it’s time to partner with Hatch. The promotion is currently only available to Samsung Galaxy S10 5G owners in the United States and includes 1 month of the game streaming service. This subscription lets people play over 100 mobile games on their smartphone without needing to install them onto the device (no in-game purchases either).
Next up we have an announcement about a partnership between Samsung and AMD. This is said to allow Samsung to integrate custom AMD Radeon graphics IP into future SoCs for mobile applications. This is rather interesting because Samsung’s Exynos SoC has historically lagged behind Qualcomm’s when it comes to the GPU department. However, Samsung’s own GPU architecture has been in development for 7 years. That means it’s unlikely that this partnership will result in new architectural IP from AMD being used in Exynos chipsets.
Technically that is possible and Samsung could be throwing away all of their work. Andrei of AnandTech points out that the announcement specifically mentions “custom graphics IP based on the recently announced, highly-scalable RDNA graphics architecture.” That, along with the quote from Dr. Lisa Su saying this is “significantly expanding the Radeon user base and development ecosystem,” leads some to believe that this could just be Samsung licensing some of AMD’s patents (for protection from others in the industry).
Update 1: More details on Samsung/AMD partnership
Ryan Smith and Andrei Frumusanu from Anandtech published an interesting article late Friday evening about what the AMD partnership could mean for Samsung. If you’re interested in the full breakdown, we recommend you read their article. However, here’s a summary of the important details:
- We’ve known Samsung has been designing its own GPUs, but Anandtech reports that Samsung’s in-house development hasn’t progressed “quite as fast as Samsung had hoped.” However, this new licensing deal has “only more recently finalized,” meaning that Samsung and AMD have only just started their partnership. Thus, the work going into this new partnership will take years to reap—Anandtech believes we won’t see Radeon-powered Samsung SoCs before 2022.
- Because of this timing, Anandtech believes that Samsung will be using a future AMD GPU architecture rather than one of its current designs. A source told the publication that Samsung will use an architecture that’s already on AMD’s roadmap, but that it won’t be Navi.
- Samsung’s use of AMD IP is limited to smartphone and tablet SoCs. For example, embedded devices and Windows on ARM laptops are off the table, according to Anandtech, because AMD has a strong embedded devices business and already produces APUs for laptops.
- Anandtech speculates that this partnership won’t be a “traditional AMD semi-custom deal” in which AMD typically does GPU design-for-hire for another company, as they’ve done for Microsoft and Sony. However, the publication doubts that AMD has licensed a complete GPU architecture to Samsung so the latter can design its own GPU. Rather, they believe that AMD and Samsung have entered a collaborative deal in which AMD licenses its IP to Samsung but also works with the latter to design a mobile GPU. This is aided by the fact that Samsung and AMD’s IP and silicon development teams are geographically close together (both companies have offices in Austin, Texas and San Jose, California.) Anandtech believes a collaborative effort works best for both companies as AMD has traditionally had trouble with power optimization while Samsung will have trouble “knowing every last minor detail of AMD’s architecture and how to change it.”
- What will happen to Samsung’s existing GPU design efforts? Anandtech believes that Samsung will shift its existing resources toward whatever new project they’re working on with AMD. However, it’s unclear if Samsung can use its existing IP on the new project, and if it can, who would end up owning any co-developed IP.
In conclusion, this partnership looks to bring major benefits to both companies. For AMD, they gain a new source of revenue in mobile. For Samsung, they can start designing GPUs that are competitive with Qualcomm’s mobile GPUs. Again, if you want the full rundown on what this partnership may bring to both AMD and Samsung, you can read the original Anandtech report here.
Update 2: Launching within 2 years
During the company’s recent earnings call, Samsung confirmed that it plans to launch products with AMD Radeon graphics tech in two years. This is due to the required development time to integrate AMD tech. A Samsung representative had this to say:
To answer your second question about our AMD partnership. As you know, AMD has been a leader, especially in the GPU area since the early days of the PC market and is one of the leaders in terms of technology. We think that with this partnership, we will be able to leverage the GPU competitiveness of AMD to enhance the performance of not only our mobile SOCs, but also in other applications.
But considering the usual time it takes to vet out IT technology, we expect that the GPU technology will start being adopted in products that will be launched two years down the road roughly.