Waiting for Polaris: AMD's “new” Radeon M400 laptop GPUs aren't new at all—yet

AMD's long-awaited Polaris GPUs may be imminent, but they're not in the "new" Radeon M400 series graphics that just rolled out.

It’s a thrilling time to be a PC gamer! Cutting-edge graphics processors from both Nvidia and AMD are barreling down the pipeline, promising vastly improved performance and power efficiency thanks to a long-awaited boost to underlying GPU technology. But if you buy a new notebook with any of the M400 series mobile Radeon processors AMD quietly unveiled last week, you’ll be bumming—because those “new” chips aren’t new at all.

Instead, they’re the latest in a long, crummy tradition of annually rebadging existing graphics hardware in order to keep system sellers like Lenovo, HP, and Asus happy. Companies that sell PCs want to be able to slap “Radeon M400 series” on the box rather than “Radeon M300 series” so that it looks like the underlying technology’s been boosted year-over-year. It hasn’t in this case.

Or at least, it hasn’t yet. AMD said its power-sipping 14nm Polaris GPUs would be available around mid-year and a flurry of recent leaks suggest the next-gen Radeons will be unveiled at Computex, which runs the first week of June. And in an interview with Ars Technica, AMD VP Roy Taylor said a key goal for Polaris is to roll out GPUs at affordable prices in order to increase the total addressable market (TAM) for VR.

“The reason Polaris is a big deal is because I believe we will be able to grow that TAM significantly. I don’t think Nvidia is going to do anything to increase the TAM, because according to everything we’ve seen around Pascal, it’s a high-end part. I don’t know what the price is gonna be, but let’s say it’s as low as £500/$600 and as high as £800/$1000. That price range is not going to expand the TAM for VR. We’re going on the record right now to say Polaris will expand the TAM. Full stop.”

Mainstream GPUs with greatly enhanced power efficiency? It seems like Polaris is a natural fit for AMD to try and expand its laptop user base, especially since Nvidia indeed focused on the high-end first with its 16nm Pascal GPUs.

Given the timing of this update, expect to hear more details about these new “not new” M400 Radeon GPUs—which AnandTech dives into in glorious detail—at Computex, and possibly where new Polaris-based GPUs fit into the mix. Glancing at the lineup of rebadges, it looks like AMD left Polaris some room for fresh new M490 and M480 GPUs, at the very least.

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Brad Chacos

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