In a joint press release issued this evening, AMD and Samsung announced that the two companies are renewing their GPU architecture licensing agreement for Samsung’s Exynos SoCs. The latest multi-year deal between AMD and Samsung will see Samsung continue to license AMD’s Radeon graphics architectures for use in Arm-based Exynos SoCs, with the two companies pledging to work together on “multiple generations” of IP. GPUs.
The license agreement extension comes just 4 years after Samsung and AMD announced their original licensing agreement in June 2019. The then-groundbreaking deal will see Samsung license its own Radeon GPU IP for use in its flagship Exynos SoCs. in a bid to get a leap into the SoC market for mobile devices, and take advantage of AMD’s superior Radeon graphics IP to access new features and more efficient designs sooner than Samsung could. have with its internal efforts.
This initial licensing deal paid off with what is (so far) a single product: Exynos 2200 and an integrated RDNA2-based Xclipse 920 GPU. The shift to AMD’s GPU designs allowed Samsung to deliver high-end PC-level features such as hardware ray tracing and variable rate shading (VRS) in its Galaxy S22 phones, months before its releases. competitors.
Unfortunately, it was the Exynos 2200 as a whole The poorly received SoC. There are many reasons for this (more than we can figure out in a single news article), but mostly Samsung’s 5nm lithography processes turn out to be a mess, with Samsung experiencing throughput and chip issues. underperforming work based on TSMC’s 5nm Class Competition contract. The fab issues alone were bad enough to bump Samsung’s Qualcomm to mid-gen TSMC with the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, and for the latest Galaxy S23 gen, Samsung didn’t even bother to ship an Exynos variant.
But while Samsung is essentially having a year off from its high-end SoC front right now, they have previously indicated that they will continue to produce Exynos SoCs and, therefore, remain in the market for a GPU IP license. Which brings us back to Samsung’s license agreement extension with AMD today. Whatever issues Samsung has had with the Exynos 2200, this stretch indicates that Samsung remains committed to using AMD’s GPU architecture for the long haul – so the Xclipse 920 won’t be a one-off product.
The two companies’ expansion announcement doesn’t contain many public details; AMD will license Samsung for “multiple generations” of Radeon GPU IPs, and Samsung will in turn use that IP for an “expanded suite of Samsung Exynos SoCs.” No specific architecture or timeline is mentioned, or even the number of SoCs Samsung might be considering. Even a single new Exynos SoC using AMD’s GPU IP would be an expanded portfolio, so the announcement is usually very generic in this regard.
Looking at AMD’s GPU architecture roadmap, the company currently has GPU architectures planned through the end of 2024, with the upcoming RDNA 4 architecture. Given AMD’s typical two-year cadence , this is an architecture that we would expect in desktop products in late 2024. So if Samsung is planning to release an AMD-powered SoC in the next 18 months, we’ll likely see something based on the existing RDNA 3. architecture, used in AMD’s latest mobile SoCs and Navi 3x GPUs. Otherwise, anything over 18 months would be a good candidate for RDNA 4, which we know very little about at the moment.
In the meantime, since this latest agreement is an extension of Samsung and AMD’s original agreement from 2019, this strongly applies to the original agreement’s product restrictions which remain in place. In this agreement, Samsung was prohibited from using AMD’s GPU IP to compete with AMD and restricted Samsung’s use of IP on smartphone and tablet SoCs. Larger, more powerful devices, such as laptops, were out of the question. The Windows on Arm market is still nascent at best, but if this restriction is still in place, it means we won’t see Samsung involved in using any of its AMD-derived designs.
An equally important question for the partnership going forward is whether Samsung and AMD will maintain their collaborative design approach or whether Samsung will revert to a more traditional licensing model. A notable aspect of the original deal was that Samsung and AMD worked together to design the Xclipse GPU used in Samsung’s SoCs. After 4 years and only one product, it’s hard to tell from the outside how well it worked for both parties. But in theory, all the benefits of cooperation remain – so it will come as no surprise to learn that both sides are pursuing this approach.
Finally, this announcement is the latest proof that AMD is happy to continue its GPU IP licensing business. Between their semi-custom game console offerings and Samsung’s deal, AMD’s GPU architectures ended up being used far more widely than their PC market share numbers alone would suggest. And while designing and perfecting IP GPUs for other chipmakers comes with some opportunity cost trade-offs, it also comes with a guaranteed revenue stream for the company that they are happy to do.