Samsung and AMD took the industry by surprise last year when they announced a strategic partnership in ultra low power, high performance graphics technologies. What this simply meant was that future Samsung Exynos processors would tout custom AMD Radeon graphics.
AMD’s RDNA graphics architecture was specifically mentioned in the press release, suggesting that this partnership would involve licensing of architectural IP which would enable Samsung to integrate it into its own designs. Chances are, this partnership could end up scoring a big win in the gaming industry when Nintendo decides to release a successor to the Switch.
Samsung could score a big win in the console market
The Nintendo Switch uses NVIDIA’s Maxwell-based Tegra X1 SoC, the same component is found inside the latter’s Shield TV series which hasn’t received any improvement in the chip department. NVIDIA hasn’t really been focusing on consumer-grade ARM products so there’s a real possibility that it may not have a new SoC for Nintendo’s next switch. NVIDIA does have ARM SoCs based on Pascal and Volta architectures but they’re not consumer-facing solutions, they’re meant for autonomous vehicle driving systems.
In the event that NVIDIA doesn’t have an off-the-shelf SoC, Nintendo would be forced to look elsewhere, and this is where Samsung and AMD would come in. AMD does have experience in manufacturing ARM processors itself so it could either invest in the IP itself or look for a partner that has significant experience in manufacturing ARM chipsets. Samsung would be the ideal partner as it has both the experience and scale to do that, it’s already one of the world’s leading producers of ARM processors.
While Samsung has previously used custom cores for its premium chipsets, the company has given up on that, which means that its next top SoC could feature off-the-shelf IP from ARM, eliminating any performance concerns caused by its custom cores. That, coupled with ARM’s robust RDNA graphics hardware, could present the perfect solution for Nintendo’s next hybrid console.
Sony has already selected AMD’s RDNA architecture for its next PlayStation and assuming that the graphics hardware transitions well to a hybrid solution, Samsung could end up scoring a big win in the console market by virtue of its partnership with AMD.
Whether or not that ends up happening remains to be seen, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility. Nintendo hasn’t said when it intends to launch a new Switch console, so there’s also a possibility that NVIDIA could have a solution ready for it by the time it decides to do that.