Tech Explainer: What’s the deal with AMD’s 3D V-Cache technology?

AMD’s unique 3D V-Cache technology offers a marked performance boost. By stacking the cache vertically, AMD produces a 3x increase in the amount of a CPU’s L3 cache. This enables faster calculations and a noticeable increase in overall processor speed. 

  • November 14, 2023 | Author: KJ Jacoby
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The more cache, the merrier.

The cache’s job is to store as much data as possible directly onto the CPU die. And the cache’s proximity to the processor makes it an ideal data-delivery system.

That might not be much of a sales pitch to folks who ask comparatively little of their devices. But when it comes to high-performance data centers, extra on-die storage can make a world of difference.

That’s because the faster and more efficiently a CPU can access data, the quicker it can complete the complex calculations required to return the requested result.

The trouble is, the usefulness of a cache has so far been limited by its small storage capacity. Unlike other computer storage devices, such as RAM and SSDs, your average cache is relatively tiny.

In a modern computer, it’s not uncommon to get 1 to 4 terabytes of storage space. But on that same machine, the processor cache would typically hold only 50 to 60 megabytes.

It stands to reason, then, that a cache able to hold 3 times as much data could dramatically increase the system’s efficiency. And that’s what AMD’s latest innovation, known as AMD 3D V-Cache technology, can do.

A whole new dimension

Modern caches are designed with a succession of stages labeled L1, L2 and L3. The “L” stands for Level.

L1 is closest to the processor and offers the fastest speed, yet it also provides the smallest capacity. L2 is a bit bigger, but also a bit slower. And L3 cache always provides the most data storage.

AMD calls its innovation 3D V-Cache because of the unique design. All 3 layers of the L3 cache are stacked vertically on the die.

This vertical stacking also means that all 3 layers are the same distance from the processor. As a result, all 3 also offer the same speeds.

What’s more, AMD 3D V-Cache’s extra capacity enables the processor to store and stream more instructions, yet without increasing the die’s size. As a result, the CPU does its job much faster and more efficiently than could a similarly powered processor with a traditional cache.

Out in the wild

AMD first introduced 3D V-Cache technology in 2022 as part of its gaming-focused Ryzen 7 5800X3D processor. That first iteration offered a 96MB L3 cache feeding 8 cores, each with a maximum clock speed of 4.5GHz.

This past February, AMD introduced its Ryzen 7000-series processors for content creators. Two of those CPUs—the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D and 7900X3D—featured L3 caches with 128MB of capacity.

But AMD knows the market for 3D V-Cache-enabled chips is far bigger than just gamers. Power-hungry data centers are cropping up everywhere, helping to power our private and public clouds, AI-based applications and other miraculous virtual innovations.

To power those data centers, AMD now offers 4th generation EPYC processors featuring AMD 3D V-Cache technology. These data-crunching monsters are truly on the cutting edge. The biggest of them all, the AMD EPYC 9654P, packs 96 cores and an astounding L3 cache of 348MB.

Taking the show on the road

With the introduction of the Ryzen 9 7945HX3D mobile processor, AMD announced to the world that speed and portability aren’t mutually exclusive. The first laptop gaming chip is a 16-core phenom featuring AMD 3D V-Cache Technology, which adds an impressive 128MB of L3 cache.

This past August, AMD launched its new silicon marvel inside the ROG STRIX SCAR 17 X3D, a titanically powerful gaming laptop with a 240Hz QHD display. AMD managed to get a mobile version to market barely a year after the launch of its first AMD 3D V-Cache Technology-enabled desktop chip. That’s an impressive cadence by any standard.

This is a laptop that was always going to be faster than most. But the addition of the Ryzen chip makes the STRIX SCAR one of the fastest mobile gaming rigs on this—or any other—planet.

Go ahead, try to find one that’s faster.

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