AMD’s Project Quantum Could Rise from the Grave

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Back in 2015, AMD demonstrated an intriguing concept PC it dubbed “Project Quantum.” It was an AMD high-concept PC that combined up to two Fiji GPUs with an Intel CPU to build a gaming box in a unique form factor. The upper part of the chassis held the closed-loop liquid coolers and exhausted heat out the top, while the bottom of the machine held all of the electronic components.

Project Quantum actually drew quite a bit of interest, but AMD wasn’t in a position to build the concept around its own hardware. AMD even went so far as to demonstrate the hardware with the Intel CPU inside, but given Nvidia’s position with the GTX 900 series at the time, customers would likely have wanted options that came with an Intel CPU and Nvidia GPU. The concept generated a lot of buzz but no hardware ever emerged to take advantage of it.

Now, AMD has filed for a patent on the design, which has sparked discussion that the company may be preparing to revive it. I have no specific knowledge of AMD’s plans in this regard, but we can speak to the overall competitive situation between AMD and Intel, which is better than it’s been in nearly 15 years. The Ryzen 5000 series is expected to deliver significant performance uplifts, with 1.19x additional IPC and the potential for an unknown amount of additional clock (1.2x – 1.25x are the common figures). Assuming the company delivers, this is a sufficiently large boost to catch many an enthusiast eye. But the performance of Big Navi is still an unknown factor.

It would make sense for AMD to reserve Project Quantum for a time when it was in a much better competitive situation with respect to Intel. The question is, is this a chassis design AMD would license to other companies? The idea that AMD would build the machine itself seems unlikely, since it would essentially be competing against its own customers.

It would be interesting to see if AMD could boost the performance of CPUs it sold into Project Quantum systems, specifically, as a way of creating a premium boutique product — but how that product would be distributed is anyone’s guess. It makes sense for AMD to take out a patent on the Project Quantum concept whether it builds anything around it or not, just to prevent a competitor from sniping the idea out from underneath them.

The fact that people are buzzing about this concept is an example of how much things have changed in the past five years. In 2015, AMD had to outfit its own hardware concept with Intel CPUs in order to get the market to take it seriously. Today, it’s a given that the Ryzen 3000 and 5000 families would be at least competitive for the socket, while the performance of Big Navi is the larger question mark.

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