We’ve been watching and listening when you’ve been asking about the status of a UEFI VBIOS for certain Radeon™ GPUs. Those of you who know what that is are likely quite interested in reading the rest of this blog, and you’ll be pleased to know that we have a solution for you.
A little background on UEFI
Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) is a relatively new standard for motherboard firmware that replaces the classic BIOS firmware standard. UEFI offers neat features like smart hardware monitoring, full color and high-resolution GUIs, PCIe® SSD booting, mouse and flash drive support and more. UEFI is also an essential player in the chain of custody driving the SecureBoot and fast boot features in Windows® 8, 8.1 and 10. Other devices essential to the PC boot process, like GPUs, can also have a firmware that is compliant with the requirements of UEFI.
If every device on the system has UEFI-compliant firmware, then a UEFI motherboard can disable a feature called Compatibility Service Module (CSM) to get the fastest possible boot times in Windows.
In the race to obtain faster boot times, GPUs are in an interesting position:
Loading a GPU with a UEFI-compliant firmware renders them incompatible with motherboards that still run BIOS firmware. These motherboards will never boot in this configuration.
Loading a GPU with a “legacy” BIOS-compliant firmware maximizes compatibility, ensuring motherboards with a BIOS firmware can boot the GPU. However, UEFI motherboards must enable CSM to interpret and run the “legacy” GPU BIOS—boot times are slowed as a result.
Loading a GPU with a “hybrid” firmware that contains both UEFI and BIOS-compliant firmware works just fine for UEFI motherboards, but some older motherboards with BIOS firmware cannot read the newer hybrid GPU firmware and do not boot.
Despite the drawbacks, it seems clear that option #2 is the best way forward to ship a GPU that works with everyone’s hardware. Options #1 and #3 would result in GPUs that simply don’t boot for millions of customers that have otherwise perfectly fine motherboards configured with BIOS firmware.
The Rise of UEFI
In recent months, new chipsets and I/O standards (e.g. M.2 or USB 3.1 Gen 2) have driven a wave of new motherboards overwhelmingly based on UEFI firmware. These exciting features have understandably driven a broad-based upgrade cycle that has flushed older motherboards with BIOS firmware out of the market. The appetite for UEFI-compliant GPUs has grown.
We anticipated this trend! Since the advent of the Radeon™ R9 300 and Fury Series GPUs, our board manufacturing partners (“AIBs”) have had access to source code suitable for building customized UEFI-based firmwares. Many AIBs have already transitioned to UEFI by including this code in their custom firmware images, or have implemented solutions like “dual-BIOS” switches to work around the potential issues with BIOS-based motherboards. Today, it’s quite easy to find a UEFI-compliant Radeon™ R9 300 or Fury Series GPU that enables a pure EFI boot environment and the fastest boot modes.
UEFI GPU Firmware Upgrade
We have been tracking the chatter from a small and passionate group of users with Radeon™ R9 Fury X or R9 Nano GPUs that shipped with BIOS-compliant firmware for compatibility reasons. These users tell us they would prefer UEFI-compliant firmware. We hear you loud and clear, and we want you to know that we’re able to assist on these specific products because they track rather closely to our original hardware/firmware designs.
As a result, today we are releasing AMD-built UEFI-compliant GPU firmware for the Radeon™ R9 Fury X and R9 Nano GPUs. These firmware images can be flashed to any Radeon™ R9 Fury X and R9 Nano GPU, respectively, to enable UEFI compliance and a pure EFI boot environment.