Along with the announcement of Ryzen 7000 processors, AMD revealed a new technology coming to the platform: Smart Access Storage. Its goal is to do away with loading screens in games and it is based on Microsoft’s DirectStorage framework. We’re here to break down what Smart Access Storage is and how you can use it.

Smart Access Storage is not yet available, and AMD says it will share more news about the technology in the near future. However, we still have several clues after AMD’s Computex 2022 keynote, so let’s dig deeper.

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What is AMD Intelligent Access Storage?

AMD Smart Access Storage is a new smart technology coming to the AMD lineup, along with features like Smart Access Memory for graphics cards. We know very little about this technology at this time, but AMD confirmed that it uses Microsoft DirectStorage to vastly improve game load times.

We have already seen DirectStorage at work in abandoned, loading the game in less than a second with compatible hardware. Smart Access Storage is not a replacement for DirectStorage. AMD says that its new technology simply beefs up DirectStorage when you pair a Ryzen CPU with a Radeon GPU.

Various screenshots compare loading times on Forspoken.

Basically, DirectStorage and Smart Access Storage improve game load times by handing over file decompression to the GPU. In games, this is usually handled between the CPU and the hard drive, which is much slower. Consequently, these loading technologies also reduce CPU overhead.

AMD says we can expect a lot more news on Smart Access Storage in the coming months, following the announcement at Computex 2022. For now, we know that DirectStorage improves load times and Smart Access Storage can further improve those load times with a CPU. Ryzen and Radeon GPUs.

The question: How?

How does AMD Intelligent Access Storage work?

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AMD is tight-lipped about Smart Access Storage from a technical level, but the company has still provided some advice on how it works. However, before we get to how Smart Access Storage works, it’s important to know how games load assets and how Microsoft’s DirectStorage can improve load times.

A graph showing how games uncompress files.Microsoft

Game files are compressed to reduce installation size, and GPUs cannot use compressed files. When rendering a scene, the data on your hard drive is loaded into your RAM before being passed to the CPU for decompression. It then travels to your GPU’s video memory before being rendered by your graphics card.

This system was built when most PCs still used slow, spinning hard drives. With ultra-fast PCIe 4.0 and PCIe 5.0 SSDs, compressed assets can come directly from the hard drive. DirectStorage kills the CPU, rather than passing assets from the SSD to system RAM and then directly to the GPU for decompression.

A graphic showing how Microsoft DirectStorage works.Microsoft

GPU decompression is not new. The main issue has been storage, where the SSD couldn’t feed the GPU enough data in time to decompress it (which is why it went through the CPU first). DirectStorage, with a compatible SSD, removes that bottleneck.

Smart Access Storage seeks to further improve that system. AMD’s Robert Hallock explained the key difference: “Because we own the CPU and GPU ends, we don’t need to go to main memory like DirectStorage does.”

Instead of using system RAM, Smart Access Storage provides a direct connection from the SSD to the graphics card, further improving load times. AMD hasn’t said how much, but considering how fast DirectStorage is shaping up, Smart Access Storage could kill loading screens in games.

What do you need for AMD Smart Access storage?

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Representation of the AMD Ryzen processor.

Smart Access Storage works exclusively with Radeon GPUs and Ryzen CPUs, but AMD hasn’t clarified which generations will work. We know that all Ryzen 7000 CPUs will support the technology, and we’re assuming the RX 6000 will work too (AMD showed off an RX 6000 graphics card during the announcement). The big question mark comes from the SSDs.

In an interview with PCWorld, AMD’s Frank Azor said that “just because you have a PCIe Gen 4 drive or the next Gen 5, it doesn’t mean those drives will be able to keep up with the performance demands and capabilities of Access Storage.” intelligent”. AMD will likely release a list of compatible hard drives closer to launch.

However, you will need a PCIe 4.0 or PCIe 5.0 SSD, even if some of them are not compatible. This is required by DirectStorage anyway.

Western Digital Black SN850X NVMe Solid State Drive.

For the CPU and GPU, AMD may also support Ryzen 5000 CPUs as these chips support PCIe 4.0. However, AMD has yet to say one way or the other. For now, it’s safe to assume that you’ll need a Ryzen 7000 CPU, Radeon RX 6000 GPU, and a compatible PCIe 4.0 or 5.0 SSD to use Smart Access Storage.

Note that you can still use DirectStorage without a Ryzen CPU/Radeon GPU combo. Smart Access Storage is open to support AMD/Nvidia and Intel/Radeon configurations with DirectStorage. These setups won’t be as fast, but are still supported.

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