AMD Navi GPU: everything you need to know about the new graphics cards
By Adeline Belluz 2019-05-16 812 0
Prices and availability
During a earnings call in early May, AMD announced that the first Navi graphics cards will debut in the third quarter of 2019. That could mean from July or until September, but at least, it gives us an assurance of their emergence.
It is worth noting that this supports earlier rumors from the Red Gaming Tech portal, which reported in January that the new AMD Navi cards would arrive in July 2019 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). After the launch of the Radeon VII in February, the portal stated that AMD planned the presentation of the Navi for July 7, in addition to the Ryzen 3000 processors and the x570 motherboard.
And although in another version suggested that it could be delayed, some spoke of October, to avoid repeating the stock problems of the Radeon VII, the latest report suggests that not only will be presented at E3, but will be officially launched.
However, AMD is likely to have two variants. Initial reports suggested that GPU Navi 10 and Navi 11 would be the first, but now it is believed to be Navi 12 and Navi 10.
While gamers will have to wait until 2020 for a high-end Navi 20 graphics card, it is rumored that the former will be priced between $130 and $250. If so, they will face the latest generation GTX 1660 Ti and GTX 1060, surpassing the new RTX 2060 by more than $100. The estimates are in line with Navi's position as Polaris' successor. AMD's Radeon RX 500 series cards typically range from $115 to $290.
Rumors also suggested that AMD might play with a psychological advantage in nomenclatures. As he called his Ryzen processors 400 series (one digit more than Intel's 300 series), he could call his Navi cards RX 3000 series, making them look more modern than Nvidia's 2000.
Architecture and performance
AMD has not given any information on Navi's potential performance. But if it offered a 30% improvement over Polaris, as the Radeon VII did with its 7 nm architecture, it would be a big boost. In internal test leaks, Fudzilla stated that Navi's performance had exceeded AMD's expectations, and that it would even offer the best performance at mid-range prices.
Although it was initially speculated that for about $250 it would deliver performance like the Vega 56 card, it was then compared to the RTX 2070 at the same cost. The high-end solution, which would be called 3080, would have 8GB of GDDR6, and 15 percent more power than the Vega 64 with only 150 watts TDP (Thermal Design Power). The 3070 would be closer to a Vega 56 with 120 watts, while the 3060 would have a performance similar to the RX 580 with 75 watts.
The numbers of the AMD Navi seem to be extremely optimistic, especially as they are offering performance close to the newly launched Radeon VII, but greatly cutting its price of $700 dollars.
Preliminarily it transpired that the AMD Navi would be the manufacturer's last GPU based on the graphics core architecture (GCN). However, speculation now is that a new microarchitecture will debut, overcoming GCN's limitations. This means it would have faster clock speeds and greater efficiency. AMD confirmed that Navi will have a scalable architecture that will support HBM2 and GDDR6 memory. According to PC World, it will not use a multi-chip module approach.
In April 2019, Mark Cerny, Sony's leading PlayStation architect, confirmed that the next generation of consoles would have custom Navi cores and the Ryzen 3000 processor, based on its Zen 2 architecture. It is not clear whether this will be a custom Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) design or whether it would have a dedicated Navi graphics card. The PS4 and PS4 Pro used an APU design, but considering Navi's scalability, it may be separate to allow future expansions.
Shading and variable rate
The dramatic increase in monitor resolutions in recent years, with increasingly common 4K displays and even some 8K on the way, has meant an overload for graphics cards. Even for the most powerful, running a high resolution is exhausting work. This is where technologies like variable rate shading (VRS) come in.
VRS renders portions of a screen with greater fidelity. In theory, you could use the player's gestures (taking advantage of eye tracking) or just concentrate on the center of the screen. It's a more efficient way to render frames that don't affect visual quality.
Although AMD had not confirmed VRS support with Navi, a patent filed by AMD in August 2017 and published in late February 2019, discussed the implementation of this technology with graphics hardware. Considering the timing of submission and approval, integration with Navi would make sense.
With Navi's graphics architecture that could drive the next generation of consoles from Microsoft and Sony, it is possible that VRS will end up helping those systems improve game images beyond what consoles can do. It would also extend the lifespan of these consoles.
AMD originally stated that it would not support ray tracing, a hallmark of Nvidia's RTX series, at least not until the technology can be implemented on all of its graphics cards.
However, this claim was questioned after it was revealed that the next generation of PlayStation will have a custom AMD Navi graphics card and would support ray tracing. That suggests that Navi has the graphics power to support ray tracing in games, but the question remains how.
Early rumors suggested it would be an exclusive feature of the high-end Navi 20. However, the PS5 probably doesn't use such an expensive, high-end graphics chip, so the Navi 10 could also withstand ray tracing. That would support AMD's claims that it would like to make ray tracing widely available when implemented on Radeon graphics cards.
AMD could implement ray tracing on Navi 20 for PCs and the custom Navi chip on consoles, both in 2020, leaving the launch of Navi 10 in 2019 as an introduction to the platform.
At CES 2019, AMD CEO Lisa Su said ray tracing technology was "in deep development. She even announced that the Radeon VII will support a technology similar to Nvidia's DLSS. It is unclear whether Navi will take advantage of something similar to overcome performance issues related to ray tracing.
To keep Navi's prices competitive, it is unlikely that the GPU architecture will come with dedicated ray-tracking cores, and adding support for the feature could result in an impact on performance. However, earlier rumors that Navi was compatible with ray tracing suggested that AMD's implementation of lighting technology is not as demanding on graphics hardware as that of Nvidia.
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