Despite the fact that the AMD Radeon RX 570 and Radeon RX 580 recently took back the number one spot in the budget graphics-card space against Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1650 line of cards (by doing nothing but let Nvidia point a gun at its own foot, but I digress), AMD is long overdue for a refresh of its aging “Polaris” and “Vega” GPU architectures.
Enter “Navi,” a code-name for AMD’s next-generation architecture that has been bandied about for some time now. Hard details about this coming tech have been hard to come by, and thus far AMD has done a commendable job of keeping the lid on leaks about its upcoming graphics cards, though a few key, credible details have managed to slip through the cracks. (Not to mention a whole host of supposition.) Here’s a list of everything we know (or might know) about Navi, including potential release dates, possible memory configurations, and more…
Navi Says: “Hey, Listen!”
Although many 1990s gamers might find themselves looking around for their favorite fairy guide upon first hearing the name, AMD’s Navi is in fact not here to get you through the Water Temple in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Pictured here: Not the Navi we’re talking about
Navi is the codename for AMD’s upcoming GPU architecture, based on the 7nm Vega 2 architecture, and it is set to replace the Polaris and 5th Gen Graphics Core Next (GCN) architectures that you’ll find in the company’s current Radeon, Radeon RX, and Vega lines of graphics cards.
Previously, it was suggested that Navi would evolve beyond GCN. However, according to a more recent report by Phoronix, a Github repository for the open-source Radeon driver codes containing the keywords “GCN” popped up roughly a week ago:
- F_AMDGPU_MACH_AMDGCN_LAST =
After some digging, the author discovered these repositories very well could be tied to the upcoming Navi launch. Given that the previous generation, Vega, used the nomenclature here of “GFX900,” the assumption is the usage of “GFX1010” is likely a direct reference to Navi’s near-term release.
This suggests that Navi could be based on GCN, a design known for its limitations when it comes to the maximum number of stream processors it can support (4,096, to be exact). The hope was that Navi would move beyond the GCN design to allow for more stream processors, but if this detail ends up being confirmed to be true, that doesn’t look to be the case. Perhaps it’s a thin thread or a red herring, but that’s what we know on that front.
AMD Confirms a Release Window
Next thing is what we do know directly from the silicon horse’s mouth. On an earnings call last week, AMD confirmed that the Navi architecture would be making its way into consumer’s hands “sometime in Q3.” This could mean July 1, but it could also mean September 30.
That said, if previous releases are any indication of what to expect, a card or cards could be here as early as July 7. According to a leak that first hit the web back in January from RedGamingTech, the author’s source gave info that could line up with a July 7 launch, given that the same source confirmed a February 7 launch for the AMD Radeon VII (which, perhaps incidentally, indeed launched on February 7 this year).
There’s also the silicon’s (possibly coincidental) move to a 7nm process technology, which would make for a marketing-friendly release of 7nm chips on 7/7. This lends more credence to the 7th of July being a potential debut date for the Navi line, which has also been speculated as the launch date for the AMD Ryzen 3000, though all this information comes from the same source. On the exact date, we say: Keep that bucket of salt ready at hand.
A Leaky PCB Sees the Light of Day?
Several weeks ago, VideoCardz.com found an intriguing image on the Baidu forums (which has since been deleted, possibly at AMD’s request, thus the 404 at the link). Supposedly, this was of a printed circuit board (PCB) of one of the upcoming Navi boards, though if it’s of the rumored Radeon RX 3080 (more on that in a minute), no one can say for sure.
Either way, if the PCB leak is real (and again, that is a big “if”), it could theoretically confirm a few things:
- Navi cards might use GDDR6 memory
- The card in question might have a 256-bit bus
- It could require two eight-pin power connectors
- It might have a blower fan
- It may require anywhere between 250 and 300 watts of power
These determinations were made by several keen-eyed graphics-card enthusiasts and designers who were able to scope out marks for chips, memory modules, fan mounts, and more, and make their guesses from there.
Again, there’s no way to confirm whether or not this PCB is legitimate, but the fact that it was taken down so quickly after being posted does lend some credence to the idea that whatever was being shown off was sensitive, protected information.
The PlayStation 5 Leads the Way
In a story published last month, Wired got an exclusive peek into the possibilities of Sony’s next-gen console, the PlayStation 5. Though exact specifications are scarce, what the article did confirm was that the console would be using a variant of the Navi architecture, will support ray-tracing, and will sit alongside a Ryzen-based CPU.
A bit more than a week ago, however, the plot thickened. Benji Sales, founder of the State of the Industry gaming podcast, tweeted that an early build of the PS5 dev kit making the rounds among various developers is running “nearly [a] 13TF (teraflop) GPU,” shortly before—you guessed it—deleting that tweet and asking his followers to ignore anything he just said.
If true, this is yet more exciting news for Sony fans, given that the PS4 runs off an already-whopping 1.84 teraflops, and, as Sales points out above, some of the most impactful and graphically impressive games to date have been created on the backs of that hardware.
Pontificating on Pricing
Finally, just a few days ago, TweakTown published a pair of articles based on information from an “exclusive source” that report pricing and specs for ostensible upcoming “Navi 10” and “Navi 20” GPUs. (Big disclaimer in a moment.) First, the report says that Navi 10 GPUs will power so-called Radeon RX 3070 graphics cards. These cards will supposedly cost $330 [Update, May 21: Wccftech posted a story yesterday that claims the cards will retail for $399 on launch], and be able to compete with Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2070 cards in terms of performance and features.
Next was a potential leak regarding the company’s powerhouse GPU chip, the Navi 20. Supposedly, the company will be releasing another card based on this die, dubbed the Radeon RX 3080, sometime in 2020, priced at $499 and offering a 10 percent performance boost over the company’s current flagship GPU, the Radeon VII.
According to our own side-by-side tests of the Radeon VII and the GeForce RTX 2080, this would mean, in theory, that the putative Radeon RX 3090 XT could offer performance either in line with, or exceeding, that of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 2080 at a price point that, by today’s prices, undercuts it by roughly $300.
This said, with a release date pinned for next year, it may not be long after the release of any such Radeon RX 3090 XT that Nvidia tweaks its pricing, or steps back in with its own competing card, and knocks the AMD cards on the defensive, just as the company has been doing for the past five years and counting.
Also, it bears mentioning that TweakTown itself claims that information from its own “exclusive source,” we quote, “should be taken with a large handful, not just a pinch, of salt.” So we’d recommend heeding the advice and not basing any of your purchase decisions on these leaks until concrete details hit the card-o-sphere in the coming months.
Next for Navi: Keep Your Eyes on Computex
Outside of all these juicy rumors, a couple of facts are…well, facts. The big one? Dr. Lisa Su, AMD’s CEO, is set to deliver the first keynote of Computex 2019 on the morning of May 27 (on Taipei time), and according to the conference management team’s own press release (the italics are ours):
“Upcoming products include 7nm AMD EPYC datacenter processors, 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen desktop processors, and graphics cards based on the next-generation “Navi” architecture—all of which are designed to create exceptional experiences for gamers and creators as well as help solve many of the toughest challenges in our lives. During the CEO Keynote, Dr. Lisa Su and other high-profile guests will highlight new details of upcoming products and showcase how the industry is building a new high-performance computing ecosystem that will push technology to the next level.”
So, regardless of what the rumor mill has to say about what Navi will be or won’t be, we expect that some of the gaps in what we know here will be filled out in just a few short weeks. Stay tuned to PCMag; we’ll be traveling to Taipei for Computex to get the latest details on AMD’s Navi-based graphics cards and plenty else, starting May 27.
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