There has been no shortage of rumors and leaks about AMD’s RDNA 2. After we saw the great success AMD had with their Navi GPUs back in July 2019, it seems the hype around AMD still hasn’t died down.
Now, a year after AMD RDNA graphics cards hit the market in the form of the Radeon RX 5700 XT and the RX 5700, we’re excited to see what AMD has in store for the future.
AMD’s Big Navi card, also known as the “Nvidia Killer” is thought to be the biggest challenge to Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Ti GPU.
The main thing we’re excited about is the new RDNA 2 which will be the new graphics architecture seen in the upcoming Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. We know that both of these consoles will be hitting the market around the holiday season this year, so we imagine RDNA 2 will hit the PC graphics card market soon enough.
AMD has been a bit coy on the details surrounding RDNA 2, as well as the details of the upcoming Big Navi graphics card. That doesn’t mean we don’t have any details at all though.
There are plenty of rumors and leaks floating around. While we can’t guarantee their accuracy 100%, there’s still a lot we can pick up from this information.
When Will AMD RDNA 2 GPUs Be Released?
We’ve heard rumors about Big Navi since around 2018 but when can we expect to actually see these graphics cards? Rumors and announcements from AMD suggest that we should see Big Navi launch sometime at the end of the year.
At first, we thought the launch was going to take place at Computex, but that was delayed until September because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it’s always possible that AMD will have their own online event to announce it, there’s little to confirm that possibility at the moment.
We seemingly got a confirmation of a release date during AMD’s Financial Analyst Day back in March. AMD announced that RDNA 2 GPUs would release in late 2020. However, due to the current climate, it looks increasingly likely we’ll have to wait to get our hands on these GPUs until next year.
However, AMD’s CEO Dr. Lisa Sun said: "Development of our RDNA 2 GPUs continues to progress well. We are on track to launch our next-generation gaming GPUs later this year, with a 50% performance per watt increase compared to our current offerings." Perhaps this release window was always the plan and COVID-19 hasn’t disrupted it at all.
Whether the new RDNA GPUs will launch before or after the two consoles is the main mystery - but then again, there’s still not a firm date on the release of those either.
AMD RDNA 2 Specifications
The main thing everyone has been talking about with RDNA 2 is the support for ray tracing technology and 4K gaming. This is what could be the deciding factor in how AMD’s GPUs stand up against Nvidia’s.
AMD’s update on RDNA architecture mainly surrounds the change over wavefronts. With previous GCN architecture, the solution was to have 64 threads wide with four SIMD16 execution units. RDNA switched to 32 threads wide and a single SIMD32 execution unit. The change in wavefront size to SIMD size was responsible for the efficiency improvements that RDNA brought.
Moving on to RDNA 2, this new architecture will improve using the same theories and advantages that RDNA brought over GCN. What this will look like isn’t clear yet, but ray tracing seems to be a huge part of it.
AMD RDNA 2 Ray Tracing Support
With the release of the next-generation consoles, it looks like we’ll see what ray tracing support AMD can offer. The information we have on these consoles also gives us some insight into what to expect with PC graphics cards too.
Dr. Lisa Su said at CES: "I’ve said in the past that ray tracing is important, and I still believe that, but if you look at where we are today it is still very early. You should expect that our discrete graphics as we go through 2020 will also have ray tracing."
The Xbox Series X will have 52 compute units and the PlayStation 5 will have 36. These consoles will be using custom silicon from AMD with Zen 2 cores but they will be built in a compact box with tight thermals. We could end up seeing more CUs on desktop graphics cards. However, that’s pure speculation at this stage.
If the new RDNA 2 graphics cards had 80 compute units, we would end up seeing an impressive GPU with around 5,120 RDNA cores. However, that may be a bit optimistic unless the die size is also addressed. It’s important to note that the GPUs will need to allow for extra ray tracing silicon too.
AMD RDNA 2’s 50% Performance Boost
AMD has been promising a huge 50% improvement in performance per watt from the original RDNA. RDNA itself offered a 50% improvement over GCN so it certainly isn’t an unfounded promise for AMD to make.
However, it’s important to remember that RDNA’s huge improvement came from their adoption of the 7nm process. As RDNA 2 seems to be using the same process node, it’s unclear where the same level of performance boosts will come from. That’s not to say it’s impossible of course.
From what we’ve heard about the performance in the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 consoles, we can get an idea of what to expect in PC GPUs. So far, the two big highlights of RDNA 2 appear to be 4K gaming and ray tracing. This will transform what consoles are currently able to offer and we imagine we will see something similar in PC GPUs too.
Xbox Series X will offer 12 TFLOPs of performance which could be on track to outperform Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080 Super. Another interesting comparison is to look at the Radeon 5700 XT which offers 9.75 TFLOPs. This means that the tech in the Xbox Series X can pump out 20% faster speeds than AMD’s current fastest RDNA card.
How Much Will AMD RDNA 2 GPUs Cost?
If like many of us, you’re probably already sold on the next generation of AMD RDNA 2 GPUs, you’ll no doubt be wondering about the price.
Unfortunately, not a lot is known about the pricing at the moment. It’s fair to say these cards won’t come cheap and will be significantly more expensive than the 5700 XT.
As the next generation of GPUs from AMD is more than a simple upgrade - it’s a previously unaddressed section of the market - it’s hard to estimate what the pricing will be like.
AMD has been able to remain competitive on pricing when it comes to graphics cards and processors. However, it’s hard to say whether they will still be able to undercut Nvidia. The RTX 2080 Ti currently costs around $1,200 and the RTX 2080 Super is around $800. It’ll all depend on how AMD compares their new GPUs with these two models and whatever Nvidia has lined up in the future.
It’s possible that the new Big Navi cards will set you back around $700 to $1,200 but it’s anyone’s guess at the moment.
Price and performance are two key ways that AMD could really make a stand in the market. However, it’s always important to keep an eye on what Nvidia is up to at the moment.
Nvidia has its own plans with its next generation of Ampere GPUs which could certainly throw a spanner into the works of AMD’s plans to dominate the market.
It certainly seems like an interesting time to watch the graphics card market. We could very well see a year of Big Navi vs Ampere as the two graphics card giants face off head to head. Who do you think will come out on top?