Like so many other things, the GPUs of the 21st century have been improving at an exponential rate, matching gamers and enthusiasts ever-growing demands for power and efficiency. The current batch of GPUs offers up more than enough power to drive even the most demanding games, whilst workstation alternatives have seen dramatic improvements in rendering completion times.
That being said (and with the speed at which GPUs are currently evolving), what does the near future hold for the graphics industry? We’ll be taking a look at the current batch of GPUs and what they are capable of, then take a brief look at the next generation of cards to see how they might differ. We’ll also be looking at Intel’s Xe graphics alongside the improvements we’ll likely see in the integrated graphics sector.
So, with all that in mind, let’s waste no further time and dive straight into it!
Today’s GPUs are an exciting mix of high-performance, budget-oriented, and aesthetically pleasing variants – most of which cater to a specific level of gaming or workstation scenario.
At the bottom of the ladder, we find the latest APU integrated graphics processors. The 3200G/3400G from AMD offers up the best performance as far as integrated graphics go. Playing non-intensive games on one of these yields pretty good results, however, as we’ll later discover, the next-gen of integrated graphics is going to make current offerings look extremely dated.
Looking at discrete graphics and the latest from both camps offer up fantastic affordability and performance alike. From AMD, we have the Navi-based RX 5000 series GPUs which landed a year ago. They shook the Nvidia cage for the first time in years, making their bitter rivals lower the price of their RTX 2000 SUPER series of cards in order to keep things competitive. At the higher end of the AMD GPU hierarchy sits the hugely popular RX 5700 XT, the first GPU to utilize the 7nm process node and RDNA architecture. This GPU offers up fantastic performance which challenges Nvidia’s RTX 2060 SUPER on all fronts – whilst being slightly cheaper. This GPU pushes well over 100FPS in mainstream AAA titles and showcases some of the best value for money in today’s market.
On the other side of the GPU pond, we find Nvidia doing their thing. Nvidia pretty much dominates the GPU market from the mid-range GPU sector and above. Their ray-tracing series of graphics cards were the first to utilize the new RTX technology, giving Nvidia an even bigger advantage over AMD. At the top of the GPU ladder sits the mighty RTX 2080 Ti, a card that currently retails at well over $1000 and provides the highest level of gaming performance you can find. That being said, however, thanks to Nvidia’s new GPUs (which are set to launch this year), the RTX 2080TI looks to no longer be the king of the roost.
There has been a lot of speculation surrounding the launch of the hugely-anticipated RTX 3000 series GPUs, with some reports claiming that customers could see the performant RTX 3080 and RTX 3080 Ti hit shelves as soon as 17th September. The RTX 3000 ‘Ampere’ line of GPUs is set to replace the entire RTX 2000 ‘Turing’ portfolio which is currently in circulation, providing gamers with the highest levels of both image quality and performance. With reports from China stating that the Nvidia RTX 2070 SUPER has officially been discontinued, we can only assume that the next generation ‘Ampere’ cards are almost ready to launch – we hope.
When the RTX 3080 Ti eventually becomes available, it will feature the GA102-300-A1 GPU – it is said to comprise of 5248 CUDA cores. This, in comparative terms, gives the RTX 3080 Ti a 20% increase in core count over the RTX 2080 Ti. Looking at memory, the RTX 3080 Ti will offer up the same 12GB of VRAM , but will be the faster GDDR6 variant. Since that’s a 384-bit bus, the 3080 Ti should be able to offer almost 1TB/s bandwidth. Ultimately, it looks like Nvidia will continue to hold the crown when it comes to high-end gaming GPUs – for now anyway.
The rumours around AMD’s Big Navi Radeon RX graphics cards are really starting to heat up recently, especially after recent rumours from a Chinese forum stating that the enthusiast-level GPUs could offer 16GB of VRAM.
Whilst we still have very little information when regarding the Big Navi configurations or specifications, there are active rumours floating around that state there will be at least four SKUs of the Navi21 GPU (Navi21 XTX, Navi21 XT, Navi21 XL, Navi21 XE). Despite these rumours being nothing more than that – rumours, it’s still likely that we’ll see their arrival sometime in the near future. Once we do, it’ll be the first time in, well, ever, that AMD tries to tackle Nvidia at the higher end of the GPU market.
We haven’t seen a dedicated Intel GPU since the i740 from back in 1998, however, that’s all about to change thanks to Intel’s latest Xe graphics. Competition is extremely fierce amongst the best graphics cards in current times, so it’ll be very interesting to see where the Intel Xe graphics fit in. At the time of writing, we still know very little about the internal workings of Intel’s Xe graphics. However, what we do know is that Intel will definitely be releasing their own entry into the GPU marketplace – and soon. There will be a number of iterations released within the Xe graphics range, with each catering towards a different budgetary demographic.
We’ve already seen DG1 – a developer-focused card – and seen some early unofficial benchmarks; 70% faster than a Ryzen 7 4800U. There are still driver optimizations to be made and this was an early sample so performance can only get better.
Intel’s Xe graphics could even offer up baked-in support for Ray-tracing – an area where AMD still falls behind.
Despite there being very little information on the new discrete GPUs from Intel, we can safely say that they too will be making an appearance in the near future.
Integrated graphics have come a long way over the last couple of years, especially after we saw the arrival of AMD’s APU lineup. Since then, APU sales have shot through the roof, mainly down to their ability to play less-intensive games at relatively good frame rates. The newest APUs to arrive from AMD are the 4000 ‘Renoir’ processors, however, they’re OEM-only at the moment and whilst the graphics configuration is changed, it’s still based on the same Vega architecture as the 3000 series. What we’re more interested in, is the next generation of APUs after ‘Renoir’.
These APUs are set to ditch the old Vega graphics and upgrade to something much more powerful and efficient – Navi. AMD’s 5000 series APUs will be much more powerful than what we’re used to, bringing far greater gaming performance to the budget-oriented price spectrum. If looking back over the previous generations of APU is anything to go by, we’ll likely see higher core and thread counts, greater base/boost clock speeds, and new Zen technology come to fruition in the APUs of the future – all great news for budding gamers who aren’t looking to spend a fortune.
Whilst the future of graphics cards is still up in the air, the GPUs you can buy right now still offer up a plethora of exciting choices. Below, we’ve outlined some of our most popular graphics card pages to help you choose which is best for your specific needs.
So, there you have it, our comprehensive guide on the future of graphics cards and what they can offer from a gaming and workstation point of view. Despite full details of future graphics card development still being fairly cloudy, it’s safe to say that it’s looking bright for gamers across the entirety of the price spectrum.
Whilst things are looking up, over the next couple of decades we’re likely to see performance power flatten out at the higher-end of the GPU spectrum. As speculative as this is, we still feel this is the probable path GPU power will take. On the plus side, we’ll likely see the gap between the low-end and high-end reduced, with better performance becoming available for the lowest of budgetary needs.
Why not drop us a comment in the section below letting us know what you feel the future of graphics holds. Better still, you can now head on over to our Community Hub where you can discuss everything PC related with like-minded individuals.