OPINION: Will Navi Be Enough?

Earlier today, AMD revealed their Ryzen 3000 line in addition to their Navi GPU at their Computex keynote. The latter has been heavily rumored and speculated upon for months, and although we did not receive concrete specs from their keynote, we did receive some interesting information. It looks like we’ll have to wait till E3 for concrete specs. As for release date, it seems Navi will go on sale in July.

Source: PC Gamer

To back up briefly, AMD’s Navi architecture looks to be a direct replacement for their ageing Polaris architecture, and will be meant to serve the mid-tier power and price range of the market. AMD’s high-end offering exists in the Radeon VII meant to compete with the RTX 2080, but crucially, AMD has no enthusiast card to take on the RTX 2080 Ti.

Additionally, per the keynote, it appears Navi will depart from AMD’s ageing GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture and replace it with RDNA (Radeon DNA). To put things into perspective, GCN has been in use since 2012 and is the foundation for Polaris and Vega, including the recently launched Radeon VII. That’s how old it is.

It appears the new GPUs will be branded the Radeon RX 5000 Series, replacing the RX 400, RX 500, and Vega 56 and 64 lineup. Per AMD, the RDNA cards feature 1.25X performance per clock increase when compared to GCN cards, netting roughly a 1.5x increase in overall performance compared to GCN. This is all well and good, but it’s here where my frustrations begin.

AMD looks to be targeting the RTX 2070 with their Navi cards. Per a demo, they showed an RX 5700 outperforming the RTX 2070 by 10% in Strange Brigade at 1440p. It should be noted that Strange Brigade heavily favors AMD hardware, so while it makes sense for AMD to tout this performance gap here, take this with a massive grain of salt.

We have no word on price, but considering Nvidia’s RTX 2070 is priced at $499, I expect the RX 5700 to be priced around the same. I fully expect a cut down variant of the RX 5700 targeting Nvidia’s RTX 2060 to make an appearance down the line as well, priced at around $399 per all the latest information available.

We know per a now-deleted interview with a supposed Sapphire product manager that these Navi cards, like the Radeon VII, will not include any hardware acceleration for ray tracing, with this tech to be introduced in, “next year’s new architecture.”

This is notable because the two cards AMD is looking to compete with — the RTX 2070 and RTX 2060 — both have hardware acceleration for ray tracing, in addition to dedicated hardware for machine learning supersampling.

Why does this matter? Hardware ray tracing and machine learning supersampling are features which exist on Nvidia’s cards that won’t exist on AMD’s cards. If the rumored AMD $499 and $399 prices are to be believed, no matter what your thoughts are of ray tracing, simply having these extra features on the Nvidia cards for comparable prices gives them greater value than AMD’s Navi.

This is the same story with the Radeon VII. It’s priced similarly to the RTX 2080, but the latter card includes hardware ray tracing and machine learning supersampling. This give the RTX 2080 better value.

Moreover, with these Navi cards, we’re effectively looking at the GPUs of the next gen consoles. Considering the consoles won’t launch until next year — a full 18 months from now — these GPUs will be outdated when the consoles do launch. In that time, Nvidia will most likely have launched another generation, once again outperforming AMD.

Even though we know the PS5 will include ray tracing, we have no idea what type of ray tracing it will be, nor the quality. And if Navi will not include hardware accelerated ray tracing, I very much doubt that the ray tracing in the PS5 will match the current ray tracing quality available today on PC in Nvidia’s RTX cards.

PlayStation 4

What this means is that the next gen consoles will effectively be two generations behind at launch. This would leave us in a worse state on Day One of this new generation compared to Day One of the current generation when it launched in 2013.

So will Navi be enough? No. Based on these latest information at hand, I honestly believe Navi simply won’t be enough. AMD has frustrated me for the last four years with their total inability to create something truly high-end and revolutionary.

It looks like AMD are comfortable in simply doing more of the same. Instead of challenging Nvidia, they have completely ceded the high end and enthusiast market. From all outward appearances, it continues to appear that AMD simply don’t care. And such apathy is worse than surrendering.

I certainly hope I’m proven wrong. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will be.

Written by
A highly opinionated avid PC gamer, Poorna blindly panics with his friends in various multiplayer games, much to the detriment of his team. Constantly questioning industry practices and a passion for technological progress drive his love for the video game industry. He pulls no punches and tells it like he sees it. He runs a podcast, Gaming The Industry, with fellow writer, Joseph Bradford, discussing industry practices and their effects on consumers.

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