For a while, AMD has taken the back seat as Nvidia firmly led the GPU market. Now that AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture is coming, many are wondering if this is finally the move that will challenge Nvidia and lead to an all-out price war where the consumers will end up being the true winners.
When AMD Navi launched back in July of 2019 with the Radeon RX 5700 XT and RX 5700 GPUs, there was genuine excitement in the air. AMD finally released something that was able to compete with Nvidia’s offering, although in the mid-range segment only. That enthusiasm wasn’t all about the new release – it was also about this mystic feeling that AMD was cooking up a storm to throw at Nvidia.
- September 19, 2020: Changed the image to one showing an actual AMD Radeon RX 6000 series GPU and added leaked benchmarks.
- September 18, 2020: Confirmed the launch date.
- August 10, 2020: Added the Quadro competitor rumored release date and additional memory type clarification.
- August 9, 2020: Added the speculated memory numbers as well as Navi 31 and Navi 41 rumors.
- August 5, 2020: Added additional specification rumors.
- August 3, 2020: Confirmed the 80 CUs number and clarified it.
- August 1, 2020: Added new performance leaks and the exact rumored release date.
- July 30, 2020: Addressed the rumors about AMD using HBM for RDNA 2.
- July 26, 2020: Rounded off the section about the superiority over RTX 2080 Ti with rumors about RTX 3080’s improvement.
‘AMD Big Navi‘ is the name we used to describe this upcoming technology as well as ‘AMD Navi 2X‘, but AMD hasn’t directly referred to either as final titles.
Internally, AMD refers to it as the ‘Nvidia Killer,’ which can be a slippery slope in the tech industry. There are lots of examples of companies branding their new releases as the ‘something killer’ and things working out marvelously, but instead of “killing” the competition, the product ends up being a disaster.
The key contributing factor to the AMD RDNA 2 hype is that it was announced that it will part of the graphical architecture on the next-gen consoles – the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X. The tech demo below shows some of the things that this technology is capable of.
However, before we fully board the hype train, it’s vital to mention that this is a supposed tech demo for the next generation of video game consoles and it wouldn’t be the first time the showcased visuals are not what we get when the technology s released.
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One important question lingered for a while: Will AMD RDNA 2 be released before or after the arrival of the next-generation gaming consoles? With heavy rumors surrounding the supposed original launch date, which was at Computex 2020 in June 2020, and with the current global situation possibly pushing back the releases of next-gen gaming consoles, it is now confirmed that we’ll get AMD RDNA 2 before the PS5 and the Xbox Series X.
Interestingly, this will go against the previous console generation jumps where the graphics chips first appeared on consoles before hitting the PC market.
After Computex 2020 got canceled, it put AMD in an interesting position for their reveal. Chances are that we are going to get an online reveal from AMD this year, the same way Nvidia presented their RTX 3000 series.
In late April, in a Q1 2020 AMD earnings call, CEO Lisa Su 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.”
During the Bank of America 2020 Securities Global Technology Conference, AMD’s CFO David Kumar confirmed that the RDNA 2 architecture will run through their entire stack, which is certainly good, but the most interesting piece of news that came out from that conference, is that desktop GPUs will hit the market before RDNA 2 makes its debut on consoles.
With that heavily-rumored November release, it’s very likely that AMD’s desktop GPUs will launch around the same time as their chips inside the next-gen consoles. This is a perfect time for AMD to release their product as they’ll be able to market their graphics cards using the PS5 and Xbox Series X clout.
As announced on September 9, Radeon will welcome its latest members to the family, the RX 6000 card on October 28, 2020. This means that their cards will come roughly a month after their Nvidia competitor’s flagship.
A possible benefit this will give AMD is that they will be able to see how Nvidia is pricing their tech, but also have access to reviews, user impressions, and most importantly, benchmarks. However, seeing how Nvidia completely blew everyone away with their new releases’ performance and pricing, AMD is in a really tough spot.
An important note – it is still somewhat unclear whether that October 28 date will be the reveal date, or an actual launch date. Either way, we’re going to pay close attention to it.
The newest rumors suggest that AMD is planning a Q1 2021 launch for their Quadro competitor, but from this perspective, it appears that both AMD and Nvidia are playing chess and there is very little information available.
With AMD’s CPUs reigning supreme over Intel, it’s safe to say that this year was the year of AMD’s great awakening.
There were some trusted leakers that speculated Big Navi’s October 7 release, but now it has become clear that this will in fact be the launch of their CPU Zen 3 architecture and that it’ll happen on October 8, 2020.
It’s interesting to note that this same info came from the same leaker who suggested that Big Navi won’t be competing with RTX 3080 Ti and is likely going to go against RTX 3080 which appears more and more truthful,
This move could see AMD pull something they did in the last generation and undercut Nvidia’s prices in the competing performance range, except this time, AMD is aiming a little higher.
As mentioned before, when AMD came out with their Navi lineup in 2019, they competed with Nvidia, but never really challenged their top-of-the-line products like the RTX 2080 Ti. One of the main points of interest for AMD RDNA 2 is the probability that it’ll go for the throat and bring a proper GPU war.
So, while the price hasn’t really been announced, there’s plenty of speculation going on and quite a few educated guesses. One good point is that AMD traditionally provides more affordable price points than Nvidia, although, with a flagship tech like RDNA 2, one has to wonder if it’s worth it to keep the price lower.
This way of undercutting Nvidia’s prices has been fruitful as Nvidia was forced to lower the prices on its Super cards at the last moment, so one might think that AMD will gamble on it again.
There’s another interesting theory that AMD has something special in store in the ray-tracing department. If that’s the case, we might see AMD’s higher tier GPUs potentially get an upper hand over its Nvidia counterparts and, thus, be pricier than what Nvidia has to offer. Seeing how Nvidia’s RTX 3080 is being sold at the $699 mark, it’s likely that AMD will follow suit and make their top RDNA 2 cards be at around the same point.
Some recent leaks indicate that AMD’s 16 GB card will be priced at $599 which might confirm the repeat of last generation’s price undercutting tactic, but given the performance leaks, we shouldn’t be so fast to rush to conclusions.
AMD’s RDNA 2 mid-range cards meant to compete with the likes of RTX 3060 and RTX 3070 are also likely to challenge Nvidia’s price points to further establish its spot in that mid-range segment.
Specifications And Features
The biggest talking points regarding AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture are that it will feature ray tracing, and also enable the much-desired 4K gaming experience. While this has been a stable characteristic for Nvidia’s RTX series since 2018, AMD has been notably murky with their response. Until now.
Another thing being talked up is the support for variable rate shading and mesh shaders, although that was sort of expected at this point.
RDNA 2 is the successor to RDNA, which in turn is the successor to GCN. What enabled RDNA to be such a step-up was the alignment of wavefront size to SIMD size, but also the improvement in the efficiency department.
Part of the reason for this improvement was the switch from 14nm process to 7nm which is something RDNA 2 can’t repeat as they’ll stick to the 7nm process.
AMD’s CEO, Lisa Su, really played up the remarkable promise of 50% performance per Watt improvement over RDNA, which itself boasted the same improvement over its predecessor, GCN. This may seem promising, but it feels a little too good to be true.
One area where AMD has the high ground is the all but confirmed 72 computing units which firmly surpasses RTX 2080 Ti’s 68. It’s interesting to note that RTX 3080 has 68 SMs (streaming multiprocessors) exactly like its predecessor.
This number seems to be exclusive for PC models, as Sony and Microsoft have already announced 56 and 52 computing units for the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X, respectively. The number is still a decent increase from the 40 computing units in the 5700 XT.
Where AMD needs to step it up is in its implementation of ray tracing. It needs to be picture-perfect, and it’s safe to assume that they’ll introduce a deep-learning engine like Nvidia has done with their ray tracing hardware. It’s simply a requirement to have good denoising AI to keep the performance smooth.
Microsoft has been talking about the Xbox Series X and has quoted that the RDNA 2-powered GPU’s ability to offer up 12TFLOPS (terra-FLOPS) of performance is an improvement over the 5700 XT’s 9.75TFLOPS, but still lags behind RTX 2080 Ti’s 14.2TFLOPS. Of course, both Microsoft and Sony use their custom silicone so we can’t assume that RDNA 2 will be the same. Then again, TFLOPS performance isn’t always the most precise indicator of gaming performance.
It appears that AMD is following Nvidia’s lead and abandoning their blower-style coolers in favor of axial coolers. This means that the hot air won’t be blowing out of the case, but instead be vented inside which shouldn’t worry enthusiasts, but may need amateur PC builders to enhance their in-case airflow techniques.
All indications point to RDNA 2 using GDDR6 memory across the board which is interesting seeing how most Nvidia rumors are suggesting that they will use GDDR6X.
However, the latest leaks for the driver code suggest that RDNA 2 will use HBM, something AMD didn’t shy away from in the past. There are even rumors about RDNA 2 featuring a brand new HBM2e technology, but the common belief is that if that technology is to be unleashed it would first come to professional-grade graphics cards.
Some sources suggest that AMD will use both HBM and a “next-gen GDDR6” memory in their RDNA 2 products.
One of the biggest reasons why this information should be taken with a grain of salt is that AMD looks to very competitive with Nvidia in this generation and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have an objectively more expensive memory when they’re looking at every possible nook and cranny to find that competitive edge.
There are however, some pretty strong rumors nodding towards the flagship variant having 16GB of GDDR6 VRAM, while a notch-below version should have 12GB, also GDDR6.
By far, the most interesting part of this recent news, is that the flagship Big Navi will offer a huge 512-bit bus width, and that the lesser variant will have 384-bit bus width. Both of these are a major step up from RX 5700 XT’s 256-bit. Another reason why these are exciting news is that rumored RTX 3080 and RTX 3080 Ti’s bus width is at “only” 384-bit.
As far as connectivity goes, none has been confirmed but it’s pretty much expected that RDNA 2 will feature HDMI 2.1 support, but there’s a discussion regarding DisplayPort 2.0. It was officially released in 2019, with predictions that it won’t hit the consumer market until late 2020 – around the same time the next generation of GPUs is coming out.
195-225% Faster Than RDNA? 40-50% faster than RTX 2080 Ti?
Like everything, we have to preface this by saying that these are leaked numbers and are subject to a change. However, sources remained pretty much in line with these numbers ever since the first rumors came out.
That 40-50% upgrade over RTX 2080 Ti is truly something to behold and why this can be considered confirmed is that sources within Nvidia have actually stated that these are the same numbers they have.
This upgrade is certainly commendable, but the fact remains that RTX 3080 is roughly 80-90% better than RTX 2080 Ti.
However, the indications for RTX 3070 seem to have it at ‘only’ 20-30% faster than 2080 Ti which would put AMD’s flagship (likely RX 6900 XT) somewhere between the RTX 3070 and RTX 3080, something that has been suggested by some YouTubers with a good reputation.
Seeing how 3080 is being touted as Nvidia’s flagship, it appears that the gap between these two competitors is shrinking.
It seems like AMD is firing on all cylinders as there are pretty good points regarding the 7% IPC increase. The leakers have remained on the cautious side and actually proclaimed that the IPS upgrade will be at least 7%, with some suggesting it could go up to 10%.
June 2020 Leak
There is a reason why this one isn’t grouped with other rumors and that is simply because many tech insiders have deemed it fake. Still, it’s important to discuss stuff issues like these as well.
The core of this leak takes three slides from an alleged AMD presentation about what appears to be their flagship 6900 XT card. We’ll look at each slide individually.
First up, we have the specs.
We see that that the 80 compute units number has remained in range with other rumors, but 22.73 TFLOPs are vastly superior to the RTX 2080 Ti’s 13.45 TFLOPs. Still, with the rumors of Nvidia’s unnamed card having 33 TFLOPs, this falls short. It’s important to note that Nvidia’s card can easily be an enthusiast-class card and not intended for the consumer market altogether.
Next up are the commendable 14GB of GDDR6 RAM, that outperform the 11GB that Nvidia’s 2080 Ti offers.
Poised to best the best of Nvidia’s current-gen is the 18Gbps memory bandwidth, and from the RTX 3000 rumors, that speed is set to challenge the best of Nvidia’s next-generation GPUs as well.
The clock speeds continue in the same vein: Good enough to beat what Nvidia has to offer with its RTX 2000 series while remaining competitive with the RTX 3000 series.
Next up, we have the graph comparing the RX 6900 XT to the RTX 2080 Ti, touting the former as the “ultimate 4K gaming experience”.
This graph is quite consistent with what the supposed specifications are pointing to- RDNA 2 will be better than the best card from the RTX 2000 series. Where this graph can be called deceitful by some people, is in its comparison to two-year-old tech, when it should instead be comparing the RX 6900 XT to the RTX 3000 series which will be released roughly around the same time.
Of course, AMD doesn’t have access to RTX 3000 series’ performance numbers, but it’s still not a good comparison to make. It would be better if AMD had just omitted the comparisons.
The last slide appears to point out that RDNA 2 cards will not get a big FPS drop-off when turning on real-time raytracing.
August Leak Confirms 80 Compute Units And More
Over the last few days, there have been numerous leakers and insiders who have come out and confirmed that Big Navi will have those long-rumored 80 CUs. However, there appears to be a significant caveat. Those 80 CUs will probably only be featured in the very top of the GPU line, while those lower on the totem pole will likely be in the 72 CUs range.
This is still an improvement over RDNA, but it’s not a lot more than Nvidia’s flagship RTX 3080 or previous generation best offering RTX 2080 Ti.
These 80 CUs translate into 5,120 stream processors which if run at 1700MHz means that Big Navi is looking at 17.5 teraflops per second which blows RTX 2080 Ti’s 13.45 TFLOPs, but falls short of RTX 3080 Ti’s rumored 21 TFLOPs.
RDNA 3? RDNA 4?
There have reported sightings of a card with a Navi 31 code and this brought everyone out to speculate.
Is it going to be the next generation after RDNA 2? That would mean that AMD plans on releasing a new GPU series next year, and possibly continuing that model for some time. This would put a big strain on Nvidia to retain its top status in the GPU world.
Since the leak comes from a screenshot of AMD’s macOS 11 “Big Sur”, it appears pretty legitimate, but shrouded in mystery.
Another things that’s a bit tougher to believe in is the Navi 41 code spotted in the wild. As plans for RDNA 3 are still very much an unknown, it’s obvious that RDNA 4 is even further away.
However, some have speculated that these are simply the code names for AMD’s upcoming enthusiast-class GPUs.
Possible Models And How They’ll Compare
There are some important and admittedly worrying signs for AMD RDNA 2 models. One of the key features – ray tracing – appears to only be present on top-tier GPUs and maybe some mid-range ones.
The flagship appears to be in line for a Navi 21 title and is likely going be at least on par with the best of the best from Nvidia.
There was also talk regarding the name of the series not being RX 6000, but now it has been confirmed that they will in fact have that name. It is now rumored that the models will be called RX 6090 XT, RX 6080 XT, and RX 6070 XT.
There is still a little uncertainty if all of these will be upgraded versions considering the suffix. Some believe that there won’t be base versions at all, but the more likely scenario is that AMD will repeat the naming convention as well as variant offering of the RX 5000 series and have a base and an ‘XT’ version.
Barring some unforeseen technological advancements or AMD’s lunacy, this model will likely be in the ~$600-$900 range. Then there’s the mid-tier GPU that’ll more likely aim to be less pricey than its Nvidia competition, but probably not by much.
The latest leaks have confirmed the existence of both Navi 22 and Navi 23, with the former likely being a mid-range GPU and the latter being a budget option. As things stand, these look like RX 6070 and RX 6080.
Is AMD RDNA 2 Finally A Worthy Opponent For Nvidia?
This is what it all boils down to. The rumored Navi 21 model, that’ll likely be the first one released under the RDNA 2 banner, appears to outshine the RTX 2080 Ti. However, Nvidia 3000 series’ flagship RTX 3080 also outperforms 2080 Ti, and by a slightly larger margin than that rumored for Navi 21.
So while AMD will finally put out something competing, it does not seem that it will change anything about Nvidia’s dominant market cap. If you’re here for our RTX 3080 giveaway, the secret code is ‘RX 6000 Series‘.