AMD Radeon’s Fight For The Future of GPUs In 2020

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RTX 3000 has just been announced, and NVIDIA’s claims have made it clear that it is squarely the dominant player in the computer graphics chip market. Despite the lack of comparison metrics, such as benchmarks, NVIDIA was quite clear in the prowess of the new parts. This leaves AMD’s Radeon Technologies in a position where they would be really scrambling to act and counter NVIDIA’s newer releases.

AMD Radeon’s Recent Releases – The Promise of RDNA

Both RX 5500 XT and RX 5600 XT Navi GPU
AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT and 5600 XT, built on RDNA architecture

If we take a look back at recent AMD Radeon releases and their product lineup currently on sale, there is a lack of straight competition between the two players in the high-end consumer space. NVIDIA’s top consumer GPU, the RTX 2080 Ti has no equal branded with a Radeon badge, or any badge, for that matter.

The last GPU that AMD released that was priced and targeted to compete against NVIDIA’s -80 Ti GPUs was the Radeon Vega 64, and even that GPU was handily beaten by the 1080 Ti in several tests, especially gaming. That combined with its inflated demand and prices during the Bitcoin mining boom in 2017 derailed Vega 64 as a viable option that could compete with the best of NVIDIA’s. AMD, save for the solitary release of the Radeon VII, laid waiting for RDNA.

AMD Radeon VII Graphics Card
AMD did beat everyone to the punch with the Radeon VII on a 7nm process, yet it failed to make it a convincing buy over existing options, and eventually discontinuing the Radeon VII prematurely, without a succeeding product to replace it.
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RDNA is AMD’s current GPU microarchitecture, that is present in the RX 5000 series. Since its announcement, AMD has teased top-end GPUs based on RDNA as well, and the press has nicknamed them “Big Navi”. Always around the corner, RDNA 2 seems to be finally coming October this year, hopefully with a top-end GPU. But what does this release need to have to go toe-to-toe against the dominant NVIDIA?

NVIDIA launched its RTX brand in 2018, and that dominated the press for its touted prowess at being “game-changing” with its use of Ray Tracing and Deep Learning Super-sampling (DLSS). And this claim was fairly well backed up: Ray Tracing did move a lot of games and the direction in which graphics advanced towards where NVIDIA would have wanted it, while DLSS made higher-resolution gaming smoother without simple raw GPU processing speed limiting its fidelity. Both these technologies utilize proprietary technology and specific components in the GPU (Tensor and RT Cores) to run properly, thus making older NVIDIA and all AMD cards unable to replicate these technologies.

Radeon’s Progress vs NVIDIA’s Advancements

AMD-Navi-RDNA-2
AMD-Navi-RDNA-2

However, AMD CEO Lisa Su did confirm back in 2019, that they are “deep in ray-tracing development”, although their first RDNA GPUs were not made with that technology in mind at all. Perhaps we may see some progress there, because AMD indeed has demonstrated ray-tracing technology, dubbed Radeon ProRender, and it was actually released before Nvidia’s 2018 announcement of RTX. Additionally, the 9th generation of consoles, from both Microsoft and Sony, do place a strong emphasis on RT, and both run AMD hardware and RDNA 2 GPUs on top of that. Thus, AMD clearly seems to be working towards the goal of getting Ray Tracing hardware in their consumer GPUs as well. It has been speculated that their approach towards RT in games will be a “hybrid” software and hardware-based approach, but we are yet to see any advances on that claim.

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But it’s still not just RT and DLSS, although they are the key features of the new NVIDIA offerings, AMD still has ground to cover and match NVIDIA’s software advances, such as RTX Audio and such other technologies. They have been interesting applications of their hardware and have generally received positive reviews from critics and consumers alike. If Big Navi is to be made a convincing alternative, it has to answer Nvidia wherever possible and then some.

Can Radeon Do What Ryzen Did For CPUs?

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 for 8K 60 FPS Gaming with RTX On
Radeon has to answer this, the RTX 3090, to make itself a direct competitor to Nvidia’s best once again.

AMD’s CPU division has made its place clear in their respective space with Ryzen, but Radeon still needs a proper resurgence, and it has become much more important after the new shift brought upon by RT. AMD did make NVIDIA move quickly after the lukewarm response of the RTX 20 series, with Radeon RDNA 2 parts being used in the next-gen PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles and bringing competition to the gaming hardware market space, but that still is not a straight fight. The more direct the competition is, the more it is beneficial for consumers like us, as we have already seen with CPUs since 2017. Till then, we have to wait for the next announcement by AMD related to RDNA 2 hardware.

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We’ll keep you updated on any new RDNA 2 announcements as they arrive. Until then, you can read our review of RDNA 1 Graphics cards and how they provide a marginally better value if you don’t care about ray tracing.

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Yatharth Sood
Intern Writer at TechQuila. Amateur photographer on Instagram. EE undergrad student at MIT, Manipal.

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