Graphic card debuts are relatively uncommon at events like CES 2019, with unveilings normally happening at conferences like GDC and GTC where engineering and AI development is synonymous with PC graphical processing—or to a lesser degree, PC gaming showcases.
However, things took a different turn when Nvidia had their off-floor introduction of the GeForce RTX 2060, a Turing-based graphics card that now takes the reins as their attainable mainstream option for 1440p ray-tracing gaming. The PC master race joyously cheered and all seemed good.
Except AMD had a surprise of their own with the semi-ceremonious reveal of the upcoming Radeon VII. The long-awaited successor to the first-gen RX Vega GPUs from a couple years ago, that were supposed to mark the triumphant return of competitive gaming cards. It could be heavily debated on how effective those efforts were, considering the initial buzz was met with lukewarm critics—and probably cooler buyer reception due to the cryptocurrency bubble—and indiscriminate price gouging by vendors against the GeForce GTX.
But why should you care about any of this? Well, if you’re a loyal PC gamer and still waiting to pull that trigger, these announcements couldn’t have come at a better time. Nvidia is heartily promoting raw power and pseudo-implementation of ray-tracing which aides in realistic environmental lighting, and DLSS antialiasing that improves imaging performance and resources for ultra-high definition scaled presentation. Meanwhile, AMD is taking a comparatively efficient approach with a enhanced revision of their Vega architecture and a 7nm process that’s not only smaller but quicker too—handily beating a RTX 2080 if early benchmarks are to be believed. All of which will be confirmed by February.
The general specs are nothing to scoff at with 60 compute units and 3,840 stream processors running up to 1.8GHz. AMD claims, on average, 29% more gaming performance than the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 GPU. Additional features include 16GB of HBM2 memory, 1TB/s memory bandwidth (2.1x the Radeon RX Vega 64), and a 4,096-bit memory interface. Aside from being a gamer’s delight, content creators and visual designers will benefit immensely with the VII.
In a weird twist, AMD unleashed a flagship card while Nvidia touted something affordable that most people can pick up today. Or course, the goals are different but that didn’t stop Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang from throwing shade upon the premiere of the VII, saying that the performance was “Underwhelming” and “Lousy”, while also putting the newly unlocked compatibility of FreeSync support on blast by saying that “we invented the area of adaptive sync. The truth is most of the FreeSync monitors do not work. They do not even work with AMD’s graphics cards.”
Those are some harsh words, but AMD’s Lisa Su was unfazed telling reporters that “I would probably suggest he hasn’t seen it.” Then she finished and kept it classy by saying “I’m not gonna get into it tit for tat that’s just not my style.” Huang also took shots at Intel and their planned return to the GPU market by joking on how their team is former AMD employees, which there is some truth behind. Regardless, it doesn’t appear as if either camp will be backing down for their own piece of the segmented pie.
In its own right, the RTX 2060 looks like a good mainstream ray-tracing option having since experienced the potential of the original RTX 2080 through needed firmware updates. In my opinion, the entire range has finally become a redeemable high-end contender brought to life—and I’m interested in testing the RTX 2070 and RTX 2060 (hint, hint Nvidia).
Acknowledging this, I’m highly anticipating on what the Radeon VII truly has to offer. AMD has always played the unlikely favorite, and the idea of getting more bang out of seemingly less is too intriguing to pass up for review. We hope to know more and find out for ourselves hands-on next month.