We’ve been hearing about ‘Big Navi’ for a couple of months now, and at AMD’s latest Financial Analyst Day, the company divulged plenty of solid information about what we can expect. At Navi’s launch last summer, we surmised that hardware accelerated ray tracing wouldn’t make it into RDNA until about the third generation, but fortunately, that’s not the case. Instead, it’s due later this year.
Similar to how AMD iterates on the Zen name with ‘Zen 2’, and so forth, what we’ve known of ‘Big Navi’ is going to revolve around an architecture appropriately called RDNA 2. A major goal with this RDNA iteration is vast power efficiency improvements, with AMD claiming a 50% boost to the performance-per-watt. A 50% performance boost on a GPU like the RX 5700 XT would be good to see, so we hope this lives up.
The mention of hardware accelerated ray tracing was a shining moment of the Financial Day, as it’s been a feature many have wanted AMD to respond to NVIDIA’s RTX with. Like RTX, AMD’s accelerated ray tracing will take advantage of Microsoft’s DXR, and while that’s the case, it’s probably not safe to assume that Radeon GPUs will magically be able to take advantage of already-released NVIDIA RTX titles.
Another nice feature addition is variable rate shading, one that first hit the market with NVIDIA’s Turing architecture two autumns ago. In games that support VRS, detail can be lowered in areas of the scene that wouldn’t be appreciated in full detail, such as dark corners or fast motion. That in turn will improve performance, which is something rarely complained about.
Console gaming was a major focus of this RDNA 2 announcement, as both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will be bundling it inside. That being the case, we’re not entirely sure at this point if AMD is committed to bringing RDNA 2 to desktop GPUs also by the end of 2020, but we certainly hope so. With the architecture making its way into these future consoles, it seems likely AMD will be ready for the desktop, as long as global chip supply keeps healthy.
This is just one of the handful of things discussed at the Financial Day, but it’s one that deserves its own post, and focus. RDNA’s original launch admittedly left some underwhelmed since the high-end of the market wasn’t being properly battled in, but based on AMD’s promises here, RDNA 2 will have the goods to put up an even better fight for those who like to game at high frame rates or high resolutions.