AMD looks to the mid-range; Nvidia still holds the high ground

Maximum PC - - 2019 TECH PREVIEW -

2018 MAY HAVE SEEN the ad­vent of ray-trac­ing for Nvidia, but Tur­ing ac­tu­ally left a lot to be de­sired. The full-fat ar­chi­tec­ture pro­vided a solid 30 per­cent per­for­mance in­crease, but as it cost over 70 per­cent more—thanks to the in­tro­duc­tion of ded­i­cated ray-trac­ing and DLSS hard­ware—that boost felt more than a lit­tle lack­lus­ter. New ar­chi­tec­ture de­signs and im­ple­men­ta­tions al­ways come with an in­creased cost to man­u­fac­ture, but this was hard to swal­low, es­pe­cially with no ti­tles upon which to test those fea­tures.

But all is not lost. Com­pe­ti­tion drives down prices, mo­ti­vates in­no­va­tion, and brings a bet­ter so­lu­tion for all of us. It’s all down to AMD. Navi is the name of the game, and we should be ex­pect­ing this some time in the sec­ond half of 2019. This 7nm GPU will be man­u­fac­tured by TSMC, the same com­pany pump­ing out AMD’s Zen 2 chips. We don’t know a huge amount about Navi just yet, other than ru­mors cir­cu­lat­ing that it’s be­ing po­si­tioned as a mid-range GPU right now, as op­posed to any­thing ca­pa­ble of tak­ing on the high end. This is in­ter­est­ing, be­cause if it does pack a big enough punch at the right price in the mid-range, it may very well pull down the pric­ing of Nvidia’s other of­fer­ings at the top, as it reshuf­fles its en­tire ar­se­nal to com­pen­sate. And as we know from ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s the mid-range cards that hold the most clout when it comes to profit and mar­ket share.

That said, even if AMD doesn’t make a huge amount of bank in the world of the PC en­thu­si­ast, its Radeon brand is as­suredly safe, thanks to its im­mense dom­i­nance in the world of con­sole com­put­ing, and, boy, is that a big mar­ket to con­trol. Does that mean this is the end of AMD at the high end? Prob­a­bly. Can we ex­pect Nvidia prices to keep climb­ing? Well, un­less an­other man­u­fac­turer comes out with a com­plete curve ball in terms of how we ren­der in-game graph­ics, it’s look­ing likely that its dom­i­nance in this mar­ket is as­sured.


That said, we’re still ex­pect­ing a few re­leases from Nvidia some time this year: a Tur­ing (or re­badged Pas­cal) vari­ant of the RTX 2060, and we’re seem­ingly still miss­ing a Ti­tan of some description, too, although we’d be sur­prised if that wasn’t any less than $1,900, for one ex­tra GB of GDDR6, a few CUDA cores, and some de­vel­oper fea­tures. The 2060 is also of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est, and it’ll mostly come down to the nomen­cla­ture Nvidia de­cides to use. If it’s a GTX card, and Nvidia for­sakes the RTX hard­ware (which would make the most sense, given its lack­lus­ter per­for­mance, even at 1080p, on the 2070), then it could be quite the im­pres­sive value card.

Spec-wise, we’d ex­pect around 1,920 CUDA cores, and po­ten­tially ei­ther 8GB or 6GB of GDDR5X, as op­posed to GDDR6. That should then per­form quite nicely at around 60fps at 1440p. Although this is, of course, all spec­u­la­tive.

We’ve al­ready seen some pre­lim­i­nary fig­ures leaked on­line, most no­tably in Fi­nalFan­ta­syXV’s bench­mark, where a sup­posed RTX 2060 scored 2,589 points at 4K; in com­par­i­son, the GTX 1060 scored 1,985 points to­tal. As ex­pected, that’s an in­crease of around 30 per­cent in per­for­mance.

Although this hasn’t been confirmed of­fi­cially, the card also re­tained its RTX nomen­cla­ture. If we did see RTX hard­ware make the cut, it’d likely be 24 RT cores and 192 Ten­sor cores—a lit­tle low for true ray-trac­ing or DLSS sup­port. DLSS is ar­guably go­ing to be more im­por­tant at 1080p gam­ing than ray-trac­ing, but even so, there’s still no word on price.

Could we see an RTX 1060 with­out the RTX heavy­weight hard­ware? A full-fat Tur­ing die.

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