Kicking off at this moment is AMD’s Computex 2016 keynote. The company has multiple announcements scheduled this evening, but we’re going to jump right into an area that has been of extreme interest for many of our readers: GPUs.

Ahead of this evening’s event, AMD sent out an email to the press teasing the first of their discrete Polaris architecture based cards. Called the Radeon RX 480, AMD has unveiled much of the product’s specifications, but also its price and availability. When the card hits the streets on June 29th, it will be starting at the crucial mainstream battleground price point of $199.

AMD Radeon GPU Specification Comparison
  AMD Radeon RX 480 AMD Radeon R9 390X AMD Radeon R9 390 AMD Radeon R9 380
Stream Processors 2304
(36 CUs)
(44 CUs)
(40 CUs)
(28 CUs)
Texture Units (Many) 176 160 112
ROPs (A Positive Integer) 64 64 32
Boost Clock >1.08GHz 1050MHz 1000MHz 970MHz
Memory Clock 8Gbps GDDR5 5Gbps GDDR5 5Gbps GDDR5 5.5Gbps GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 512-bit 512-bit 256-bit
Transistor Count ? 6.2B 6.2B 5.0B
Typical Board Power 150W 275W 275W 190W
Manufacturing Process GloFo 14nm FinFET TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm
Architecture GCN 4 GCN 1.1 GCN 1.1 GCN 1.2
GPU Polaris 10? Hawaii Hawaii Tonga
Launch Date 06/29/16 06/18/15 06/18/15 06/18/15
Launch Price $199 $429 $329 $199

First off, the RX 480 will include 36 CUs. If we assume 64 stream processors to a CU – the GCN standard – then this brings us to 2304 SPs. AMD has not named the specific Polaris GPU being used here, but given the CU count I believe it’s reasonable to assume that this is a Polaris 10 SKU, as I’ve already seen Polaris 11 and it’s a very small chip better suited for notebooks.

AMD also revealed that the card would offer over 5 TFLOPs of compute performance. Given what we know about the CU count, this allows us to estimate the GPU clockspeed. This puts the lower bound of the GPU clockspeed at 1.08GHz and an upper bound (6 TFLOPs) at 1.3GHz, which would be in the range of 10-30% higher clocked than comparable Radeon 300 series cards.

In terms of raw numbers this puts the RX 480 just shy of the current Radeon R9 390. However it also doesn’t take into account the fact that one of the major focuses for Polaris will be in improving architectural efficiency. I would certainly expect that even at the lower end of clockspeed estimates, RX 480 could pull ahead of the R9 390, in which case we’re looking at a part that would deliver performance between the R9 390 and R9 390X, with final clockspeeds and architectural efficiency settling just how close to R9 390X the new card gets.

On the memory front the card is equipped with 8Gbps GDDR5, running along a 256-bit memory bus. This is the typical bus width for AMD x80-series cards, and the high clocked 8Gbps GDDR5 means that we’re looking at a total of 256GB/sec of memory bandwidth to feed the RX 480’s GPU. AMD’s partners will be offering both 4GB and 8GB cards, and for the purposes of this teaser I assume that pricing information will be for the 4GB card, with 8GB serving as a premium option.

Finally, AMD has also revealed the TDP for the RX 480, stating that it will be a 150W card. As Polaris is built on 14nm FinFET, we’re seeing first-hand the benefits of finally making the long-awaited jump off of 28nm, as this means we’re looking at Radeon R9 390 series performance in a card that, on paper, consumes only a bit more than half the power. This also puts the RX 480 right in the sweet spot for mainstream cards, as 150W has traditionally struck a good balance between performance and power consumption that allows for a fast card that doesn’t require aggressive cooling, and is more compatible with OEM computer vendor case & cooling designs.

Cementing its place as a mainstream card, the RX 480 pricing will start at $199. This is an aggressive and heavily fought over price point that has traditionally defined the mainstream segment, attracting buyers who want great 1080p gaming performance that sub-$150 value cards can’t offer, without moving up to more expensive (and power hungry) $300+ cards. In this sense the RX 480 is a direct replacement for the R9 380, AMD’s Tonga-based card that hit the market roughly a year ago at the same price. Going by the raw numbers alone, RX 480 would be 40% (or more) faster than the R9 380.

Meanwhile I won’t speculate too much on the competitive market from a teaser, but it’s worth noting that this is nearly half the price of NVIDIA’s currently cheapest Pascal card, the GeForce GTX 1070. Interestingly both cards have the same 150W TDP, but looking at the throughput figures it does not look like RX 480 is meant to offer quite as high performance as NVIDIA’s card.

Moving on, along with teasing the RX 480’s specifications, AMD’s teaser also laid out their marketing plans for the card. We’re previously talked about how both Oculus and Valve/HTC were encouraging developers to treat VR like a fixed platform, and setting minimum hardware specifications to go along with that. On the AMD side those specifications called for a Radeon R9 290, which the RX 480 should be able to beat.

As a result AMD is planning on heavily promoting the VR aspects of the RX 480, as it brings the necessary performance down from a 250W, $300+ card to a 150W, $200 card. In fact AMD is claiming that VR performance will be closer to $500 video cards, in which case we’d be looking at performance closer to the Radeon R9 Nano, a Fiji based card.

With all of that said, the video card is just one component in the total price of a VR system – you still need the headset – but on the PC side it has also been the most expensive component. Consequently, AMD sees cheaper video cards that offer good VR performance as being important to bringing down the total price of a VR-ready system, and will be promoting the RX 480 as the prescription for entry-level VR needs. From a business perspective, AMD is ultimately expecting VR to be a fast-growing market, so the company wants to make sure they don’t miss out and have more VR-capable cards on the market as quickly as they can.

Along those lines, AMD’s release also makes note that at least one model will be “both HTC Vive Ready and Oculus Rift certified,” though no further details are being offered at this time. Whether this is just a certification matter or if there’s going to be something special about this model (e.g. connectors) is open to speculation.

Finally, now that they’ve revealed the price and much of the specifications of their first Polaris card, AMD is also releasing more details on their overall development and market positioning strategy with Polaris. As AMD has hinted at in the past, Polaris is being specifically developed for and aimed at the mainstream market. AMD wants to recapture lost market share – especially in laptops – and the large mainstream market is seen as the best way to do that. AMD is calling this their “water drop” strategy, and I expect we’ll hear a bit more about it tonight, including the meaning behind the name.

And with all of that said, it looks like we’re going to have a lot of AMD to talk about on June 29th. So until they, stay tuned.

Above: AMD SVP & Chief Architect Raja Koduri, Who Is Very Happy That Polaris Is About To Launch

AMD's Full Teaser Text
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  • BenSkywalker - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    Actually this site stopped using actual Hz rating in the 90s- DDR made it problematic, it simply has been compounded since.

    Throwing out 256GB/sec for the actual bandwidth compared to say the 298GB/sec the only 290 had or the 357GB/sec that the 390 was offering would likely be a bit more friendly for people looking for quick information and not an AMD sales brochure :)
  • 0razor1 - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    I agree, a very valid point.
  • jjj - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    If anything AMD is being wasteful again with a 256 bit bus here. You can bet that Nvidia will go with less and save some on area and power. Ofc AMD will do better at higher res since some might even buy this for 4k - would struggle in 4k but with 4k monitors even bellow 300$, it's an option.
  • SetiroN - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    I can appreciate the price point but it is really disappointing to see that AMD couldn't reach higher frequencies with such a huge jump in litography and the switch to FinFET
    This part would be positioned much higher with the smaller Polaris (which they couldn't even mention at this point) actually introducing the VR ready lineup. Instead we're pretty much the old 390 at a TDP that is merely acceptable. Wow.
  • rhysiam - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    If the performance claims are accurate and we get 390-390x performance with 1x6 Pin connector from a ~$200 card, that's a pretty decent offering from AMD IMHO, who really cares about clockspeeds? I'd be more disappointed, actually, if AMD did have to push the clocks really hard to reach their performance target. Maybe this way we'll get aftermarket cards with an 8 Pin connector and a heap of overclocking headroom. Maybe not, of course. Nvidia did say that had to put a lot of work into their designs to hit the 1700+ Mhz they have on the 1080.

    But whatever way you shake it, this is good news for the gaming masses who are running 1080P @ 60hz monitors. If (and that's still an "if" at that stage), performance, price and availability are as promised, you'd have a hard time recommending anything other than this card for a decent 1080P@60 gaming rig until Nvidia release their mid range or respond with significant price cuts.
  • euskalzabe - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    Yup. To me it's either this RX 480 or the eventual 1060. I've bought in the x70 range for the past few generations, but since my monitor is still 1080p60, x70 level cards are not well "balanced" for this anymore. Example: I'm on a 770 that, while speedy enough, gets starved in modern games due to its 2GB VRAM (AC Unity is a great example). At this point in time, buying x60 level cards and renewing every couple years seems like the more sensible option.
  • jabber - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    Yeah the only reason I want to upgrade from my HD 7870 is the 2GB limit. If the 480 gives me 4GB and a 35% boost I'm in.
  • rhysiam - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    35%? Based on what's been said thus far, you should be expecting a card that's starting to approach double the performance of your 7870. Even a 290 (with its awful stock cooler) is approaching those kind of gains:

    Let's wait and see, of course, but I'd expect at least 80% or more from what we've seen.
  • slickr - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - link

    What? Assuming conservative performance numbers based on all the data we have, it will perform as a r9 390 which is over 50% of your GPU. For only $200 and 150w that is amazing.
  • jabber - Friday, June 3, 2016 - link

    I always expect to be disappointed so I aim low.

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