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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  • fingerbob69 - Wednesday, June 8, 2016 - link

    "Maybe this way we'll get aftermarket cards with an 8 Pin connector and a heap of overclocking headroom"

    That would be the RX 490 @ $299 ...29th June SURPRISE!
  • PocketNerd - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    Aside from the usual "don't knock it till we see the benchmarks" routine..

    This thing is $130 cheaper than the 390, and even if the clocks aren't as high the architecture is supposed to be more efficient so I wouldn't count this out just yet. I was already considering getting the GTX 1070 but if this thing is comparable I might just get the 480.
  • Kutark - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    It won't be comparable to the 1070. I say that not as a fanboi, but the argument of economics. They've announced the price target as being $200, they simply would not sell a card that trades blows with a 1070 for half the cost, that would literally be throwing away free money.
  • Meteor2 - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    ...or, AMD would get very high sales (as this is much more affordable) while cutting off Nvidia's revenue. Though it would just result in a price war.
  • praxis22 - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    I have 15 years of economics under my belt, so I'd say "nonsense" Or if you're a Brit, "Pish and likewise Tosh" :)

    From what I've read and seen, mostly deeply technical and geeky, not economic. What this is, is a land grab. In 4x terms this is a Rush. At a stroke, AMD will own, the laptop segment, with Polaris 11, the Console segment, since Nvidia wasn't interested. Apple, and the consumer market. They also own the graphic subsystem with Mantle/Vulkan, So they get Android and iOS, etc. Since they have the consoles, and games port to the PC from consoles, it makes more sense to code to Vulkan.

    At a stroke AMD now owns PC gaming into the future. MSFT continues to screw up, since Direct X12 doesn't support dual cards, which Vulkan does out of the box. I have Vulkan drivers on windows 7 right now.

    I own an R9 390, before that I had a GTX 660. I bought the 660 as it was a 200+ Euro card at the time, the sweet spot of a gaming PC. I bought the R9 390 as the game I play mostly is Skyrim, and there isn't a card available that will excel at fully modded Skyrim, so I went for brute power and lots of VRAM, at the expense of Power consumption, (who cares about Performance per Watt?) It cost me something like 360 Euro, plays everything else at Max. Modded Witcher3, DA:I, that sort of thing. Plays Skyrim OK, Gave me about 50% more fps than the 660 with over 600+ mods Allows me to use 5GB of VRAM even with an ENB, Which takes main memory into VRAM to stop the game crashing. This is on Windows 7, MSFT screwed the pooch for DX9 in Windows 10, limits all card to 4GB, even the GTX 980 Ti. But I digress...

    What I really want is Skyrim in VR, for that I need 4k to get stereoscopic 1080p. Given that Occulus is actually running two screens I figure the software must drive this. the problem is that are no 4K screens, So I can probably use two 2k screens with a high PPI, and drive them from separate cards. I say "probably" as until I get my hands on one or two, Or I see indepth reviews, I won't know. However, given that I have two monitors at work as single view pane, (under Linux) I figure it can't be that hard.

    What this does is make Dual card setups possible for the mainstream, and AMD are making a push for VR.

    tldr; Your economics argument is specious, AMD aren't going for the performance crown, as nobody who bought a 970, will buy AMD anyway. They'll buy the 1070 and lust after a 1080. What AMD are going for is market dominance, and market share, They will sell millions of these, to OEM's looking to build mass consumer products, and the console manufacturers & Apple. They sold it at $200 not to make excessive profit. But to own the market. With Intel retiring to the Perfomance arena too, (with the loss of 12K jobs recently) then AMD may well end up owning the CPU market with Xen too.

    This is not about performance, it's about price. This is not winner takes all, this is commodity pricing, you have the wrong economic model. :)
  • jjj - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    Do remember that in high end (1070) the value is lower than in midrange.
    People got excited about the 1070 value because they are shortsighted, it might be good value for high end but the best value is never there.
    AMD here is likely to be offering very solid value and make it hard for Nvidia to beat them by a large margins. If Nvidia decides to beat them they can by a little but they can't make AMD look bad and AMD can slightly adjust prices if needed. Assuming this card is a bit faster than the 390, the pricing is just right.
    We'll see what the final power numbers are and the die size and only then we can figure out where AMD really is.
  • praxis22 - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    I think you're missing the point. In economic terms people who buy the high end cards are price-elastic. they don't care how much it cost.

    Back in the day I bought an ATI 9700Pro, it was, for about 4-6 months, the fastest graphic card in the world. I paid a lot of money for it, I would have paid more, because I wanted the best. I wanted to own the fastest graphic card in the world. It broke my heart when it died, a heat pad shrivelled and detached and the GPU fried itself, even when I installed an aftermarket cooler it stayed dead. :(

    Nobody but geeks and gamers actually upgrades a PC, there are far more gamers that play on a console, simply because it's easier and cheaper, than having to maintain a PC. Simply plug and play. This is why they write for the console and back port to the PC these days.

    Similarly very few people actually build a PC from scratch, this is why Valve's survey is so useful. this is what the many people who use Steam are gaming on, and hence what developers should aim for to gain the largest audience.

    By our very nature, taking about hardware specs on a technology web site, we are not "normal" indeed the Normals are by definition the mainstream, people who buy at best Buy or other big box retail stores.

    This is why I say that people who consciously go out and buy a new GPU as an upgrade are the minority, and likely already have a preference/prejudice as to what they will buy, and the new 480 is aimed squarely at the sweet spot, of price & performance for people who are limited on what they can spend (price-inelastic) either with having somebody else tell them about it, or having somebody else build it. This is "normal" for PC hardware these days.

    The stuff you'll find in big box retail is always exploitative. They usually give you a good CPU, typically over specified for gaming which is GPU limited, and give you a passable GPU, that will likely need to be replaced within a year. On a recent trawl through a refitted Consumer electronics big box I found that most of the PC's where offering an i7 6700 with a 970 for around a 1000 Euro. That is a serious chunk of change to drop (price elastic) for a PC, when you buy a console for $400 or less.

    PC Master Race on Reddit have builds, from $331 to $901 all but one of them socket an AMD GPU because of price. The two cheaper boxes socket AMD Athalon's the two more expensive builds socket an i5.

    There is an article on the Verge today all about Intel realising that increasingly they are not going to be 'Inside' on what remains of the new PC market.

    So I say again, this is a land grab, colonising the parts of the market that the previous incumbents have left behind, and doing so at a price that appeals directly to the price-inelastic consumer, and OEM's that build for normals.

    Whether people here like AMD or not, doesn't matter, this is not aimed at us.
  • just4U - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - link

    What you seem to forget is the 9700 PRO came out after the Radeon 8000 series.. What happened there precisely? Do you remember? They were offering Geforce 3 performance at close to half the price... The next 2 generations saw cards from both companies coming out at in around that benchmark price (slightly higher.. but not much)

    They did the same thing with the 3800 series against those magical 8800s..and didn't quit match the performance but came close.. by the time the 4000s came out they'd surpassed NVidia again and kept prices at that sweet spot.

    Nvidia started raising prices again in the 500 series..even though Amd had comparable products (although late..) at cheaper prices.. now we see those bumps again just in time for AMD to bring them back down to reasonable levels..

    Or so it looks to me.
  • just4U - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - link

    ofcourse their not doing it for us (forgot to add that lol..) it's to brand recognition, and market share. AMD knows where it plays at and what it can do.. but it's been Nvidia all the way since the Geforce 2 to push the pricing envelope.
  • praxis22 - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - link

    Do I remember? No :) I built my first computer from a kit in 1981, and went through many "home" computers, including a DEC Alpha UDB, (I'm a UNIX admin) before I owned a PC. The first PC I ever owned was powered by a P4 Northwood, and some crappy Nvidia card, a 240 or a 440, something like that. Then I spent more on the 9700 Pro than I had on the computer :)

    That said after watching some videos last night I came to the conclusion that IMO, while AMD's products are "competitive" I believe that they have chosen not to compete for the performance crown, and are instead playing their own game. Namely occupying the low-middle ground, and selling millions of SKU's to OEM's, the console makers and Apple. We get to see discrete graphics cards, but we're not their audience.

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