AMD GPU Rumors: Polaris 30 12nm GPUs in Q4 2018, Navi GPU Based Mid-Range Cards Arrive Before High-End HBM2 Variants

Hassan Mujtaba

AMD has a strong roadmap outlined for their next-generation products but on the GPU side, and particularly the gaming segment, things aren't that clear. If we look at the recent roadmaps, there have been various GPUs listed including their upcoming 7nm parts but they are being aimed at the server market first which leaves users wondering when we would see the first 7nm gaming GPUs.

AMD Gaming GPU Rumors: 12nm Polaris 30 in Q4 2018, 7nm Vega 20 in Q1 2019, 7nm Navi Between 2019/2020

Now I want to point out that most of this information is based on rumors so don't take it as fact. The details come from Chiphell user WJM47196 who has a history of posting AMD CPU and GPU rumors. The same user had posted details on Ryzen and Ryzen Threadripper CPUs, most of which turned out to be close to the real thing. Even still, we would advise you to treat this as a rumor for now until more details are confirmed.

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AMD Polaris 30 GPUs in Q4 2018

So let's start off with the rumors, there are three GPUs discussed in the post which start with AMD Polaris 30. The AMD Polaris 30 GPUs are completely unheard of and not even part of any roadmap we have seen so far. The Polaris 30 GPU is said to be the third iteration to the high-end Polaris line which initially shipped as Polaris 10 in 2016 followed by Polaris 20 in 2017. Polaris 30 based GPUs are said to use the latest 12nm FinFET process and deliver a 15% performance jump over Polaris 20 GPUs.

Now I'll come back to Polaris 30 not being in the roadmap at all, you know what else wasn't in the AMD roadmap till launch? The Polaris 20 GPUs. AMD Polaris 20 was not mentioned in any roadmap and eyes were on the Radeon RX Vega launch in 2017. AMD Radeon RX Vega never came to the mainstream desktop segment and Polaris 20 was launched offering an intermediate solution under the RX Vega 56. With Polaris 20, AMD fine-tuned the architecture with better process optimizations and aggressive clocks with similar competitive pricing.

RX Vega still hasn't made an official entry in the discrete mobile segment and the only entry-level chips we know of are found in Raven Ridge APUs or other configurations that are custom designed for Apple iMac's or Intel's 8th generation Kaby Lake-G parts. If Vega is that hard to produce for the mainstream segment, then a new iteration of Polaris graphics cards for the mainstream segment may be arriving soon but that would be a very disappointing move by RTG for the gaming market.

AMD 7nm Navi For Mainstream Users First, High-End HBM2 Variants Later

Now coming to Navi, the next-gen we have all been waiting for. Succeeding Vega in 2018 as was planned, it looks like the gaming cards are actually much far away than we have imagined. Our exclusive report which discusses AMD's semi-custom ventures, designing Navi primarily for the Sony PlayStation 5 sheds more light on this.

The rumor mentions that the first Navi graphics cards for the desktop market will arrive between 2018-2019. The first cards would be aimed at the budget segment and will be based on the 7nm process. The high-end variants will arrive much later and would be using HBM2 memory. It's really interesting that HBM2 is mentioned only for the high-end variant which makes me think that the mid-range cards can utilize GDDR6 memory which is in full production from Micron and Samsung right now.

The mid-range cards are expected to replace Polaris once and for all and their launch this late might explain why AMD would do another stop gap Radeon RX Polaris lineup since Navi will be coming really late to desktop PCs. It also aligns with our report which mentions:

  • Navi 10 will be the first Navi part to arrive and will be landing sometime in 2H 2019 or early 2020, depending on a couple of factors. The performance level of this part will be equivalent to Vega and it will be a small GPU based on 7nm.
  • Navi 14 will follow Navi 10 soon after.
  • Navi 20 is going to be the true high-end GPU built on the 7nm node and as things stand right now, you are tentatively looking at it landing sometime around 2020 – 2021.

We also reported that Navi GPUs will be using a traditional monolithic design over an MCM (Multi-Chip Module) design for gaming variants due to design complexity, cost factors and proper OS / Software based optimizations for multi-chip and multi-GPU support.

AMD 7nm Vega 20 With 16 GB HBM2 in Q1 2019

The last detail mentioned in the forum is regarding a particular 7nm Vega GPU for gamers. The product is said to be still in consideration and may or may not arrive in the gaming market. All of that depends on HBM2 availability and pricing. The card is said to use all of the 7nm advantages that Vega 20 will include such as faster clocks, much efficient operation, and a 4096-bit interface. This card will be featuring up to 16 GB of HBM2 instead of 32 GB like the server variant. The reason again is the high price of HBM2 and 16 GB would be more than enough for gamers.

Since 7nm Vega would be smaller and more power efficient, can we expect a return of iconic GPU designs like the R9 Fury X?

It is stated that the card seems very unlikely to happen since this card would have to be priced way too high otherwise AMD would be shooting themselves in the foot if they try making it competitive against NVIDIA's offerings at that time. The cost of producing such a card would be so high that it will eventually give little or no return. But then again, AMD has promised 7nm Radeon RX to gamers for next year so whether that would be Vega or Navi based remains to be seen. I'd still vote for the latter since Navi goes with AMD's official plans.

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