AMD's RX 490 4K gaming graphics card has made three surprise appearances. Once on AMD's website and again in an official slide and a third time on Sapphire's website. AMD's largest add-in-board partner for discrete graphics cards. Clues for this yet unannounced RX 400 series flagship graphics card were given first by the company in a slide detailing the new Radeon RX 400 series nomenclature. Shortly afterwards the very same GPU was discovered on AMD's and Sapphire's websites.
The RX 490 graphics card, as defined by the company, is a 4K gaming class GPU with a memory interface that's larger than 256bit. That is to say a memory interface larger than what's found on the Radeon RX 480 and RX 470 graphics cards. Which the Radeon Technologies Group defines as 1440p class gaming products.
AMD Vega RX 490 "4K Gaming" Graphics Card Listed On AMD's & Sapphire's Websites With A 2016 Launch Date & Leaked In Official Slide
AMD's nomenclature slide clearly shows a tier 9 product in the RX 4XX family. Which is the RX 490 graphics card in question. The graphics card is designed for 4K gaming and is configured with a memory interface large enough to cope with the heavy bandwidth demand that this resolution dictates. Interestingly the company has also detailed what the third digit in each name actually means.
In this case the 0 in the RX 480 indicates that this is the first revision of this product. Leaving room in the naming scheme for an updated card with enhanced performance and power characteristics. Whether AMD has an RX 485, RX 475 or an RX 465 in the works isn't confirmed by any means. However if the company chooses to make any, the new naming scheme can happily accommodate them.
The Radeon 400 series lineup will also include 4XX graphics cards without the RX prefex. As it turns out only graphics cards with a compute horsepower that's over 1.5 teraflops and a memory bandwidth of at least 100GB/s qualify.
AMD has confirmed to us that the RX 480 is based on the most powerful configuration of the Polaris 10 GPU. This makes the RX 490 quite the mystery card, because the most powerful configuration of Polaris 10 is already in-use. Although thankfully there are enough clues around that if followed do give us a very good idea of what this graphics card actually is. So let's follow the paper trail that AMD has left behind.
AMD's Mystery RX 490, Following The Paper Trail - Is This The Next Gen Vega 10 GPU Or Something Completely Different?
The RX 480 and RX 470 are both based on the same Polaris 10 GPU. The version employed in the the RX 470 is a slightly cut back configuration of said GPU with fewer GCN stream processors. The RX 460 on the other hand is based on the smaller Polaris 11 GPU. It's crucial at this point to point out that AMD only developed two Polaris GPUs, 10 and 11. Additionally, last year AMD's Raja Koduri confirmed to analysts that the company only has two FinFET GPUs planned for 2016.
Patrick Moorhead - Forbes
Raja also talked about how Advanced Micro Devices’ RTG will need to execute on their architectural designs and create brand new GPUs, something that Advanced Micro Devices has struggled with lately. He promised two brand new GPUs in 2016
AMD's largest FinFET GPU this year is Polaris 10. Although the company does have on additional GPU in the works that has been announced. Vega 10 the successor to the company's flagship Fiji GPU that powered the R9 Fury X, R9 Fury and Nano. And it's on track, we know that because Raja was just celebrating a development milestone with AMD's global engineering team late last month.
Design team is thrilled with your response. Celebrated a milestone with the team. Long way to go before you see it pic.twitter.com/duQVBBGict
— Raja Koduri (@GFXChipTweeter) June 23, 2016
Incredibly proud of our gpu design team here in shanghai that delivered polaris family and next Vega pic.twitter.com/ejvFJW1DoY
— Raja Koduri (@GFXChipTweeter) June 23, 2016
The biggest milestone of any chip's development is tape out. That is when the floorplan of the design is finally complete and is sent to the fab for the very first time to get silicon back to run and test. AMD has already teased the launch venue for Vega 10 since then. So it's without a doubt now that we're getting much closer to the launch of AMD's new Radeon flagship graphics card.
We detailed Vega 10 in an exclusive we had published last year. Which included the specs of the GPU as well as its performance. Vega 10 represents a significant leap compared to its predecessor "Fiji" which powered the R9 Fury X. It's the most ambitious GPU that the company has ever developed.
Vega 10 Specs
|GPU||Polaris 10||Vega 10||GP102||GP104||GP102|
|Graphics Card||RX 480||TBA||GTX TItan X Pascal||GTX 1080||GTX 1080 Ti|
|Transistors In Billions||5.7||TBA||12||7.2||12|
|Performance||5.8 TFLOPS||12 TFLOPS||11 TFLOPS||9 TFLOPS||10 TFLOPS|
|Memory||8GB GDDR5||16GB HBM2||12GB GDDR5X||8GB GDDR5X||12GB GDDR5X|
|Bandwidth||256 GB/s||512 GB/s||480 GB/s||320 GB/s||480 GB/s|
AMD's RX 490 4K Gaming Graphics Card Is Launching In 2016
The RX 490 is a 2016 product, we know this because AMD actually revealed the information, likely by mistake, on its website.
The RX 490 is part of a promotion that ends on December 31 2016. This means that it has to launch in 2016 to be part of the promotion. Not only that but Sapphire is already listing the RX 490 on its website. Meaning not only is it launching this year but likely quite soon.
Throughout the two to three month period preceding the RX 480 launch we've been seeing shipping entries for the RX 460, RX 470 and RX 480 pop up. Going back and forth between AMD's testing facilities in Asia and Canada. There was one entry in particular -- C99 -- that did not correspond to any one of the three graphics cards mentioned above. And it was valued at exactly twice the value of the RX 480 board.
This could very well be on the of the earlier Vega test chips that AMD has been working on. In addition to Vega 10 and the RX 490 there's talk that the Radeon Technologies Group is also developing a new flagship multi-GPU product to be the ultimate 4K & VR gaming card.
Radeon Technologies Group Resharpening Focus On Multi-GPU
Outside of shipping data there's also some very valuable insight to be had if we look back at a number of very interesting comments made by Raja Koduri leading up to the RX 480's launch and just after Polaris 10 was revealed to the press earlier this year.
Raja Koduri - Senior Vice President & Chief Architect, Radeon Technologies Group at AMD
Multi-GPU is no longer just an enthusiast play, you know that we do just one bleeding-edge card. The way we think about it strategically is that the concept of multi-GPU is going to extend up and down the stack. If you look into the future of what's happening with Moore's Law and performance per dollar and the new technologies, FinFET and byeond, where the small die yields much much better and the econmoics of the smaller die are much better than the bigger die. So we're taking that into consideration. By 2017, 2018 2019 this is the reality. Just like multi-core was a reality for the CPU guys, multi-GPU is a reality for us and we better get the software ecosystem going now than wait a few years.
This direction that AMD is taking is actually very reminiscent of what took place in the discrete GPU market in 2008. With AMD focusing on smaller GPUs in the $250-$200 segment that makes up the meat of the market. AMD's small RV770 GPU went in the HD 4870 and HD 4850 cards that competed against the much larger GT200 GPU from Nvidia and the GTX 280 and GTX 260 cards. The company also managed to quickly come back to market with an even faster card than the 4870 which was the 5870. We may see a repeat here with Vega 10 and the RX 490.
AMD Radeon Graphics Architectures
|GPU||Process||Transistors In Billions||Performance||Memory||Bandwidth|
|Southern Islands||2012||HD 7970 Ghz||Tahiti||28nm||4.3||4.1 TFLOPS||3GB GDDR5||264GB/s|
|Volcanic Islands||2013||R9 290X||Hawaii||28nm||6.2||5.6 TFLOPS||4GB GDDR5||320GB/s|
|Caribbean Islands||2015||R9 Fury X||Fiji||28nm||8.9||8.6 TFLOPS||4GB HBM1||512GB/s|
|POLARIS||2016||RX 480||Polaris 10||14nm||5.7||5.2 TFLOPS||8GB GDDR5||256 GB/s|
|VEGA||2017||RX Vega 64||Vega 10||14nm||12.5||13 TFLOPS||8GB HBM2||480GB/s|
|NAVI||2019||TBA||Navi 10||7nm||TBA||TBA||Nextgen Memory||TBA|