Figuratively and literally, AMD is putting all of its chips into 7-nanometer designs, an all-in move that could have a big payoff. On that GPU side, that includes a 7nm version of Vega due out later this year, and its next-generation Navi GPU. An early sample of the latter reportedly already exists, and has even been benchmarked.
There are not many details surrounding Navi just yet, just lots of rumors and speculation. For example, it was rumored more than a year ago that Navi would be the first GPU from AMD to feature circuitry dedicated to artificial intelligence (AI) operations. Former Radeon Technologies Group Raja Korduri (who now leads Intel's discrete graphics efforts) reportedly wanted to enable AI functionality in Vega, but lacked the time and resources to make it happen. So, as the story goes, it was pushed back to Navi.
That's all according to news and rumor site Fudzilla, which now 14 months later says it has learned from its sources that a graphics card built around Navi is currently running in a lab. Apparently the card is performing better than expected, too, though the sources did not go into detail with any specific benchmark numbers.
What they did say is that Navi is still taking aim at the mid-range market. In that way, it can be thought of as more of a follow-up to Polaris than Vega, the latter of which never gained much traction outside of the cryptocurrency mining market. This new information is consistent with past rumors pegging the GeForce GTX 1080 as the eventual competition for Navi.
"We have been sitting on this piece of information for a while, but maybe it's the right time to share it with you. Navi 7nm the 2019 chip will not be a high end GPU, it will be a quite powerful performance/mainstream chip," Fudzilla's Fuad Abazovic wrote a few months ago.
While much of this is speculation at this point, we know that AMD is focused on 7nm designs for both its CPU and GPU products. AMD boss Dr. Lisa Su is expected to confirm the company's 7nm Zen 2 and GPU rollout in her CES 2019 keynote, which is now just three months away.
"In 2019, AMD will catapult computing, gaming, and visualization technologies forward with the world’s first 7nm high-performance CPUs and GPUs, providing the power required to reach technology’s next horizon. During her CES keynote, Dr. Su and guests will provide a view into the diverse applications for new computing technologies ranging from solving some of the world’s toughest challenges to the future of gaming, entertainment and virtual reality with the potential to redefine modern life," AMD said earlier this month..
Navi is expected to debut in the second half of 2019. Looking beyond Navi, AMD will follow it up with a 7nm+ replacement that is possibly codenamed Arcturus. Not much is known about Arcturus, such as whether it will target the mid-range market as well, or be a return to competing at the high end.