First AMD Polaris Radeon RX 480 Unveil Targets Mainstream VR Experiences At $199

Raja Koduri, SVP of Radeon Technologies Group Shows Off World's First 14nm GPU, the Radeon RX 480
Raja Koduri, SVP of AMD RTG Shows Off World's First 14nm GPU- Radeon RX 480

When AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group (RTG) first disclosed details of its upcoming Polaris GPU architecture, it called it a “historic leap in performance per watt for Radeon GPUs”. If you don’t follow the GPU scene closely, Polaris is AMD RTG’s next-gen graphics architecture that will be produced using both TSMC’s 16nm and Global Foundries 14nm FinFET manufacturing processes.

The goal with Polaris is to help drive Radeon GPUs down to lower overall power envelopes and enable better performance per watt. Polaris-based GPUs manufactured using the latest process technologies will also enable next gen Radeons to be used in new product categories, from ultra-small form factor systems and sleek all-in-ones, to thin and light notebooks. Discrete cards with fewer power connectors and lower overall power requirements at a given performance level should also come as a result.

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It’s not quite time to disclose AMD’s full line-up of Polaris-based GPUs, but today AMD is ready to talk a bit about its upcoming Radeon RX 480, which targets the sub-$200 “sweet spot” of the GPU market. The Radeon RX 480’s specifications read like a more expensive product, however, and according to AMD the card is targeting not only gamers, but virtual reality (VR) as well. The Radeon RX 480’s specifications include:
AMD Polaris Radeon RX 480
Specifications & Features
CUs 36
Memory Bandwidth 256 GB/s
Data Rate (Effective) 8 Gbps
Memory Size 4/8 GB GDDR5
Memory Bit-rate 256-bit
Power  150 W
VR Premium YES
AMD FreeSync YES
Display Port  1.3/1.4 HDR

Disregarding architectural differences, which can result in very different performance characteristics, the specifications that AMD is disclosing for the Radeon RX 480 fall somewhere in between the R9 380X and R9 390. The GPU has 36 Compute Units and will offer greater than 5 TFLOPS of compute performance. It features 4 or 8GB of GDDR5 memory, with an effective data rate of 8Gbps, connected to the GPU via a 256-bit interface. As a result, the RX 480 has peak memory bandwidth in the 256GB/s range. The Radeon RX 480 will also support DisplayPort 1.3 and 1.4 with HDR capabilities, AMD FreeSync adaptive refresh rate technology, and offer a premium VR experience – all in a 150 Watt power envelope.

Update - 10:25PM: AMD's Raja Koduri, SVP of Radeon Technologies Group also just showed the performance of two Radeon RX 480 cards in CrossFire, powering the DirectX 12 Ashes of The Singularity benchmark, versus NVIDIA's recently launched GeForce GTX 1080. 

Dual Radeon 480s versus GeForce GTX1080
2 x Radeon RX 480 performance in Ashes Of The Singularity, Versus GeForce GTX 1080

As you'll note, not only is dual-GPU setup faster than NVIDIA's single GPU GeForce GTX 1080 card (according to AMD's numbers here), but it also drops in at a $400 price point, versus $599 - $699 for the competing GeForce solution. 

According to AMD, the Radeon RX 480 is the “first Polaris architecture-based graphics processor to deliver VR capability common in $500 GPUs; expected to accelerate the size of the VR-ready install-base and dramatically increase the pace of VR ecosystem growth”. The Radeon RX 480 will not be priced anywhere near $500, though. Its MSRP is only $199. AMD is hoping that it can speed VR adoption by lowering the total cost of entry.

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“VR is the most eagerly anticipated development in immersive computing ever, and is the realization of AMD’s Cinema 2.0 vision that predicted the convergence of cinematic visuals and interactivity back in 2008,” said Raja Koduri, senior vice president and chief architect, Radeon Technologies Group, AMD. “As we look to fully connect and immerse humanity through VR, cost remains the daylight between VR being the purview of the wealthy, and universal access for everyone. The Radeon RX Series is the disruptive technology that adds rocket fuel to the VR inflection point, turning it into a technology with transformational relevance to consumers.”

AMD is taking a somewhat different approach with this upcoming launch. The Radeon RX Series launch will be the first wave of what AMD is calling its new “Water Drop” strategy. The company’s plan moving forward is to release new graphics architectures in high volume segments first, to hopefully push continued market share growth for Radeon GPUs. According to AMD, the Radeon RX Series will address a substantial block of more than 13.8 million PC gamers, who spend roughly $100-300 to upgrade their graphics cards, and 84% of competitive and triple-A title PC gamers. AMD is claiming that Radeon RX Series cards will offer “dramatically improved performance and efficiency, support for compelling VR experiences, and incredible features never before possible at these prices.”

The Radeon RX 480 is due to arrive in late June.