Thus far, AMD has been quiet about its plans for any Ryzen refresh cycle in 2020, though the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly scrogged up some of the company’s plans. We’ve seen a pair of leaks surface online claiming to share details on what the firm has planned through the fall, though as always, take these leaks with salt.
First, let’s talk about CPUs. The report here is that AMD will add three Ryzen Refresh CPUs to its lineup, with a Ryzen 3900XT, Ryzen 7 3700XT, and a Ryzen 5 3600XT. These three chips would arrive with higher base and boost clocks and an estimated 1.05x – 1.10x performance increase over their predecessors. The branding here is divided — HotHardware reports that the chips might also increment the model number by 50 points (3950X, 3750X, etc). Either one of these is plausible, but if I had to guess, I’d guess AMD will either use the numbers or the numbers+letters. Differentiating your parts based solely on one digit (X versus XT) isn’t smart if you want consumers to be able to tell them apart and not buy the wrong chip for their own hardware. AMD also hasn’t used the “XT” moniker for CPUs before, so deploying them here would be a first for the company.
Meanwhile, over in graphics, AMD is said to be planning a Big Navi with up to 5,120 streaming compute units, a die of supposedly 505mm2, and 50 percent improved performance per watt. The 50 percent performance per watt uplift is something Lisa Su has spoken about before, so we know that part of the rumor is legitimate according to AMD’s guidance. The 505mm2 falls under the category of “things that could be true.” The 5700 XT was 251mm2, and Big Navi looks like it’s roughly the size of two smaller Navis, so that all lines up.
The specifics of the rumor, however, don’t make a ton of sense unless we assume a few things about AMD’s future product mixture. Supposedly there are three Navi chips coming — Navi 21, Navi 23, and a Navi 10 Refresh. Navi 21 is Big Navi, with up to 5,120 cores.
Supposedly we’ll get Navi 21 in four flavors:
The descriptions for the specific GPUs make no sense unless the “similar to” means “in the same relative position with vastly higher performance and more expensive price points.” AMD’s 80-CU RDNA2 isn’t going to be similar to the 5700 XT in price or performance unless something goes catastrophically wrong. We don’t know anything about Navi 23, except that the die is supposedly on par with the original Navi 10. This would imply that either Navi 23 is denser than Navi 10 or it offers significantly higher performance per square millimeter.
Squeezing four SKUs out of Navi21 would be unusual, so I’m not quite sure what to make of that. Typically, Nvidia and AMD use their highest-end GPU dies to power 1-2 cards, not four of them. Either way, Navi21 has to be intended for battle against Nvidia’s uppermost echelons, with the smaller Navi23 taking over in the spots where the 5700 XT and 5700 sit now. This would clear the way for refreshed Navi10 cards to take price cuts, likely pushing Polaris down to the lowest market tiers or out of the space altogether.
What doesn’t quite make sense about all of this is that it leaves AMD with a rather large number of SKUs. Nvidia’s current leading-edge lineup is the RTX 2080 Ti, followed by the 2080 Super, 2070 Super, 2060 Super, 1660 Super, and 1650 Super. This leak contemplates four high-end GPUs, three Navi23 GPUs, and three Navi10 cards. That’s considerably more SKUs than AMD has previously fielded.
As far as the CPU rumors go, I find them entirely believable. A 5-10 percent uplift for a Ryzen refresh cycle isn’t overwhelming, but it moves the ball forward a bit on the way to Zen 3, and it’s easy to believe that there was some headroom to be found in TSMC’s 7nm process after further refinement. I don’t expect any core count increases this year or in the near-term future — having just pushed the boundary above the point where Windows can easily take advantage of its thread counts, AMD is under no particular pressure to boost core counts again.
The GPU rumors really only cover code names, but it makes sense that AMD would hit Nvidia from top to bottom. The big unknown here is Ampere, and how much performance it will offer out of the gate. AMD could find itself sitting comfortably or see the rug yanked out from under its new intended competitor, and we really don’t know which to expect. Between the two families, CPUs are expected in-market first, with GPUs not launching until September, but both of those statements are themselves rumors and should be treated accordingly.
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