Sapphire Leaks Details on AMD’s Upcoming Navi, Including Price, Positioning

Sapphire Leaks Details on AMD’s Upcoming Navi, Including Price, Positioning

AMD has been tight-lipped about Navi, its upcoming 7nm GPU architecture intended to challenge Nvidia for the mid-tier GPU market. New leaks from a Sapphire PR manager who apparently spoke to the Chinese press (via a now-deleted blog post) point towards a GPU intended to directly challenge Nvidia’s RTX cards — and priced to match them as well.

AMD’s 7nm plans, including Navi.
AMD’s 7nm plans, including Navi.

The fact that Navi apparently may not dip into lower markets is something of a surprise. Granted, Polaris can give Nvidia’s lower-end RTX cards a run for their money, but it can only do so while burning roughly 2x as much power. The RX 570 is such good competition for the GTX 1650 that Nvidia didn’t even sample the latter for review and held off the driver release to make sure nobody would spoil it — but again, power consumption is a real question here.

It’s possible that this aspect of the rumor is wrong or that AMD has a 7nm budget chip in the works that it hasn’t disclosed. Polaris is built at GlobalFoundries, so it’s unlikely that we’d see the design ported to 7nm, but AMD could theoretically outfit it with faster GDDR6. Then again, Polaris is already fairly heavy on memory bandwidth. It’s not clear if a move from GDDR5 to GDDR6 would provide a meaningful benefit.

As for pricing, this prediction is exactly the opposite of the supposed $250 RTX 2070 killer that’s been floating in the rumor pool since December. We’ve been expecting AMD to bring Navi in at or somewhat below Nvidia’s price, depending on how aggressively it wants to undercut its larger competitor. Nvidia’s price increases at the beginning of this latest GPU cycle were not popular, and enthusiasts have been hoping AMD would hit ‘reset’ on the cost curve. Again, let me emphasize, these prices are not confirmed. They are, however, much closer to what I expect. AMD chose not to position the Radeon VII at a lower price point. It may do the same with Navi, betting that Nvidia has already eaten the flak from PC gamers upset about higher GPU prices.

AMD was never going to launch a $250 RTX 2070 killer when the RTX is a $500 GPU, because they’d be leaving an insane amount of money on the table. If they choose to put Navi up against RTX price-for-price, without ray tracing (which Navi 10 also reportedly lacks, per this same rumor), it’ll send a message about exactly how much AMD thinks that feature is worth in 2019. Whether the market accepts that argument is another question altogether, and one that could be complicated by the ongoing US – China trade war.

Right now, the implications of this rumor are that Navi is basically a high-end GPU refresh, but not one that targets the premium market where Radeon VII and similar GPUs play. It also, apparently, won’t refresh the budget GPU market. Presumably a different GPU family will be put into play here, unless AMD intends to keep Polaris in that segment for another 9-12 months. And if this rumor does prove accurate, higher GPU prices are apparently a new feature of the space everyone is going to have to look forward to.

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