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Another AMD Navi GPU sits at the heart of Microsoft's Project Scarlett console, with real-time ray tracing a go-go

We already know Sony’s PlayStation 5 will support real-time ray tracing courtesy of its new custom AMD Navi GPU, and now Microsoft’s next-gen Project Scarlett console has hitched itself to the ray tracing bandwagon as well thanks to, yep, you guessed it, another custom AMD Navi GPU. Confirmed this evening by Xbox head honcho Phil Spencer during Microsoft’s E3 press conference, Project Scarlett will deliver hardware-accelerated ray tracing to your living room sometime next year in the Holiday 2020 season – so why the heck shouldn’t AMD’s desktop Navi cards follow suit, eh?

I’m referring, of course, to the current rumour mills that proclaim AMD’s next-gen Navi graphics cards won’t support this year’s hottest new lighting tech. It seems bonkers to me that AMD would ensure ray tracing support on consoles but not on PC, so I’m taking this news as pretty much solid confirmation that we’ll be looking at a bunch of ray tracing-enabled Navi cards when AMD do their own big E3 press conference tomorrow on June 10.

Admittedly, Project Scarlett’s AMD hardware has been co-designed and co-engineered with Microsoft themselves, so it’s still possible there’s some exclusive Microsoft jiggery-pokery going on here that won’t make its way to PC. I highly doubt this will be the case, but I guess we’ll definitely know for sure in just under 24 hours when AMD’s Next Horizon Gaming event kicks off at 3pm PT / 11pm BST.

So far, AMD have only given us a glimpse of a single GPU in their new family of Navi cards – the RX 5700. Teased just a couple of weeks ago at AMD’s Computex key note, the RX 5700 is supposedly 10% faster than Nvidia’s RTX 2070. That’s all we really know about its performance right now, as AMD are leaving the bulk of their big Navi reveal until tomorrow’s E3 showcase.

However, another interesting tidbit from Microsoft’s Project Scarlett reveal might have just given us a clue as to what type of memory Navi will use, as until now all AMD have said on the matter is that Navi will have something called “next generation memory”. Previously, AMD have been very partial to HBM2 memory (or 2nd Gen High Bandwidth Memory), but Microsoft’s new console box is going down the GDDR6 route – which is the same type of memory found on the Nvidia RTX cards. That’s not to say that AMD’s Navi cards will definitely have GDDR6 memory, but I reckon it’s a pretty high possibility.

Alas, there’s not much else we can glean about the future of AMD’s Navi GPUs from the rest of Project Scarlett’s spec, but it sure does paint a promising picture of what Navi can do when paired with one of AMD’s new Zen 2 Ryzen CPUs, which also sits at the heart of Microsoft’s new console. With potential frame rates reaching as high as 120fps, supposedly “non-existent loading times” thanks to a next-gen SSD (which almost certainly is a PCIe 4.0 bit of storage, given how it’s been AMD’s big calling card for Navi and their new Ryzen 3000 CPUs), plus support for up to 8K resolutions, Project Scarlett sounds like a truly potent and particularly nippy bit of kit.

Still won’t be as good as a proper PC, though, eh?

See our E3 2019 tag for more news, previews, opinions, and increasingly surreal liveblogs.

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Who am I?

Katharine Castle

Hardware Editor

Katharine writes about all the bits that go inside your PC so you can carry on playing all those lovely games we like talking about so much. Very partial to JRPGs and the fetching of quests.

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