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AMD Navi: Everything we know so far about "Big Navi", from ray tracing to release date

AMD’s Navi GPUs have been making quite the splash since they first came out last July. The RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT quickly established themselves as worthy rivals to Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2060 and RTX 2070 graphics cards, and their entry-level RX 5500 XT and RX 5600 XT cards are currently my top best graphics card recommendations for those after something a bit cheaper.

The only piece of the graphics card pie that’s currently missing is AMD’s 4K graphics cards – the “Big Navi” GPUs, so to speak, which AMD are also calling Navi 2X. We don’t know much about them yet, such as how much they’ll cost, or exactly when they’re coming out, but AMD’s recent financial analyst day did reveal some telling clues about what we can expect, and then there’s Digital Foundry’s big Xbox Series X specs reveal, too, whose custom Big Navi GPU looks to be hitting at least RTX 2080 levels of performance. Here’s everything we know about Big Navi so far.

AMD Navi: what is it?

Navi is the name of AMD’s new family of Radeon RX 5000 graphics cards. So far, AMD have released four Navi GPUs based on their current RDNA (or Radeon DNA) architecture, which uses a more efficient 7nm (nanometer) manufacturing process compared to their previous Vega graphics cards.

There are more Navi cards on the way, too. These have been dubbed AMD’s Big Navi GPUs, and will be based on a 2nd Gen version of RDNA known as RDNA 2. We don’t know a huge amount about RDNA 2 just yet, but AMD have said it will bring improvements to performance per watt, as well as introduce other technologies such as ray tracing, variable rate shading (two things that Nvidia’s RTX cards currently do) and more.

AMD Big Navi GPU roadmap

It looks like AMD will be sticking with their RDNA architecture for the foreseeable future, too, as AMD’s current GPU roadmap (pictured above) shows they’ll eventually move to their 3rd Gen RDNA architecture, which they’re currently calling RDNA 3 sometime in 2021 or 2022. Again, very little is known about this at the moment, but given that AMD are calling this an “advanced node” rather than another 7nm GPU at the moment, it’s possible we could see a new manufacturing process here as well.

For now, though, it’s all about RDNA 2, and I’ll update this article with more information about AMD’s 2nd Gen GPU architecture as soon as it’s available.

AMD Navi release date

The first two AMD Navi GPUs arrived in July 2019. The RX 5500 XT then followed in December 2019, and the most recent addition to AMD’s Navi family is the RX 5600 XT, which came out at the end of January earlier this year.

As for when AMD’s Big Navi GPUs will arrive, they’re currently set to launch in late 2020, according to AMD’s recent financial analyst day – which sort of makes sense considering AMD are also powering the next generation of consoles, which will also use custom versions of AMD’s RDNA 2-based GPUs and are currently due to launch around November or December 2020.

We already knew that Big Navi would release by the end of 2020, after one of AMD’s earlier financial investor Q&As in January, but “late 2020” does help narrow their launch window a bit. It’s possible that “late” could mean as early as September, for example, but it’s more likely to be sometime between October and December, in line with the launch of next-gen consoles.

AMD Navi price

The next question, though, is how much these Big Navi GPUS are going to cost? Well, given the RX 5700 XT currently retails for around £350 / $390, you can probably expect they’ll cost a lot more than that.

Indeed, considering the RX 5700 XT is more of a direct competitor to Nvidia’s RTX 2070 and RTX 2070 Super cards, we can probably make a fairly educated guess about Big Navi’s potential prices by looking at how much Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Super and RTX 2080 Ti currently cost. As you can see from our Graphics card deals round-up, the cheapest RTX 2080 Super goes for around £630 / $700 these days, while the RTX 2080 Ti currently clocks in around £1100 / $1080.

Fortunately, AMD have a habit of pricing their cards slightly below Nvidia’s respective GPUs, so it’s possible they might come in closer to £550 / $600 or £900 / $950, for example, but there’s simply no telling until AMD put a proper price on them.

AMD Navi specs

As mentioned above, all current AMD Navi GPUs are based on their 7nm RDNA architecture, and you can see how their various specs compare in the table below. AMD’s Big Navi graphics cards will also be based on a 7nm manufacturing process, but they’ll use AMD’s 2nd Gen RDNA architecture, RDNA 2.

  RX 5500 XT RX 5600 RX 5600 XT RX 5700 RX 5700 XT
Compute Units 22 32 36 36 40
Stream Processors 1408 2048 2304 2304 2560
TFLOPs 5.2 6.39 7.19 7.95 9.75
Game Clock 1717MHz 1375MHz 1375MHz 1625MHz 1755MHz
Max Boost Clock 1845MHz 1560MHz 1560MHz 1725MHz 1905MHz
Memory Interface 128-bit 192-bit 192-bit 256-bit 256-bit

Of course, we won’t know any specific Big Navi specs until AMD formally announce them. However, it sounds like they’re going to be pretty darn powerful, as AMD have said these will be “top-of-stack GPUs with uncompromising 4K gaming” performance.

AMD’s Big Navi cards will also support hardware-based ray tracing (which is something current Navi GPUs don’t have), putting them on a level playing field with their RTX rivals. In case you’ve forgotten, ray tracing is a fancy type of lighting tech that allows for realistic reflections and accurate shadows. We’ve already seen it put to great effect in games such as Control and Metro Exodus, but the number of games that support ray tracing is still relatively small. However, we should start to see more games with ray tracing support crop up over the course of 2021, as AMD’s ray tracing tech will also be present in the Navi-powered PS5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X.

AMD’s Big Navi reference cards (which are the graphics cards they make themselves before sending out the designs to third party manufacturers) will also be taking another leaf from Nvidia’s playbook in the form of new cooling solutions. As you can see in the picture below, the reference versions of the RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT were released with single, blower-style fans, which typically aren’t as efficient or as good at keeping graphics cards cool as, say, dual or even triple fan designs like the ones Nvidia chose for their RTX reference cards.

Of course, both the RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT cards are now readily available with dual and triple fan coolers, but it did take quite a long time after their initial launch before these were available to buy on shop shelves.

Fortunately, it looks like that won’t be the case for AMD’s Big Navi reference cards, as AMD’s Scott Herkelman took to Reddit earlier in March to confirm that “there will be no blower reference fans for gamers on next gen” after AMD’s financial analyst presentation teased an AMD reference card with two fans (see below).

No more blower fans for AMD’s Big Navi reference cards.

It’s highly likely that AMD’s Big Navi cards will also support their current crop of Navi features, too, such as their Fidelity FX and Radeon Anti-Lag tech. The former is an open-source toolkit designed to make low-contrast areas of a game look just that teensy bit sharper without taking a knock on performance (as demonstrated by the Borderlands 3 example below), while the latter is meant to cut down the amount of lag there is between you clicking your mouse and the action appearing onscreen.

Arguably, neither feature is quite as instantly sexy as ‘Hey, look at all these incredible new lighting effects!’ but for competitive, esports-y types, AMD’s Radeon Anti-Lag could be quite attractive. In AMD’s E3 2019 presentation, they claimed the RTX 2070’s input lag was around 59ms, while the RX 5700 XT came in just below it at around 56ms. That’s definitely not something you’re going to notice in everyday use, but enable AMD’s Radeon Anti-Lag and that figure drops to around 44ms, which AMD claims will give you an extra frame and a half of performance back. Again, us plebs with normal human reflexes probably won’t notice this in the slightest, but if you’re a twitchy shooter fan who lives, breathes and eats minuscule frame rates for dinner, then Navi might just be able to give you that competitive edge against Nvidia players.

That’s all we know about AMD’s Big Navi GPUs for the time being, but I’ll be updating this article regularly with more information as soon as I hear anything. In the mean time, why not have a read of our AMD RX 5700 vs Nvidia RTX 2060 and AMD RX 5700 XT vs Nvidia RTX 2070 Super comparison pieces to see how AMD’s current crop of Navi graphics cards compare to their Nvidia rivals, or head to our best graphics card list to find out more about what AMD’s Big Navi GPUs are up against.

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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. She's also RPS' resident deals herald.

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