During its Tuesday CES press event, AMD unveiled -- in addition to a new notebook processor line and a 64-core, high-end desktop CPU -- four new PC GPUs based on its gaming-optimized Navi architecture. The GPUs include three mid-range products (two desktop GPUs and one notebook GPU) that are collectively known as the Radeon RX 5600 series, and the first notebook product for the more powerful Radeon RX 5700 series, which saw desktop GPUs launch last summer.
Later, CEO Lisa Su disclosed during a roundtable interview that AMD is prepping a high-end Navi GPU. She added that AMD will also eventually launch CPUs featuring integrated Navi GPUs -- its latest notebook processors sport integrated GPUs based on AMD's older Vega architecture. And she also announced that AMD will launch discrete GPUs this year that (like Nvidia's most powerful gaming GPUs) support real-time ray tracing, which can deliver photorealistic visuals.
Intel, which announced in late 2017 that it planned to re-enter the discrete GPU market -- a field where Nvidia and AMD have long claimed a duopoly -- has used CES to show off the first discrete GPU to be developed from its efforts. The chip, known as the DG1 and based on an architecture known as Xe, is only meant for developers. Intel's goal here is to help developers get familiar with the Xe architecture, so that they're comfortable supporting it when commercial products are launched.
Separately, Intel shared some details about the Xe-architecture integrated GPUs that will be baked into its next-gen notebook processor line, which is codenamed Tiger Lake and expected at some point during the second half of 2020. The company claimed that Tiger Lake's integrated GPUs will deliver twice the performance of the GPUs built into Intel's existing Ice Lake notebook processors, in spite of having just 50% more execution units.
Unlike in prior years, Nvidia didn't hold a CES press event this year, nor did it unveil any new GPUs. But the company did extend the reach of its G-Sync technology for eliminating screen-tearing on displays connected to PCs featuring Nvidia GPUs. G-sync now supports displays featuring 360-hertz refresh rates -- Nvidia asserts that such a high refresh rate could help eSports players gain an edge -- and will support select OLED TVs.
In addition, at a time when VR headset sales are beginning to pick up, Nvidia showed off Variable Rate Super Sampling, a graphics-rendering technology that boosts VR image quality in the center of a headset-wearer's field-of-view. And Nvidia and its OEM partners showed off a slew of new notebooks based on RTX Studio, an Nvidia GPU/software platform for creating notebooks optimized for content creators.
Some thoughts on these announcements:
- AMD's new GPUs put it on better footing in the mid-range, but they don't blow Nvidia out of the water. During its CES event, AMD showed a slide that had the Radeon RX 5600 XT, which will cost $279 at launch on Jan. 21, moderately outperforming Nvidia's $279 GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU. If history is any guide, reviewers could share slightly different results later this month.
- Su's comments about launching a high-end Navi GPU and supporting real-time ray tracing later this year signal that AMD is serious about being a player in a high-end gaming GPU market that Nvidia has long dominated. So does a recent benchmark leak that shows a yet-unlaunched AMD GPU (possibly the high-end Navi part) outperforming Nvidia's top-of-the-line GeForce RTX 2080 Ti GPU. That said, Nvidia is widely expected to launch a new gaming GPU line based on its next-gen Ampere architecture later this year (Raymond James indicated the GPUs could be unveiled at June's Computex trade show.)
- Both AMD and Intel appear intent on dialing up the performance of their integrated GPUs. This is likely to drive some additional cannibalization of low-end Nvidia and AMD discrete notebook GPUs, even as gamers and content creators with more demanding needs continue buying notebooks with discrete GPUs.
- For now, Intel's discrete GPU efforts, which also include plans to launch a server GPU in 2021, are very much a wait-and-see affair. The company has hired some A-list talent for its GPU unit, and has also signaled a willingness to think outside the box regarding GPU design and packaging. But building a successful discrete GPU franchise from scratch is no mean feat.
- Much like Intel in the notebook processor market, Nvidia is taking a holistic approach to competing in the PC GPU market, one that pays as much attention to creating a powerful hardware/software ecosystem and addressing the needs of specific types of customers (for example, eSports players, content creators and VR gamers) as it does to winning benchmark battles. While AMD pays attention to such things as well, Nvidia's efforts in this direction are currently broader.