Well that was quick. AMD held its special New Horizon event on Tuesday revealing its upcoming “Summit Ridge” Ryzen desktop processor based on its new “Zen” design. The company provided demos as promised, but there were no signs of the motherboards supporting this processor, or the rumored Radeon RX 490 card that’s supposedly based on its upcoming “Vega” graphics chip design. A Vega-based solution was part of the show, but it was crammed inside a Ryzen-themed desktop PC at the very end of the presentation.
In the very last five or ten minutes, the company loaded up 2015’s Star Wars: Battlefront with the new Rogue One: Scarif DLC installed. Viewers watched as the player took control of a U-wing ship and attacked a hulking Star Destroyer. The demo was rather brief, but AMD CEO Lisa Su explained that the Ryzen machine was rendering the game in 4K at more than 60 frames per second, which was more than the refresh rate of the connected 4K display. It was smooth as butter.
Of course, there’s more going on here than just the hidden Vega card. The Ryzen machine consisted of the company’s upcoming eight-core Ryzen processor mounted on an unnamed AM4-based motherboard. No other specs were provided, although Su said that the machine only used one Vega-based graphics card.
As a point of reference, one benchmark of Star Wars: Battlefront listed last year used a test bed featuring the Intel Core i7-5930K processor, 16GB of DDR4 system memory, a 1,200-watt power supply, a HyperX Savage SSD, and the NZXT Kraken X41 CLC cooler. When running Star Wars: Battlefront in a 4K resolution, Ultra graphics settings, and FXAA enabled, two GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards in SLI mode managed an average rate of 60 frames per second. A single MSI Sea Hawk GTX 980 Ti had an average of 44 frames per second, and the MSI R9 390X 8GB card did 39 frames per second.
More recently, Star Wars: Battlefront was benchmarked on Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 card released in the summer of 2016. Using the same 4K resolution and Ultra graphics settings, the “Founders” version managed an average of 72 frames per second, beating out the Zotac GeForce GTX 980 Ti Amp! Extreme card (66.4 frames per second), AMD’s Radeon R9 Fury X (59 frames per second), and AMD’s Radeon R9 Nano (51.5 frames per second). Needless to say, AMD is seemingly targeting Nvidia’s GTX 1080 card with its upcoming Vega-based competitor, and likely even the refreshed $1,200 Titan X card.
Throughout the show, Su compared the eight-core Ryzen processor to Intel’s $1,100 Core i7-6900K desktop processor. AMD’s chip had a base clock speed of 3.4GHz only whereas Intel’s processor had a base clock speed of 3.2GHz and a boost clock speed of 3.70Ghz. The price of Intel’s chip was brought up frequently, and seemed to indicate that AMD customers will have a solution of equal if not slightly greater performance with a smaller power draw and possibly a smaller price.
That’s probably where the company plans to aim when it releases its Vega-based graphics cards. Su said that Ryzen is on track for a release in the first quarter of 2017, but didn’t mention Vega’s release window. Hopefully we will learn more about Vega during CES 2017 in early January, followed by a release in the first quarter of 2017 alongside the Ryzen desktop processor lineup.