AMD Radeon RX 7000 series: Everything we know about the RDNA 3 GPU

Even though gamers looking to upgrade to AMD’s current Radeon RX 6000 series GPUs may feel discouraged due to the global semiconductor shortage, the company is already hard at work on its next-generation graphics card. Expected to be called the Radeon RX 7000 series, following AMD’s historical naming and numbering convention, the GPU is expected to be a powerful upgrade that will make it even more competitive against rival Nvidia’s GeForce cards.

While AMD’s Radeon RX 6000 was based on the company’s 7nm RDNA 2 microarchitecture — a design that the company is using across its PC graphics cards and gaming consoles such as the Sony PlayStation 5 and Microsoft Xbox Series X — the next-gen Radeon RX 7000 will make the jump to a new RDNA 3 design. Jumping to RDNA 3 could allow AMD to offer a performance uplift of up to 2.5x compared to the current generation Radeon RX 6000 cards, according to recent leaks and rumors. Here’s everything we know about AMD’s next-generation Radeon RX 7000 GPUs:

Pricing

AMD Radeon RX 6000

Originally expected to arrive sometime in late 2021, AMD’s RDNA 3-based Radeon RX 7000 is now believed to debut in 2022. According to Twitter user @Kepler_L2, the GPU could launch during the first half of next year.

Given that the world has been dealing with a massive semiconductor shortage that is affecting the production of both CPUs and GPUs, among other PC components, AMD likely doesn’t have much incentive to maintain an aggressive cadence for the launch of its next graphics cards. The company is already having a difficult enough time fulfilling orders for the current Radeon RX 6000 GPUs. Pushing the launch of the Radeon RX 7000 to 2022 would make sense to allow supply chains and demand — both affected by the global pandemic — to normalize and recover while also giving the company the ability to recoup its investment in the RX 6000 architecture.

As a stopgap for the rumored delayed launch of the RX 7000 series, AMD could continue to introduce more GPUs in the RX 6000 series — as rival Nvidia is doing — or announce special edition models, like its all-black version of the RadeonRX 6800 XT in the Midnight Black hue.

And since AMD hasn’t yet announced the Radeon RX 7000 series, we won’t know how the graphics card will be priced. Though we can likely expect the Radeon RX 7000 series to cost as much as the Radeon RX 6000 upon launch, various factors could force an increase in price.

AMD may be less inclined to be price competitive with its GPU series if the rumored performance uplift pans out. And with current GPU prices rising due to demand outstripping supply as well as the U.S. tariffs on imports, we expect prices of the Radeon RX 7000 to go up. On the secondary market, anxious gamers unwilling to wait for AMD and Nvidia to replenish inventory of their graphics cards are already paying double or triple the retail price of these GPUs.

For comparison, AMD’s powerful Radeon RX 6900 XT currently retails for $999 in the U.S., but recent rumors suggest that its successor, the Radeon RX 7900 XT, could cost as much as $2,000.

This represents a 100% increase in pricing generation-over-generation, if the pricing information holds true. Pricing for the Radeon RX 6000 series starts at just $479 for AMD’s current entry-level Radeon RX 6700 XT card, whereas rival Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3060 starts at $329 and goes up to $1,499 for the RTX 3090 GPU.

Historically, AMD has priced its cards more competitively against Nvidia, and we expect the situation will likely continue when both companies launch their next-generation lineup of GPUs. That said, gamers should be prepared for an increase in price across the board given supply constraints affecting production, outsized demand for powerful PC components, and tariffs.

Architecture

At the heart of the Radeon RX 7000 series will be AMD’s new RDNA 3 microarchitecture. While RDNA 2 was more colloquially referred to as “Big Navi” by gamers and Navi 2x by AMD executives, RDNA 3 is rumored to be referred to as Navi 33.

“Navi 33 (?) = Navi 21 + Next Gen IP Core,” Twitter user @KittyYYuko wrote in a cryptic tweet, as reported by Wccftech. On face value, we can expect Navi 33, or RDNA 3, to possess the same performance of AMD’s RDNA 2 plus uplift from the company’s “next generation IP core.” For its part, AMD executives have been teasing huge performance improvements with RDNA 3, though the company has not revealed specifics about the upcoming architectural change.

Though unconfirmed, it’s expected that the change to a 5nm process from a 7nm process will help drive some of this performance boost, and RDNA 3 will likely be manufactured by partner TSMC.

And if the chip is configured similarly to RDNA 2, we can likely expect 80 compute units for a total of 5,120 stream processors. An earlier rumor listing Navi 31 suggested that RDNA 3 will feature 80 CUs, but the architecture will be based on an entirely new design.

AMD could potentially use a multi-chip module (MCM), or chiplet, design borrowed from the architecture used on its Ryzen processors for RDNA 3. This change in design will allow the company to double the number of compute units on each die, for a total of 160 compute units and 10,240 stream processors. This would in effect double the amount of compute units on the Radeon RX 6900 XT. AMD will likely have several configurations in the series, and a Navi 32 SKU could contain 120 to 140 compute units using the same MCM design.

If all else is the same, we can expect AMD’s GPUs to ship with at least 12GB of VRAM. The company had previously claimed that 12GB of RAM on GPUs is the minimum requirement to be future-proof when playing AAA titles. Current AMD GPUs ship with GDDR6 memory, and we can expect the same with Radeon RX 7000 since Nvidia has an exclusive on the faster GDDR6X standard.

Unlike with RDNA 2, which is also found in gaming consoles, RDNA 3 will likely remain limited to PC gamers. This is because consoles have a shelf life of four to six years, and the actual processing and graphics hardware is typically not upgraded during this time. And even though RDNA 3 won’t be headed to consoles, we do expect to see mobile variants of the Radeon RX 7000 series for laptop gaming. Mobile RX 7000 laptops will likely launch sometime after PC cards have debuted.

Performance

AMD Radeon VII
Riley Young/Digital Trends

AMD had claimed in the past that the shift from its GCN architecture to first-ten RDNA brought a massive 50% performance-per-watt improvement, and the move from RDNA to the current RDNA 2 design delivered an additional 50% improvement. The move from RDNA 2 to RDNA 3 could result in an even bigger jump in performance.

Early reports suggest that gamers can potentially see a performance improvement of 2.5x, or 250%, over RDNA 2, helping AMD to break its 50% gen-on-gen performance improvement history. So far, though, we haven’t seen any leaked benchmarks to confirm these early theories, but if AMD is able to double the number of compute units and stream processors utilizing the chiplet design ported from its CPUs, we can expect to see some big upticks in graphics performance.

While the RDNA 2 architecture delivered support for ray-tracing for the first time on AMD’s GPUs, making them competitive against rival Nvidia’s RT 2000 and RTX 3000 series graphics cards, we expect AMD will have more to say about improved performance in this area when Radeon RX 7000 series launches.

Even though the company’s Radeon RX 6000 series cards were widely praised for their performance, early reviewers lamented that without a comparable alternative to Nvidia’s DLSS — deep learning super sampling — feature on RTX cards, ray tracing performance on Radeon cards often lagged behind their counterparts. Hopefully, AMD will have its answer to DLSS by the time RX 7000 cards launch to improve frame rates when ray-tracing is enabled. AMD’s yet-to-be released competitor is known as Super Resolution, though the feature hasn’t been released yet.

Still, not a lot of information is known about RDNA 3 at this time, and we don’t know any details about the GPU’s overall design yet.

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