AMD plans for the cloud, once again teases the fastest graphics card you can’t buy

radeon hd 7990AMD wants to capture the hearts and minds of gamers, wherever they are.

The semiconductor maker has been on a roll lately in the console game arena, with design wins on all three major systems. The PlayStation 4 is running an AMD APU (accelerated processing unit) – which combines GPU and CPU functions on a single chip – while the Wii U is using AMD graphics for its realtime rendering. And if the rumors are correct, the next generation Xbox will also sport an APU.

On the PC gaming side, AMD’s recent launch of the budget-friendly Radeon HD 7790 gives gamers with stock 1080p displays access to reasonably good PC game performance in modern games at a $150 price point.

However, gaming is going to the cloud in a big way. Straightforward game download services like Steam or EA Origin, or full-on games delivered from the cloud like OnLive and  CiiNow (and soon the PS4 via Gaikai technology), mean cloud-based gaming is here to stay. Hardcore gamers may not be interested in the 720p interactive video streams delivered by companies like CiiNow, but more casual, on-the-go gamers might appreciate access to current generation titles on their tablets, thin-and-light notebooks, or HDTV sets.

However, it’s not a simple problem to solve. The companies that are delivering cloud gaming simply can’t use a standard PC graphics card to deliver these services. That would mean each gamer they serve would need their own, dedicated card, which is cost prohibitive in multiple ways. In the large data centers needed to serve up cloud gaming, a single card per user would require more servers, more racks, and more power.

The answer is a concept known as virtualization. Many games don’t require all the potential horsepower of even a single GPU. Imagine if a single, high-end GPU could deliver games to two, three, or even more users.

That’s one of the key ideas behind AMD’s new Radeon Sky series GPUs. The Sky isn’t a product that end users will buy for their home PCs. Instead, it’s a solution for large server farms, allowing cloud gaming services to integrate multiple graphics cards into a server chassis, and therefore increase the overall GPU density in a server farm. AMD will be delivering three different Sky products:

  • The dual GPU Sky 900, offering 3584 total stream processors and 6GB of GDDR5 graphics memory (3GB per GPU).
  • The single GPU Sky 700, with 1792 stream processors, which includes 6GB dedicated to that one GPU. Both the 700 and 900 GPUs are very similar to the high end desktop GPUs used in AMD’s Radeon HD 7950 and 7970 products.
  • The Sky 500, with 4GB of GDDR5 and 1280 GPUs.

All three are capable of rendering multiple games for different users at the same time, while also handling the critical task of converting game frames to a compressed, H.264 video stream that’s delivered to gamers wherever they might be. The Sky products are also passively cooled, which improves power usage and heat efficiency in server farms.

Radeon SkyThe problem is that AMD is a little late to the party. Nvidia has already begun delivering complete server solutions for cloud gaming with its GeForce Grid products, and has been delivering GPUs with virtualization for cloud gaming for over a year now. AMD hopes that it’s passively cooled solutions will prove more attractive in the long run, but it will be an uphill battle.

AMD further claims it has the fastest PC gaming graphics card on the planet with its Radeon HD 7990 dual GPU graphics card (pictured at the top of the article). The HD 7990 uses to Radeon HD 7970 GPUs along with 3GB of fast GDDR5 memory for each GPU (6GB total.)

The problem: you can’t buy one today.

AMD has been talking up the 7990 for months now in various techn media sites, but no actual products have been forthcoming. Asus did ship a card with dual Radeon HD 7970 GPUs in its Ares II card, but that required specialized cooling and cost a bundle.

radeon hd 7790AMD trotted out the 7990 once again at GDC, and once again discussed its fabulous performance, but refused to disclose pricing or a delivery date. So at this point, the Radeon HD 7990 is simply vaporware. Nvidia has been shipping its dual GPU GTX 690 since May, 2012, and has had good success with its recently released behemoth single GPU GTX Titan card.

When will gamers actually be able to plunk down real money for a real HD 7990? It’s likely that AMD is still working out kinks with clock rates, power and cooling. But the company can’t afford to wait too long, or it’ll risk letting the competition take an insurmountable lead in the market. 

Computing

RTX 2070 is the most popular Turing GPU for Steam gamers

Nvidia's RTX graphics cards might not be selling like hotcakes, but they are selling and they're more popular than AMD's Vega GPUs. The most popular entry in the lineup is the RTX 2070, beating out its stronger and weaker contemporaries.
Gaming

How do the revised Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles stack up?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?
Deals

From Chromebooks to MacBooks, here are the best laptop deals for February 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Computing

This gaming PC rig costs less than most smartphones. Here's what we put inside

Building a great gaming PC doesn't take as much time or money as you might think. We've put together a list of great gaming components to build a budget gaming PC for under $500.
Gaming

Over 16,000 Apex Legends cheaters have already been banned by Respawn

Respawn Entertainment revealed that it has already banned over 16,000 cheaters in Apex Legends in the less than two weeks since its release. The developer may be working on an in-game feature to report cheaters.
Gaming

Get the most life out of your Xbox One controller with these tips

The Xbox One controller has fantastic battery life, but eventually your batteries will still die. To make it even better and ensure you never have to stop gaming, follow these tips.
Gaming

How you can share your best gaming moments with friends on the PS4

Check out Digital Trends' quick guide to everything you need to know to save your outstanding PlayStation 4 gameplay moments, share them online, and transfer them to your computer.
Gaming

A beginner’s guide to Far Cry New Dawn’s postapocalyptic Hope County

Far Cry New Dawn is yet another entry in Ubisoft's popular open world shooter franchise. But while it may feel quite similar in motion, the progression system is changed in a lot of ways. Our beginner's guide is here to help.
Gaming

Learn to scavenge like a pro with our Far Cry New Dawn crafting guide

Far Cry New Dawn revolves around the hunt -- the hunt for materials to craft new weapons, vehicles, and other useful items. It's easy to miss out on great opportunities to find new materials if you don't go off the beaten path.
Gaming

Here's our take on the best game-streaming services currently out there

You can still get your physical video game discs or cartridges at your local store or download games digitally, but another option is even more convenient: Game streaming. Here are the best game streaming services.
Gaming

PS4 vs. Switch: After weighing the pros and cons, which one comes out on top?

Nintendo Switch versus PlayStation 4: Which one has better overall value? We break down the pros and cons of each platform to tell you which of these consoles is truly worth the money.
Gaming

Xbox's app lets you access your console while away from home. Here's how

Microsoft's Xbox allows you to access your profile information and launch media content directly from your mobile device. Check out our quick guide on how to connect your smartphone to an Xbox One.
Gaming

Here’s how to set up a virtual private network (VPN) on your Xbox One

Online privacy is more important now than it's ever been, and gaming is happening online more than ever before. Here's a quick guide on how to set up a VPN for your Xbox One so you game in safe anonymity.
Gaming

You're never too broke to enjoy the best free-to-play games

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially popular League of Legends.