It's been a long road for Atari fans waiting eagerly for the new crowdfunded console. And for those brave enough to take the plunge, that wait just got even longer, with the console delayed this morning until the end of 2019 for North Americans.
In a new blog post, the Atari VCS team explains that the delay is down to a decision to swap out older AMD hardware. The console, which was originally built around 4K capability, 60fps and HDR support, was built off AMD's Bristol Ridge APU, which launched back in 2017. It wasn't the most powerful gaming APU then, with Anandtech finding it was barely capable of hitting 55fps in GTA 5.
On low settings, at 720p.
So for a console that wants to run modern and classic games, the upgrade makes a lot of sense. The new APU chip from AMD will be a dual-core Zen offering with onboard Vega graphics. They also add that the product is currently unannounced, rather than being one of the existing 14nm AMD APUs currently on the market (like the Ryzen 3 2200U, which would fit the bill for this).
AMD’s all-new Ryzen embedded chip will be faster, cooler, and more efficient, allowing the VCS to benefit from a simpler and more effective power architecture and thermal solution. The new processor includes built-in Ethernet, Native 4K video with modern HDCP, and a secure frame buffer that fully-supports DRM video (Netflix, HBO, etc.).
This upgrade will translate to better overall performance in a cooler and quieter box — all with minimal impact to our manufacturing processes. While additional specifications about the new AMD processor will be announced closer to launch, be assured that the new AMD Ryzen processor is a much better fit for this project in multiple ways and will further enable the Atari VCS to deliver on its promise to be a unique and highly flexible platform for creators.
The APU upgrade will have a fairly substantial impact on developers. The existing Ryzen APUs already had a significant amount of headroom compared to the older Bristol Ridge line: the 2200G was at least capable of holding above 30fps at 900p in more modern games, in some instances getting nearly double the performance of the older chip. A newer APU again would get further performance bumps still.
But Atari notes that they'll have to issue new guidance about the hardware and its impact, not only to developers but backers as well. The company says it plans to reveal more in the coming months about the user experience, storefront, services, distribution and design architecture. For now, the best we can hope is that Australians might see this console by Christmas - although if Americans aren't expected to get their wooden Atari logos until the holidays, chances are we're looking at a 2020 launch down under.