What AMD Didn’t Say About Navi (That They Will At E3)

What AMD Didn’t Say About Navi (That They Will At E3)
AMD CEO Dr Lisa Su holding up a piece of 7nm silicon from the Navi GPU generation. Image: Alex Walker (Kotaku)

A solid chunk of AMD’s Computex keynote was all about the performance of their desktop CPUs, which makes sense if you’re claiming that you’ve taken the lead in performance and process technology for the first time in over a decade. But equally important was the company’s Navi gaming GPUs, which are due to ship later this year as well.

Journalists were offered the chance to ask more about Navi in a roundtable conference after the keynote. There were several aspects that AMD wouldn’t talk about yet, but were happy to confirm what they would mention at E3. So by process of elimination, here’s what to expect when AMD talks about Navi at E3.

Yes, ray tracing will be mentioned

Shadow of the Tomb Raider, one of the few games commercially available using ray traced shadows.

One of the early group questions was not only on AMD’s support for ray tracing — which is expected given AMD’s hardware is powering the PS5, which Sony architect Mark Cerny has confirmed would support ray tracing–but what they thought about the current state of ray tracing games.

“There’s no doubt that ray tracing is the future of graphics and gaming. But the support mechanism, the ecosystem readiness, that’s all extremely important things. And our game developer of the adoption of the technology is all very important things, and we would like to give you our full view of that update,” Scott Herkleman, the vice president and GM of the Radeon Business Unit, said. “We agree it’s a little early, but [ray tracing] is still very important technology.”

Expect news on hardware encoding

One of the biggest advantages for Nvidia cards over the last few years has been the NVENC hardware encoder, allowing gamers to record and stream gameplay with a minimal impact to real-time performance. AMD has a solution of their own, but it’s not as advanced and its integration with third-party software, like OBS, isn’t as efficient.

“I think we want to give a very significant update at Tech Day about our RDNA architecture and our future of our view of all those newest features,” Herkleman said.

Being able to play and stream games from a single card is a huge benefit to users, and the recent updates to NVENC with the RTX cards have been reason for some dedicated streamers to upgrade their GPUs. AMD knows they’ll need something in this space, so keep an eye out.

Navi will have its own AI hardware

I asked directly whether Navi would utilise AI in some way, and what AMD sees as the short to medium-term involvement for AI in video games. A straight answer wasn’t given, but AMD did reveal that the next GPUs would have some features in their architecture that “addresses some of our competitors current offerings”, along with some proprietary tricks of their own that will be revealed at E3.

“Another way to say it from a business perspective is we don’t believe gamers should have to pay for things on a chip that they don’t necessarily use … we don’t want to tax [gamers] with things that they don’t require,” AMD said.

There might be a solution to cloud gaming’s biggest problem

Google is using AMD's hardware to power their upcoming Stadia platform.

It won’t be front and centre during the E3 reveal, but AMD has been working in the background on the cloud gaming component with Google (and potentially others). When asked about how AMD can help overcome some of the challenges facing cloud gaming — the latency problem in particular–a couple of examples were given.

“The last mile is a tough one, the last mile to a consumer’s home, the last mile to your mobile device while you’re in a train station, that’s a tough one. If anybody can solve it, people like Google and Amazon can,” Herkleman explained.

“There are a lot of things we can do on our side, and we’re in deep discussions with our partners down to our driver, down to how we deliver a frame, down to maybe thinking about delivering frames differently. There’s a really good deep technical discussion ongoing with our partners — can’t say anything more publicly than that right now — but it could be groundbreaking. That’s very exciting for the future of gaming, and that’s why they choose us: we want to help them, we’re not proprietary, we consider it an open standard and everyone should benefit.”

When asked to clarify what was meant by the mention of Amazon — rumours have floated around about the company venturing into some form of cloud gaming that leverages Twitch, but nothing has been confirmed or officially announced — Herkleman simply replied, “I would just say that’s a general partnership.”


  • I feel like AMD teaming up with Google on Cloud gaming is kinda weird, it’s a bit like a butcher teaming up with the Vegan alliance…

    I mean if the Cloud gaming genuinely takes off it’s going to pretty much destroy the gaming video card market (and probably won’t do wonders for the CPU market either). Although, I suppose they would have a market for super high core count server processors to build the server farms. Not sure whether there’s a better market for AMD (and Intel, Nvidia and co) in the server arena than the consumer one.

    • If it does happen, they are in on it when their original market is destroyed. I doubt the blow to the market will be catastrophic though.

    • It’s only going to wreck the consumer market and only in places where cloud gaming is viable. There still has to be hardware on the other end of the equation rendering it and that is where AMD will make up the difference.

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