If everything goes right: AMD could ride out a smooth launch with Radeon RX Vega, providing there aren't HBM2 shortages like I've exclusively reported - and that there are driver optimizations and game support on day one for Vega.
AMD needs another Radeon 9700 PRO right now, so let's say we aim for GTX 1080 Ti beating performance - we'd need 20% more performance than NVIDIA's super-fast GTX 1080 Ti for that. But then it comes down to price, so with an estimated $599-$699 price AMD could topple NVIDIA off of its 'best graphics card' reign with their fastest Radeon RX Vega.
The exciting new High Bandwidth Cache Controller is going to be the star of the Radeon RX Vega show, along side the Vega NCU of course. HBCC provides AMD with an opportunity of having something NVIDIA doesn't, but it needs to nail that competitive side in order to leap forward. HBCC could be the key, but it's something we'll have to wait and see the real-world performance of - not just pre-baked demos or hand chosen games.
If something goes wrong: This is what I worry about. AMD has over promised and barely delivered with Radeon R9 Fury X... and then Polaris was nowhere near as power efficient as NVIDIA's refreshed Pascal architecture. AMD have been getting kicked all over the playground because of it, so Vega needs to be a monster.
In this scenario, let's say AMD's flagship Radeon RX Vega doesn't beat GTX 1080 Ti, but comes close. NVIDIA has their GeForce GTX 1080, custom/overclocked GTX 1080s, the new GTX 1080 with 11Gbps GDDR5X, custom/overclocked GTX 1080s with 11Gbps GDDR5X, the GTX 1080 Ti, custom/overclocked GTX 1080 Ti, the first Titan X(P) and the new Titan Xp. AMD has its work beyond cut out for them, and I think it will be impossible for them to beat all of those cards.
So, let's say AMD beats the GTX 1080... and evens out against the new GTX 1080 with 11Gbps GDDR5X. AMD would need to price this card at $599, and have it beat the GTX 1080 by at least 10% in 1080p/1440p and even beat it by a larger margin at 4K - but still not beat the GTX 1080 Ti.
Then the custom/overclocked Radeon RX Vega could beat the GTX 1080 with 11Gbps GDDR5X, and the dual-GPU version of Radeon RX Vega (if it's even a thing) could beat the GTX 1080 Ti. This is a worrisome alternate reality, as it leaves AMD wide open for a counter attack from NVIDIA with refreshed Pascal cards that will utterly destroy the Vega cards.
Whatever happens, this is the most exciting time in history for GPU technology and graphics cards. I've lived through Matrox, 3dfx, NVIDIA's first GPU, the ATI days with Radeon 9700 PRO, and so much more. But things are progressing so fast right now, with NVIDIA close to an entire generation ahead of AMD, and still pushing for more - just look at the monstrous new Volta-based Tesla V100 for example.
NVIDIA is deploying HBM2 on its next-gen Volta GPU offerings, eyeing off GDDR6 on their next-gen consumer GeForce graphics cards, while AMD is ready to throw down the consumer HBM2 graphics card gauntlet with Radeon RX Vega. HBM2 is going to be a large step forward, only if there are reasons to buy it.
First, AMD will need to make smaller Radeon RX Vega graphics cards thanks to the space saved on the PCB by HBM2. If we see Radeon R9 Nano-sized graphics cards with the power of GTX 1080/GTX 1080 Ti in Radeon RX Vega form, I'll be a happy man. If we see water cooled graphics cards like the Radeon R9 Fury X and it doesn't beat NVIDIA's latest and greatest, I'll be sorely disappointed.
I think we'll see a successful Radeon RX Vega launch from AMD, but they'll need to follow through much quicker with a successor in Vega 20 and then Navi 10. It has been two years since the Fiji architecture was born with the Radeon R9 Fury X... AMD can't wait that long to succeed Vega, and that's the sad thing.
I'm already talking about the successor to Vega and how AMD will need it to survive, and we're not even at the launch of Radeon RX Vega... NVIDIA has so much untapped power left in Pascal it's not funny. They could tweak voltages and the cooling on a GTX 2080/1180 graphics card, and hit 2.5GHz on GPU speeds while reaching 12Gbps on GDDR5X overclocked. This would be enough to bury Radeon RX Vega.
AMD needs a miracle with Radeon RX Vega, and while I have faith in it - I need to see the final product, in my hands, with my testing before I make my final judgment. HBCC is going to be something beyond exciting to test, as well as HBM2 and the Vega GPU architecture. While it sounds like I'm anti-AMD right now, I'm just being very realistic. Polaris 20 wasn't exciting, as it was a rebrand that used more power than its predecessor.
Radeon RX Vega is the most exciting graphics card release, in my opinion, in 5 years+. This is down to AMD promising a next-gen GPU architecture, mixed with HBM2 and sprinkled with HBCC. Bring. It. ON.
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