Yesterday, AMD officially announced its lineup of RDNA 3-powered graphics cards with the RX 7900 series lineup. While NVIDIA threw caution to the wind and cranked up both power and cash requirements for their RTX 4000-series, AMD played it a little more cautious, delivering what looks to be a solid performance upgrade without changing the price from last year. Delivering the “world’s first chiplet-design graphics card,” can AMD’s RDNA 3 RX 7900-series GPUs stand up to the task? Let’s take a closer look.
AMD announces RX 7900-series graphics cards
AMD decided to completely change its entire architecture with the RDNA 3-powered RX 7900-series graphics cards. Following suit with the Zen-based Ryzen chiplet processors, the new graphics card technology that AMD is leveraging for RDNA 3 allows the brand to deliver “exceptional performance and superb energy efficiency.” Combining both 5nm and 6nm process nodes, each chiplet design is “optimized for specific jobs.” This change in architecture allows AMD to deliver “up to 54% more performance per watt than RDNA 2” graphics cards could, and creates the “world’s fastest interconnect linking the graphics and memory system chiplets at up to 5.3TB/s.”
Speaking of memory, AMD hasn’t jumped on the GDDR6X train yet for some reason, but does still offer up to 24GB of GDDR6 memory on a 384-bit bus interface for increased performance over previous launches. While we don’t have a whole lot of performance metrics, AMD does say that the RX 7900 XTX can deliver up to 1.7x the performance of RDNA 2 GPUs.
You’ll also find the latest DisplayPort 2.1 standard in tow here, which allows for up to 4K 480Hz or 8K 165Hz displays to be connected to the RX 7900-series graphics cards over a single cable. Meanwhile, the RTX 4090 only has DisplayPort 1.4a and HDMI 2.1 in tow, meaning that NVIDIA will have to update its GPU lineup again in order to support the newer standard. DisplayPort 2.1 also allows AMD to drive up to 1440p 900Hz, which is mind-blowing to think about that being an actual refresh rate. Of course, there’s also support for HDMI 2.1a as well as 12-bit color depth because why not. AMD also supports simultaneous encode and decode streams at up to 8K60 for HEVC and even AV1 encoding, delivering up to 1.8 times higher engine frequency than RDNA 2 did.
AMD is also changing things up on the software side of its new RX 7900-series GPUs. FidelityFX Super Resolution 2.2 and FSR 3 are now being leverages. FSR 2.2 will give enhancements to improve visual quality, while FSR 3 is a completely new version of the technology which delivers “up to 2x more FPS compared to FSR 2 in select games.” How does AMD achieve this, you ask? Well, it’s likely with frame injection, but we’ll need to go hands-on to see how it actually affects gameplay.
AMD is also leveraging its new AV1 hardware encoding and HEVC chips to improve the quality of video streaming and recording in OBS, which is also being backported to RX 6000-series GPUs (on the HEVC side, since AV1 is new to RDNA 3.)
What about pricing? It had to go up, right? Wrong. AMD kept things simple and the RX 7900 XTX with 24GB of GDDR6 memory clocks in at a $999 list price, while the RX 7900 XT is $899. The $100 in savings knocks 4GB of memory off, drops 12 compute units, lowers the clock speed from 2.3GHz to 2.0GHz, and reduces the memory interface to 320-bit. Also, before we forget, the power usage of these cards doesn’t even come close to approaching RTX 4000-series, with the top-tier RX 7900 XTX coming in at 355W while the RX 7900 XT only uses 300W, making sure you won’t have to completely replace a power supply and rebuild just to upgrade a graphics card.
AMD really took it to NVIDIA with this one. While the RTX 4090 will probably still have the RX 7900 XTX beat in performance by a bit, the fact that the RX 7900 XTX costs around 38% less than the 4090 makes up for the fact and then some. It’s great to see AMD go from the underdog they were for the better part of a decade or more to become a heavy hitter in both the GPU and CPU space, something Intel themselves is struggling with these days.
I’m excited to see what comes of AMD’s RDNA 3 graphics cards, as I’ve enjoyed using my RDNA 2 GPU since getting it a few months ago.
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