Well this is unexpected. Over the weekend a tweet by an AMD representative from their engineering department in the graphics division linked to an article on Japanese-based site 4Gamer, with the article detailing an interview with AMD’s Global Desktop Graphics Product Manager, Devon Nekechuk. In the interview Nekechuk mentions that AMD has plans for a mobile HD8000 refresh codenamed “Solar System”, bringing GCN-based GPUs to the lower end of the mobile lineup, whilst also re-branding their OEM chips as HD8000 cards, possibly with a minor overclock and blower coolers as standard. But they mentioned nothing about a consumer-focused desktop HD8000 lineup, because they don’t plan on launching one until much later this year.
Yeah I know, this caught me by surprise as much as anyone else. At CES 2013 AMD was committed to the “Sea Islands” family and the roadmaps they presented pointed to a June launch at the least. Many people speculated that the arrival of the HD7870 LE was actually a move to clear out stocks of HD7970 and HD7950 cores that weren’t all working properly, making space in the assembly line for the newcomers.
Well, I guess it makes sense that they would wait to release their new cards. After all, AMD is now responsible for the processing units in both the Xbox 720/Infinity/8 and the PS4 – it’ll have to make some fab space open for both consoles to receive a healthy supply of the chips without delays affecting their launches or inadvertently increasing launch prices because there’s short supply. AMD also already supplies a custom GPU to Nintendo for the Wii U and the Wii, both of which are still moving along at a steady pace. Heck, they still make Xenos chips for Xbox 360s that are still rolling off the manufacturing line. The company probably realised they’d be biting off more than they can chew if they also get a desktop launch on the way, so this may be for the best.
In addition, I’d expect that the only “new” desktop GPU to be expected this year, at least for Q2 and Q3 will be Nvidia’s Titan. Nvidia has already stated that they’re merely planning a refresh of their Kepler lineup (apparently now called “Maxwell”) and both companies may be looking to focus on driver improvements while they work on their successors. Remember, Kepler and GCN are vastly different to the previous architectures that both replace and there may be some improvements to be had in driver updates and optimisations.
Also, this may be a calculated collusion by both companies in a gentlemen’s agreement of sorts. If you’re still playing on a 1080p monitor like so many other are, you’re pretty much hitting the limit with a HD7870 or a GTX660 Ti. Both are perfectly suited for 1080p with near-maximum settings and chances are that more expensive cards won’t give you the same performance benefits as you’ll have to enable V-Sync anyway. We might be reaching the same plateu in graphics performance that the CPU has endured for quite some time now – performance is now more than acceptable with most products. There’s just no need for more powerful configurations until the next-generation consoles are released and push the standard for acceptable detail levels that much higher.
I know that some of you NAGlings reading this are on triple-monitor setups, using a 3D screen or a combination of both. Perhaps you like to record your sessions playing DayZ using FRAPS or you want to enable Übersampling on The Witcher 2. In that case, both the GTX680 and the HD7970 GHz Edition offer more than playable performance. What if you’re keen to keep things together and hold off upgrading for as long as possible? A combination of a Core i7-3770, 16GB RAM and a GTX690 or the cheaper HD7990 will put paid to that. Do we need more than that right now? With the majority of console ports no longer pushing graphics boundaries on the PC and more companies catering to online pay-to-win and casual gamers, it looks like we’ll only be seeing more graphics grunt towards the end of the year.
Meh, that’s all I’m saying.
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