When we last heard from AMD, they gave us the AMD Ryzen 7000 Processors, and teased us with AMD Radeon 7000 Graphics Cards. And today they’re back with more information on Radeon GPUs. The golden day is December 13th, the golden price is $999 or $899, and the golden name is Radeon RX 7900XTX, and RX 7900XT.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a little bit. November 3rd, 2022. AMD hosted another announcement show, this one called Advance_Gaming (because all their announcements are “advance_” with a very conspicuous underscore), and the first thing they did was When Last We Left Our Heroes about Ryzen 7000, and then give a nice little shoutout to the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, which despite still being Zen 3 rather than Zen 4 it’s still one of the best (and situationally the best) gaming CPUs money can buy.
That’s not the point of the day though, the point is GPUs. And in a refreshing difference from what NVIDIA gave us, AMD decided to spend their full hour-long announcement show actually talking about gaming graphics, and making entirely un-subtle callouts to NVIDIA’s design decisions with the RTX 4090, in particular the 4090’s staggeringly huge profile and power draw. To contrast the 4090’s 666.6W power draw (not making that up), colossal 3-4 slot thickness, and well over 300mm length, the Radon RX 7900XTX boasts a mere 2.5 slot thickness, 287mm length, and 355W power draw. They directly contrast this with their own previous flagship RX 6950XT with its nearly-identical 2.5 slot thickness, 276mm length, and 335W power draw. The power draw is particularly significant, partly because that power draw is still covered by only 2×8-pin PCIe power cables, but also as a very refreshing contrast from Intel, NVIDIA, and AMD’s own Ryzen 7000 announcement show. The Ryzen 7000 announcement show had a lot to say about power efficiency and performance-per-watt, but used that conversation to sweep under the rug the fact that AMD had substantially increased the power budgets for Ryzen 7000 versus Ryzen 5000. The Radeon RX 7000 announcement also had a lot to say about power efficiency and performance-per-watt, but this time AMD actually backed it up with parts that don’t significantly bump the power budget. And in fact, comparing the RX 6900XT to the RX 7900XT, they both pull the same 300W.
This all said though, AMD are making a step backwards in product naming, extending their XT vs non-XT naming pattern with a new XTX designation, clearly showing that the way to make a better product name is to add more Xes to it.
Much of AMD’s announcement show focused on the design architecture of the new GPUs. AMD have applied their chiplet manufacturing technology to GPU production, and are claiming this allows them to better segment and specialize the GPU components to optimize for power efficiency. The high claims are +177% memory transfer bandwidth, +100% performance per clock cycle, +50% performance per Compute Unit in raytracing, +15% overall clock speed uplift, and +57% increased overall performance-per-watt. Part of this increased efficiency comes from workload analysis showing that decoupling the shader clock from the front-end control interface clock could allow the shaders to run at a lower clock speed and power level, without sacrificing overall performance, which is actually a very interesting feature that they have implemented in the new cards.
The big hype piece of AMD’s announcements is the advent of DisplayPort 2.2 connectors on the cards, as opposed to current generation (and current NVIDIA generation) DisplayPort 1.4. AMD’s claim here is that the current line of graphics cards are reaching and exceeding the limitations of the DisplayPort connectors for actually being able to deliver and display their high framerates, and that the upgrade to DisplayPort 2.2 lifts this limit and allows for some truly astounding framerates and refresh rates (900Hz at 1440p, 480Hz at 4k, 165Hz at 8k).
But those are all numbers and specs, they’re not video games. (And they’re not AMD’s Scott Herkelman jebaiting us with having to wait on price and release dates.) So let’s talk about video games. Looking to high resolution real-time raytraced gaming, the RX 7900XTX is claiming 50-70% higher framerates in 4k raytraced gameplay (versus their current RX 6950XT), including pushing Cyberpunk 2077 to 60FPS at 4k raytraced. And looking to extreme framerate gaming, the RX 7900XTX is claiming 300 FPS in Apex Legends, 600 FPS in Overwatch 2, and 833FPS in Valorant, all running at 1440p. The Apex and Overwatch 2 numbers are also claimed to be the game engines’ framerate limits, meaning that no other hardware would be able to play the games faster or smoother. On top of the straight performance gains, AMD are also rolling out the next iteration of FidelityFX Super Resolution, FSR3, which (similar to NVIDIA’s claims with DLSS 3) claims doubled framerates over the current FSR2. AMD are also putting special emphasis on livestreaming performance, with the inclusion of AVC, HEVC, and AV1 video encoding and decoding and the ability to run multiple encode/decode streams simultaneously, and with Xilinx AI-based enhancements specifically paired with AV1 video encoding to allow for high visual clarity even on low streaming bandwidths.
AMD had two final points of discussion, related to the pairing of AMD CPUs and GPUs in systems. First, a feature called AMD SmartAccess Video, which splits video encoding and decoding workloads between Ryzen CPUs and Radeon GPUs to significantly improve performance. And second, the AMD Advantage Desktop program. AMD Advantage is a marketing program first launched back in the Bulldozer era to highlight the performance benefits gained from AMD being able to produce both the CPU and GPU in a system and thus intelligently balance and split workloads for performance and efficiency. AMD Advantage was relaunched more recently for OEM Laptops containing both an AMD CPU and AMD GPU, and also conforming to a further list of quality control specifications intent on making them the cream of the crop in gaming laptops. With the RX 7000 graphics cards, AMD are extending this program to also include Ryzen-Radeon desktop computers assembled by system integrators, to showcase the best and the brightest in high-performance pure-AMD gaming rigs.
The RX 7900XTX gaming benchmark numbers are still first-party and thus further independent testing is required. But, if these numbers are at all close to realized, while the RX 7900XTX may not stand up to the RTX 4090, it will absolutely blow the RTX 3090 and 3090Ti out of the water, with huge advantages in price, power draw, and gaming performance.