The first AMD Navi graphics cards should actually come in the second half of 2019. Allegedly a smaller branch called Navi 12 with 40 CUs will come sooner.
Navi urgently needed
AMD seems to be taking its time at the moment with new graphics card products for gamers. The last upgrade in 2017 was called RX Vega and was supposed to compete with Nvidia’s high-end segment. However, AMD only managed to reach the level of the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 Ti. Since then there have been no more upgrades for gamers. In the last few days AMD has introduced the 7nm version of Vega, but it comes as Radeon Instinct MI60 for the server market only. For the middle class the RX 590 comes on November 15th, but for the high-end segment there is absolutely nothing. This can also be seen in the pricing of Nvidia’s Turing graphics cards. There is currently simply no competition for RTX 2070, RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti.
What is missing is the next graphics card generation called Navi. Like Vega 20, Navi comes with a 7nm structure width and is manufactured by TSMC. Due to the significantly lower structure width, AMD could accommodate enough transistors to bring Navi 10 to or above the level of the RTX 2080 even with a die measuring only 200 mm². Until this version of Navi comes out, it will take at least until the second half of 2019. According to information from wccftech, however, still a smaller branch could launch before it.
Navi 12 comes with 40 CUs
According to information that wccftech claims to have received from an internal source, AMD first releases a smaller Navi derivative. The graphics card is codenamed Navi 12 and is said to have 40 CUs. Actually, AMD uses the publication period for the nomenclature of its graphics cards, which means that Navi 10 would have to be published before. But this doesn’t seem to be the case with this launch. The 12 branch might be the first.
wccftech also claims that Navi is no longer based on the Graphics Core Next architecture, but already on the successor architecture uArch. The architecture is not supposed to be based on GCN, which is why there could be more stream processors in the compute units than in GCN. For comparison: the RX Vega 56 offers 3,584 stream processors (shaders) in 56 compute units, which corresponds to 64 stream processors per CU. If Navi 12 has the same number of stream processors, it reaches 2,560 stream processors with 40 CUs. The pure number of shaders doesn’t say anything about the performance. An RTX 2070 has only 2,304 shaders, but is faster than an RX Vega 64 which has 4,096 shaders.
Whether Navi now has the same number of stream processors as Vega is still unknown. However, it is considered as possible. Due to the smaller structure width AMD can also increase the clock rate. According to wccftech, the Navi 12 graphics card with 40 CUs should reach approximately the performance of the RX Vega 56, but be significantly cheaper than it. Possibly Navi 12 inherits Polaris and comes as RX 600 series. AMD would have created a middle class successor for the Polaris generation, which can easily compete with the remaining Pascal GPUs from Nvidia. The first graphics cards will be launched in the first half of 2019.
Where are the high-end Navi GPUs?
Now the question arises where the high-end versions remain. The main derivation of Navi might come actually as Navi 10 and should be faster. It is possible that AMD delays the work on it a little bit and uses Navi 12 as a kind of gap filler. The last speculations and also a statement of Lisa Su suggest that the main offshoot of Navi comes in the second half-year and/or the fourth quarter 2019 on the market. Due to the 7nm production, Navi 10 could then either be at the level of the Vega generation at a significantly lower price, or also as a high-end branch at the level of the RTX 2080 or even above. The real high-end branch is then to be launched as Navi 20 not until 2020 or even 2021, according to wccftech.
It is still difficult to say how much of the rumors surrounding Navi 12 are true. The magazine does not name a concrete source and contradicts other leaks in some points. As always, take it with a grain of salt. It is possible that AMD will already provide the first information about Navi at CES 2019 at the beginning of January.