Our 2019 GPU Predictions: Navi Hits the Middle, Nvidia Takes Turing Downrange

Credit: Shutterstock/irua/Maxx-StudioCredit: Shutterstock/irua/Maxx-Studio

Graphics in 2019: A Calm Before the Storm

The life of a graphics card reviewer was calm through most of 2018. Only there at the end, when Nvidia introduced its three Turing GPUs, did things get hectic. We dove deep into Turing as an architecture, the flagship GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080, and the entry-level (but still very expensive) GeForce RTX 2070.

AMD couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Its Radeon RX 590 took the fight to GeForce GTX 1060 6GB late in the year. But getting the aging Polaris GPU in front of Nvidia’s card across our benchmark suite took an awful lot of power consumption. And at its $280 price point, the RX 590 has a hard time making a value case against $200 Radeon RX 580s.

AMD Stays Mainstream

We’re counting on AMD’s performance/watt position to improve in 2019 as it readies the Navi design on TSMC’s 7nm node. Just don’t expect the company to go after Nvidia’s high-end crown. It’s far more likely that we’ll see Radeon RX Vega-class performance at a lower price and, of course, reduced power consumption.

Aspirations for enthusiast hearts will have to wait for 2020 or beyond, when Navi’s successor is introduced. Until then, expect AMD to target smooth performance at 2560x1440 by pairing Navi to GDDR6 memory.

Nvidia Fills in its Line-up

With its Turing architecture already well-established at the high end, 2019 will see Nvidia flesh out the rest of its portfolio, including mid-range and entry-level options, along with mobile GPUs.

Real-time ray tracing may not be practical on models below the GeForce RTX 2070, but several of Turing’s other architectural advances would be helpful at lower price points. Concurrent execution of floating-point and integer math, a lot more SRAM (if lower-end Turing SMs look anything like the existing implementations), and faster memory all have the potential to uplift performance.

Beyond hardware news, 2019 will see a slow trickle of developers join EA/DICE with shipping games that take advantage of the Turing architecture’s RT cores. Deep Learning Super-Sampling (DLSS) should get more play as well, though it remains to be seen if the technology shows as well in retail games as it does in hand-picked demos.

Intel Bides its Time

With its Xe family not expected until 2020, Intel’s plans for 2019 include faster integrated graphics. The Gen11 architecture should represent an impressive step forward compared to today’s best effort. As many as eight sub-slices give the top-end configuration a total of 64 execution units—up significantly from the 24 EUs found in the HD Graphics 630 engine common across a lot of the company’s desktop CPUs (but fewer than the 72 found on Iris Pro Graphics 580 back in the Skylake days).

Of course, knowing the team in charge of Intel’s aspirations, 2019 should be loaded with Xe hype, teased in painfully small doses.

Do you have your own thoughts on what will happen in the graphics world next year? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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