No, Sony didn't counter Microsoft with a brief announcement of the PlayStation 5 at its annual E3 event, but some fascinating details have emerged about the PS5, its graphics solution and just how involved in the process AMD was this time around. This isn't just a story for eager console gamers, either. It's part of a larger narrative about AMD's identity and its semi-custom chip business.
Speaking to industry sources this week under conditions of anonymity, I've learned that the PS5 will use both AMD's Zen and Navi graphics architectures. What isn't clear is whether the PS5 will incorporate a beefy SoC (system on a chip) or use separate Ryzen and Navi-based components.
Right now little is known about AMD's Navi graphics architecture, other than the fact it will use the 7nm process. That detail, however, is important. As it has done numerous times with its semi-custom clients, AMD has a solid history of developing integrated and discrete GPUs with low power envelopes perfect for a console.
Which brings us to, in my eyes, the more interesting revelation. According to my sources, Navi isn't just inside the Sony PS5; it was created for Sony. The vast majority of AMD and Sony's Navi collaboration took place while Raja Koduri -- Radeon Technologies Group boss and chief architect -- was at AMD.
The other interesting aspect to all of this is that my sources never mentioned Microsoft in the Navi conversations. This is pure speculation, but maybe Microsoft's next Xbox devices -- code-named "Scarlett" -- won't use Navi at all. Perhaps it will use a separate semi-custom solution incorporating Vega, or something else entirely that we're not privy to. Either way, the conversations I had referred to Navi in the past tense, as if it was already finished.
Perhaps Sony is closer to a PS5 than Microsoft is to a next-generation Xbox?
I've reached out to AMD and Sony for any further comments or clarification.
Edit: Added second article that has more rumors and “info”.
In 2016, AMD unveiled its first roadmap that officially contained the Navi GPU. It was scheduled to come soon after 7nm Vega and was supposed to be the next-generation GPU and land sometime in 2018. AMD held its Computex 2018 recently, to great success, but the one thing that bugged me was the lack of any new graphics cards for gamers.
Navi was also implicitly pushed back, a year at the very least, and the roadmap changed to something more tentative. While in Taiwan for Computex 2018, I had the opportunity to talk to sources intimately familiar with the entire situation and discovered there was a very interesting story to be told – one which made everything fit in place perfectly.
AMD built Vega for Apple and it is building Navi for the Sony PS5 – which is expected to launch in 2020
The reason why Lisa did that was simple: semi-custom applications is a lucrative business. The margins are low, but the volume is high and the net income is consistent. Catering to gamers was not part of the win-condition; making AMD a viable, financially robust company was. Here is a fun fact: Vega was designed primarily for Apple and Navi is being designed for Sony – the PS5 to be precise.
This meant that the graphics department had to be tied directly to the roadmap that these semi-custom applications followed. Since Sony needed the Navi GPU to be ready by the time the PS5 would launch (expectedly around 2020) that is the deadline they needed to work on. Similarly, for Vega, Apple’s timeline is what actually dictated the release of the GPU and not the other way around. AMD’s Radeon graphics cards were intricately tied to the industry’s semi-custom roadmaps by design and that is something that a lot of people disagreed with. This is also what, I suspect, precipitated the departure of key executives including the RTG boss, Raja Koduri.
Here is the crux of what I learned:
- Vega 7nm will not be coming to gamers.
- Navi 10 will be the first Navi part to arrive and will be landing sometime in 2H 2019 or early 2020, depending on a couple of factors. The performance level of this part will be equivalent to Vega and it will be a small GPU based on 7nm.
- Navi 14 will follow Navi 10 soon after.
- Navi 20 is going to be the true high-end GPU built on the 7nm node and as things stand right now, you are tentatively looking at it landing sometime around 2020 – 2021.
- Navi will also be the first architecture to transition away from GCN (and along with it, the 4096 SP / 64 CU limit that is inherent to the uArch implementation).
- ‘Next-Gen’ architecture is the uArch formerly codenamed KUMA internally before AMD decided it didn’t like that name too much (oops) and will be based on the same brand new major architecture that AMD rolls out with Navi.