AMD’s Polaris range of graphics cards perhaps represents one of the companies most successful and also frustrating products for a number of years for hardware enthusiasts. While all of the cards (perhaps most notably the RX 480) are damn impressive given their respective price point, the lack of any competitor to Nvidia’s higher end offerings is certainly a thorn in AMD’s side.
We’ve all been hearing a lot of rumors swirling for the Radeon 490 series for quite some time now, but the biggest questions is whether the card (if it really gets released) will be either a Polaris based part, or if it will instead utilize the updated GCN architecture found within Vega (so possibly a Vega 10 part, given Vega 11 is said to be an updated replacement for the current 4xx series GPU).
But Gigamaxx (a user on TonyMacX86) has spotted a rather interesting entry in the MacOS Sierra driver which could hint at the answer. When viewed in a HEX editor, one can clearly see three entries which ring alarm bells. The first is Polaris 10 XT2 and the second being Polaris12. On the next line down one can clearly spot a Vega10 entry.
This comes just days after a benchmark showing a device known only as ‘687F:C1’ running Ashes of the Singularity benchmarks; for those who’re unfamiliar with the core names of Polaris parts, the RX 480 / RX 470 Polaris 10 core is known as ’67DF:C7′.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t answer the questions to exactly what the differences between the 490 and the Fury, and indeed throws in an additional question – what the heck are Polaris 12 and Polaris 10 XT2?
So we’re all clear, Polaris 10 is the higher end part of its brother Polaris 11, but those are just codenames and for all intents and purposes really mean very little other than the order the cores were designed internally at AMD. Therefore, Polaris 12 is designed after Polaris 11. To clarify further, the designers started out creating the largest core (found in the RX 480 and 470) which is Polaris 10, then cut down the chip and designed Polaris 11. The only reason it is named Polaris 11 is because it followed later on in the design stage, much like how Polaris 12 has, so its name doesn’t mean it’s slower than the RX 460 (which employs the Polaris 11 cores).
Therefore it’s possible Vega will remain as the high end (think the Radeon Fury cards) while the Polaris 10 XT2 and Polaris 12 will sit at the high end (so let’s say taking up the fight against Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 or GTX 1080).
In theory, it’s possible that if Polaris 12 is more powerful, it’s possible that Polaris 12 will use an updated GCN version (using the same tweaks found in Vega 10) which would further improve the performance of the graphics card. We know some of these tweaks include better FP16 support, improvements to the work and scheduling engines and primitive discard (thanks to a conference Sony held, where the architect of the PS4 and PS4 Pro, Mark Cerny mentioned various improvements to the PS4 Pro GPU which are thanks to future AMD GCN revisions).
This might possibly mean that the RX 490 isn’t a thing (or won’t use these chips) and instead will be released under the 500 series line. Or it’s possible than the XT2 actually means a dual core chip, operating similarly to how Sony designed the PS4 Pro GPU. This might explain why leaks of the 490 (assuming it is its real name) actually only list 8GB of VRAM rather than the 16GB you would expect to find on a dual part card.
Unfortunately, there’s a heck of a lot of guesswork – and most frustrating of all is that it’s possible that these devices are simply Apple exclusive devices (so perhaps for MacBooks or whatever), but it’s the most unlikely of the listed scenarios here.
The only compelling reason we believe the Radeon 490 is ‘real’ and won’t be simply the 500 series is due to the leaks from Sapphire and even AMD’s own listing (plus Eve Valkyrie) showing the name of the card, but it is possible the 490 is simply a placeholder name, and reality it will be known as let’s say the 590.
In a few days (December 13th as of the time of this article) we’ll be entering AMD’s New Horizon event, and the company have formally anounced their plans to unveil Zen to the world. It will be interesting if they also decide to share a few details of either the Radeon 490, or possibly a new Polaris or Vega line up which might appear in the 1st half of 2017 (the pegged released date by AMD CEO Lisa Su of Vega’s arrival).
As usual, stick around to us here at RedGamingTech.com for more on the story as it develops!