AMD Goes Big with Mantle API and Next-Gen GPU Announcement
Rumours ahead of Wednesday’s announcement by AMD at their GPU14 Tech Day event said that AMD was going to be unveiling something that would top NVIDIA’s flagship Titan graphics card at less than the price of the GTX 780. Not only is AMD taking the fight to NVIDIA but they’re also going after DirectX by trying to bring console-level graphics optimization to the PC.
The most surprising part of AMD’s announcement was the unveiling of the Mantle API. It’s supposed to be a new API to replace DirectX in making games that will allow for higher performance from CPUs and GPUs without setting your PC on fire. AMD describes this as a console-style API which sounds promising for PC gamers hoping that PC ports of most games are made or not quick cash-ins. With consoles and PC using similar hardware architecture and APIs, there isn’t going to be much of an excuse for developers to make PC ports now.
The Mantle API was developed in collaboration with EA and DICE. As such, EA’s Frostbite 3 engine will be the first game engine that will render natively with Mantle. The upcoming Battlefield 4 will be the first Mantle game with Mantle compatibility coming in an update in December. We won’t know how the change from DirectX to Mantle will affect BF4’s performance until it gets into the wild. I am interested to see how this affects the battle between NVIDIA and AMD cards. As an AMD user, I’d certainly like to get a performance boost when possible since so many games are optimized for the green brand.
AMD also unveiled their next-generation line of graphics cards under the R7 and R9 names. As the names imply, it’s the R9 AMD GPUs that are the flagship high-performance cards.
The top of the line R9 is the Radeon R9 290X which boasts 4 GB of memory and a number of other impressive figures that I don’t understand. In case you understand these, the R9 290X has “5 TFLOPS of computer power, 300 GB/s of memory bandwidth and the ability to process 4 billion triangles per second.” More importantly, leaked benchmarks have this card outperforming the NVIDIA Titan. No launch window or price has been announced but it’s rumoured to be in the range of $500 to $650 (the NVIDIA GTX780’s price level). Pre-orders start next week so AMD needs to have pricing sorted soon.
For those looking a little more budget, there is a R9 280X that will have 3 GB of video memory for $300. That’s the same memory as the current Radeon HD 7970 for upwards of $100 less. I haven’t been able to find comparative benchmarks but one would assume that you get better performance along with the savings. The R7 range bottoms out at $89 for the 1 GB R7 250.
Interestingly, or frighteningly for those of us with a 7970 and hoping to add something to Crossfire with, the R9 290X was noted as not having a Crossfire adapter slot. Instead, it’s believed that the R7 and R9s will use PCI Express 3.0 slots to support connectivity between multiple GPUs. While AMD cards are nice for supporting Crossfire between different cards (where as NVIDIA require identical chipsets for SLI connections), I doubt I’ll be able to plug an R9 into my PC and use it with my 7970. I know, I know. #FirstWorldProblems and all that. Well, that and I would probably need to upgrade my PSU because I don’t do forward thinking too well. Still if the R9 280X is quiet (unlike my 7970), it would make for a nice replacement, even if the 290X is too pricey.
Whether you fall into the red or green camps of the GPU war, AMD coming out with high-performance cards at prices targeted below both their and NVIDIA’s current offerings only serves to benefit the consumer. After all, Titan level performance for half to two-thirds of the price will change the competitive landscape. Performance and price wars can only benefit the consumers with better and cheaper products that make gaming on PC better and more accessible.