Dual Fiji Arrives; The AMD Radeon Pro Duo Preview
AMD’s Fiji-based dual GPU card, code named Gemini, has been an elusive thing. First announced during their press event last year with a promise to ship before January 2016, the launch date was pushed back until early Q2 2016. That supposedly coincided with a time when AMD figured its power could be leveraged within in demanding Virtual Reality environments. We are now finally seeing what those months have work have accomplished with the Radeon Pro Duo, a massively powerful dual core graphics card that’s primarily targeted towards VR developers.
The Radeon Duo’s genesis moment comes at an interesting time for the industry as a whole. DX12, VR headsets, high refresh rate 4K gaming and other initiatives are quickly coming to fruition as developers and gamers alike look towards enhancing immersion with emerging technologies. With all of that taken into account, creative minds are trying to find ways to increase their productivity workflow in a number of domains and the Radeon Pro Duo is meant to work as a facilitator alongside AMD’s robust LiquidVR SDK.
Consumer VR gaming still factors quite heavily into the Radeon Pro Duo’s DNA, and how couldn’t it considering the Radeon lineup’s roots? Indeed there may be an extremely limited launch with some system builders like Maingear and key retail partners. However, at this juncture the amount of excitement in the gaming market for a powerful card like this has somewhat waned given AMD’s much-publicized announcements of their Polaris architecture. Very may find a reason to buy the Pro Duo when there’s so much to look forward to in the next few months. For all intents and purposes the dual Fiji card has morphed from the ultimate gaming platform into something that’s geared towards speeding up VR development cycles.
All told the Radeon Pro Duo will have a set of specifications that allow for an impressive 16 TFLOPs of compute performance, amounting to a bit less processing power than a pair of R9 Nano cards. AMD hasn’t released the details just yet but we’d expect a pair of cores boasting 4096 Stream Processors and 64 Compute Units running at just under 1GHz alongside two 4GB banks of HBM. Pictures also show a portly double thickness 120mm radiator and not two but three 8-pin power connectors. It’s a power hungry, hot running thing this Radeon Pro Duo.
For those of you drooling over these stats, get ready for some understandable sticker shock. The Pro Duo will be available sometime in Q2 for a staggering price of $1500USD or, for anyone keeping track at home, triple the price of a single R9 Nano for potentially double the amount of performance. No one said class leading performance would come cheap.
This move towards the professional market shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider the Radeon Pro Duo is being launched very late in the Fiji product cycle and the next generation Polaris architecture is right around the corner. At the risk of editorializing a bit, in many ways AMD’s move here is quite well planned; launching this card at a relatively affordable price for professionals (compared to options in the Quadro and FirePro lineups) guarantees its popularity among a key market niche.
Many will consider this a kind of jump off introduction to AMD’s VR ecosystem and could likely speed up acceptance of their current and future architectures in the minds of the development community. More importantly, AMD has just given developers a key ROI-focused tool which will help in their effort to build and eventually optimize a sustainable VR infrastructure.
Some of AMD’s efforts in this respect are already beginning to pay dividends as they have not only captured a staggering 83% of the global VR system market but some large development houses are beginning to take notice as well. For example, Crytek has announced the Radeon Pro Duo and LiquidVR SDK will form the platform of choice for their VR FIRST teaching initiative.
While this announcement may not be the one many gamers were expecting, AMD’s goals for the Radeon Pro Duo could lead to the broader acceptance of their future hardware and software plans. If you are a gamer that still wants the best of the best and that eye-watering $1500 price tag doesn’t turn you off, expect limited availability of this card in the coming weeks.
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