So reports have been coming in that the RX 490, AMD’s soon to be RX flagship graphics card, aimed at the 4K and VR gaming market, could not only be announced in December, but could also see a release on the announcement day. This could be one of two possibilities, so we need to manage our excitement a little at this point. Many are saying the release of the Radeon RX 490 will depend on the architecture AMD use to create this top tier GPU (which we'll get into in a minute) and of the two options available to AMD one might point towards a December release. Regardless, this balls to the wall release, would likely cash in on the secrecy they’ve managed to maintain about this 400 series card. But fear not, we’ll give you a rundown of what we do know about the RX 490 and what we don’t know and give you a comparison of how it will stack up against it’s similarly priced competitor, the GTX 1080, based on our early information.

First off, let’s get down to what we know for certain about the Radeon RX 490. Its gaming performance will be aimed at those gamers that focus on VR or want massive PC resolution, which is basically the 4K market. Which will have it move things forward from where it’s little brother the RX 480 couldn’t quite cut the mustard. It’s bus width will be greater than 256 bit. And we know the RX 490 is going to be priced and perform similarly to the GTX 1080, putting these two gaming cards in direct competition with each other.

And probably most importantly to the RX 490's release schedule, it will EITHER be a dual-GPU Polaris 10 design or a new Vega 10 architecture. In layman's terms this means the RX 490 will either be 2 GPUs stuck together, thats basically two RX 480's stuck together, or a single GPU from their new and upcoming Vega 10 architecture. Where the two possibilities on release dates come into it is that if based on the dual GPU Polaris tech, we could see it as soon as December, whereas if the RX 490 is actually a Vega 10 card then it will likely be held for a release until some point early to mid 2017.

Earlier in the year AMD partner sites displayed the top end RX 400 as well as it being visible within AMD's own 2016 GPU release roadmap. This gave further rise to the rumour that AMD had the intention of not waiting for the newer Vega 10 architecture to release the 490. And so that leaves us with December for the announcement and the possible simultaneous release.

Pretty exciting right? But what does this mean to the PC gamer? Well luckily for us, we can use this information to begin to get an idea of how this card will perform in the real world. With a price point set to be similar to the GTX 1080 (which was $600 at launch, yet for the most part has been higher since) we would begin to expect a similar level of performance from AMDs top end RX 400 series counter part, maybe even more powerful. Otherwise why would you buy the RX 490?

I can imagine the AMD tech guys right now feverishly playing games like The Witcher 3 and GTA V and Battlefield 1 on a machine with the GTX 1080 in it, to see what frame rates they need to beat with the RX 490, then some guy in a lab coat, a "Science Gamer" (surely thats a profession), shouting "Up the boost clock! add another GPU dammit"

And so the end result will likely be that the RX 490 can handle absolutely anything you can throw at it, with Ultra effectively being a guaranteed 60 FPS and above (probably a lot more) for years to come. But where it get’s exciting is that with a possible two GPUs, when it comes to VR, the RX 490 might be well ahead of the game, as they will be able to focus one whole GPU to each eye, something that will massively improve performance.

We obviously can’t be sure whether it will be a dual Polaris GPU or a single Vega GPU upon release at this point (hence their secrecy has paid off), but there are echoes on the internet right now that the Dual GPU RX 490 setup perhaps more likely. So that gives us cause for excitement about an impending December release! It wouldn’t be out of character for AMD to release a dual GPU at the end of a line either, just thinking of the HD 6990 or HD 7990 or even the R9 Fury X2 off the top of our heads. However, with so little time left of 2016 and a lot of silence from AMD on the RX 490, it definitely makes us think anything could happen a 2016 release or a 2017 release.

So, what can we deduce from the information we know then? Well:

 

RX 490 Dual GPU

Dual Polaris 10 GPU

December Release

RX 490 Single GPU

Vega 10 GPU

Mid 2017 Release

GTX 1080

Pascal GPU

Out Now!

Process14nm FinFET14nm FinFETPascal
Clock Speed1201MHz1464MHz1607MHz
Performance11 TFLOPS12 TFLOPS10.8 TFLOPS
MemoryTBA16GB HBM28GB GDDR5X
Memory Bus512-Bit4096-Bit256-Bit
BandwidthTBA512GB/s320GB/s
Transistors (Billions)TBATBA7.2
Stream processor / Cuda Cores2304 (Prediction)4096 (Prediction)2560
TDPTBA230W180W

The new RX 490 is expected to cost around $600, similar to the GTX 1080


So when looking at the comparison graphics card data above for the various architecture options, we can see that the GTX 1080 Pascal's has a higher core speed of 1607MHz versus the RX 490 1201MHz, and you can take into account that the GTX 1080 can boost to 1733MHz. But as is normal with AMD's offerings its in the TFLOPS department where the RX 490 will likely win. Both the Dual GPU Polaris 10 and Vega 10 beat it on the the TFLOP performance score. Where this will lead us in the real world of gaming, who can be sure at this stage. As you all know it’s an artform balancing these figures, but we’re sure it’s going to be a battle of the titans, maybe even slotting the Radeon RX 490 in between the GTX 1080 and the GTX 1080 Ti, which is due out next year and could blow the RX 490 out of the water. Which again makes us think AMD would like to release their newer card now, in time for Holiday Christmas sales.

So there you have if the reports are to be believed it might it might be a red Christmas after all. We know we’ve been sorely missing an AMD top dog for a while already but we’re just going to have to sit on our hands for a couple of weeks more til we can see what the deal is. Despite the RX 480s stellar performance, being able to hand out 1080p gaming to a pretty awesome standard, it just isn't quite on point with 4K just yet, luckily enough though, it looks like that will be a thing of the past, when this new top tier 400 series card surfaces.

Are you excited about the RX 490? Do you think you’ll get one? With the upcoming Zen CPUs on the way as well, do you think AMD is going to be on the up in 2017? Well you’ll just have to let us know in the comments.