It's been very easy to become downbeat when it comes to AMD over the past couple of years. Observing their strategies, wondering whether it has the muscle to get back into contention with the might of Intel and Nvidia, which have evidently been dominant as of late.
In recent times AMD has made some very obtuse decisions. I wrote an article last year in which I suggested that if AMD went on the stated steps, they would be a force to be reckoned with in no time. However, they chose to take a very different approach...
Let’s begin with analyzing AMD’s performance in the GPU market and comparing with its arch-rival Nvidia. The past two years have been filled with rumors and speculation regarding AMD’s constantly degrading fortunes. There was a time when we thought Microsoft was actually going to acquire AMD, though I think we can quickly understand how this could have negative ramifications for the entire hardware industry.
Let’s take a look at last year. Below in the graph, I have compiled values of GAAP (Generaly Accepted Accounting Principles) earnings for AMD for last year. The blue line indicates the revenue while the red line indicates AMD's losses during that particular period.
And in comparison here we have AMD’s earning for 2014. Notice that the revenue never got below the Billion mark:
Taking a closer look at AMD’s released products in 2015 shows the Radeon R9 300 series arrived as well as the critically acclaimed R9 Nano and R9 Fury X. These were the supposed competitors to the Nvidia GeForce GTX 900 series. However, despite the 3.5 GB memory drama surrounding the GTX 970, it was the most popular card of the series to date and AMD still lacked the market power it needed to bounce back.
Back in 2014, the announcements from AMD included the reference variants of the Radeon R9 290X,which is one of AMD’s most successful cards to date. In April of that year AMD announced a dual solution card known as the R9-295X2, which outclassed the Titan Z in terms of pricing as well as performance. The card still packs quite a punch to this day. Meanwhile Nvidia had taken the curtains off the GTX 750 Ti, which offered the best price to performance ratio and was included in our GD Machine as well. Announcements from Nvidia in 2014 mainly included budget graphics cards and reference variants of high end models.
Overall AMD offered little competition to Nvidia in 2015, even in comparison to 2014, which was hardly a stellar year. I haven’t even begun to discuss Nvidia’s mobile GPU products, a sector which has been neglected by AMD for far too long. Their only focus in this area seems to be cut-price APUs.
So despite the poor performance of AMD in the last couple of years, can they finally become the force to be reckoned with again?
The only way is up
It’s been a few weeks since the launch of the $199 RX 480 and Nvidia also chimed in with their own budget level GTX 1060, which reportedly offers GTX 980 performance at just $249. Both are extremely impressive cards for the price. Market figures for the RX 480 are still a question mark but since its launch, the card has been marred by controversy. Only a couple of days after launch, there were reports of power draw issues in this card. While AMD issued a driver update shortly afterwards, dilemmas like this seriously dent the customer’s trust in an organization.
All that aside, judging solely on the basis of performance to price ratio then the conclusion still stands. RX 480 is a superb card for the price and despite the GTX 1060’s own cheap price tag, I would expect the RX 480 to perform slightly better in the market worldwide despite the price fluctuations. Jon’s prediction regarding the deceptive pricing of Nvidia cards could also play a good hand in bringing back AMD.
I would also like to give a special mention to the RX 470 and RX 460. The $149 and $99 pricing on these cards is also a very attractive offer. We are yet to see how they will perform but if the RX 470 can beat the GTX 950 by around 15%, basically offering the performance of R9 285, then this will be an ideal card for the average consumer, setting the bar for budget level gaming.
Similarly, the RX 460 will need to beat the GTX 750 Ti. Basically the performance of HD 7850 on the price tag of $99. We’ll see what AMD has planned when it launches these two cards, which is rumoured to be in August.
While the RX 480 has pretty much fulfilled everyone’s expectations (ignoring the global price fluctuations), the key thing that will bring AMD back is its flagship product. In this case it would be the RX 490 or RX Fury depending on how they name it. If the RX 490 can outclass the GTX 1080 by around 10% to 15% and with an ideal price tag of $550, then we can expect AMD to bounce right back into this market no problem. When it comes to the high-end it's not necessarily down to how much money is earned or how many units are sold, but rather public mind share. Have the best premium cards and customers are also more likely to pick up your budget cards.
But wait? 10% to 15% is a huge boost over the GTX 1080, why such a big figure?
Technically speaking the Radeon RX 490 or the flagship card will have to compete with two competitors at the same time. Nvidia always delays the release of the Titanium variant until the release of AMD’s flagship. The last pure competition in this area was during the R9 290X and GTX 780 Ti era. There was hype before the launch of R9 300 series but the news of them being re-brands killed customer anticipation.
I think now the time is right for AMD to finally stand up to Nvidia again. It’s been too long now. If it can keep the approach of adequate price to performance ratios with their upcoming products, AMD will certainly give Nvidia a run for its money. Furthermore, they have up until now turned a blind eye to the laptop gaming segment which is a seriously bad move on their part. Leaving Nvidia alone in that department has allowed them to not only increase prices but also introduce desktop GPUs to the mobile side. Polaris may bring the competition we all need.
What are your thoughts regarding AMD’s future in the GPU department? Do you think they can turn the tide upside down? Let us know in the comments!