Sony (SNE) has made it official that its next-generation PlayStation, the PS5, could hit the markets in November or December 2020. This next-generation upgrade comes after seven years of PS4, which launched in November 2013. Sony’s PS5 is still a year out from its launch, but the rumor mills have been churning since early this year on what to expect from the new console. Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) was pulled into the Sony PS5 rumors, as its chips are likely to power the new game console.
AMD to power Sony PS5, featuring ray tracing
In an April 2019 interview with Wired, PS5 lead system architect Mark Cerny confirmed that PS5 would support ray tracing. Plus, AMD confirmed that it will build custom 7nm (nanometer) Navi GPU (graphics processing unit) for Sony’s PS5. At present, only Nvidia’s (NVDA) Turing GPU offers real-time ray-tracing support.
In last month’s interview with Wired, Cerny said, “There is ray-tracing acceleration in the GPU hardware.” This news leads to rumors that AMD’s custom Navi GPU for Sony PS 5 could be built on the RDNA (Radeon DNA) 2 architecture.
Rumor has it: AMD to supply RDNA 2 GPU for Sony’s PS5
Last month, Wccftech reported that AMD might launch its more powerful Navi GPU in the first quarter of next year. It cited files posted by South Korea’s National RRA (Radio Research Agency), which revealed that an AMD device codenamed “ATI-102-D18802” has secured the certification.
Wccftech decoded the codename. “ATI” stands for ATI Technologies, which AMD acquired in 2006 to make its graphics division. “D18” stands for “small Navi” as AMD used the same prefix for other Navi codes like D18202 and D18208. The code further reads “802,” which signifies higher performance than the 208. The RRA certification does not clarify whether this GPU supports ray tracing and whether it is built on RDNA 2 architecture.
Wccftech stated that it typically takes a product up to six months to release after securing RRA certification. This means the new GPU could be out by April next year. There is a possibility that this new GPU is an RDNA 2 GPU that supports ray tracing, as Nvidia introduced real-time ray tracing by adding separate RT cores. Introducing dedicated cores is an architectural-level change. So, Nvidia launched a whole new Turing architecture in August 2018.
AMD’s current RDNA architecture does not support ray tracing. However, AMD CEO Lisa Su stated in many press events that the company would introduce ray tracing in future GPUs. In our view, there is a high probability that AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture might support ray tracing. However, there is no proof yet that could confirm that PS5 will feature RDNA2 GPU.
Lisa Su hints: RDNA2 might be in the cards
AMD CEO Lisa Su discussed next-generation game consoles in an interview with VentureBeat. She said, “This year we’re just ramping down the current generation.…We’re going through a product transition at the moment. Most of the energies have turned to the new consoles.” Su’s statements seem to confirm that it is ramping up current generation products, which are 7nm RDNA-based Navi GPUs.
She added, “But our expectation is that as this generation ramps down, we’ll have a strong ramp to the next generation, particularly as we go into the second half of 2020.” AMD’s next-generation GPUs would be built on the 7nm+ RDNA2 architecture, according to its GPU roadmap.
If the next-generation ramp occurs in the second half of 2020, AMD has to qualify the GPU with customers in the second quarter of 2020. This is the time when its device codenamed “ATI-102-D18802” is expected to launch.
Connecting all the dots, we believe that AMD’s RDNA-2 based Navi GPU is in the advanced development stage. This GPU will likely hit the market in the second quarter of 2020 and would ramp in the third quarter. The third quarter is the peak season for AMD’s semi-custom business, as it ships chips to game console makers.
During AMD’s third-quarter earnings call, Su noted, “So you should expect that revenue in the first half will be, again, quite soft, with a strong recovery in the second half of the year. And the way I look at it is, the gaming business, the console business is a strong business for us.”
Investors should keep an eye on AMD’s semi-custom progress. Strong semi-custom demand could boost its 2020 earnings growth to double digits from this year’s single-digit growth.