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AMD Vega Aims to Bring 4K Gaming to the Masses

SAN FRANCISCO – If you have a powerful gaming PC, you can support some pretty impressive 4K graphics with blisteringly fast framerates. The trouble is that the only graphics cards capable of powering this level of fidelity tend to cost somewhere between “a lot” and “way too much.” The AMD Radeon RX Vega line of GPUs aims to offer extraordinary fidelity at a price that’s much easier to stomach – although what that price is, is not yet clear.

I attended AMD’s Capsaicin and Cream event at GDC 2017, and Raja Koduri, a senior vice president, explained his ultimate goal for the company’s Vega lineup. He wants to democratize 4K gaming and VR content, and cited four distinct ways the Vega can do so. AMD’s new GPUs will feature high-bandwidth cache controllers, rapid packed math, a new programmable geometry pipeline and an advanced pixel engine.

In layman’s terms: Thanks to advances in both hardware and programming, the Vega GPU will (theoretically) be able to provide better, more reliable frame rates, higher resolutions, more complicated variables and smoother processing than most of what’s on the market right now.

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To demonstrate just how lifelike the Vega’s capabilities can be, Koduri showed off a VR experience called The Sword of Bahuboli, a project from acclaimed Indian director SS Rajamouli. In it, a motion-captured Indian actress traverses a medieval city, sets off a catapult and runs from armed guards and a toppling statue. While her avatar was not quite out of the uncanny valley, she looked fairly lifelike for technology that can be widely distributed and implemented at almost any game or VR studio.

The Radeon RX Vega will be out sometime in the first half of 2017, but here’s the catch: For all of the company’s talk about democratization, the Vega does not yet have a price point. AMD cards are usually cheaper than their Nvidia competitors, but the magnitude of difference will determine whether “the masses” means “everyone” or “a somewhat less affluent enthusiast crowd.”

Still, based on the Capsaicin and Cream event, the Vega sounds like a promising component for a hobby that will soon leave full HD resolutions behind almost entirely. We’ll see how it works – and how much it costs – later this year.