While AMD’s Polaris family of GPUs have surprised us in a few different ways, perhaps the most impressive aspect has been their sheer longevity. First introduced in 2016 as a 14nm update to AMD’s GPU lineup, the GCN 3-derrived chips were the backbone of AMD’s mainstream video cards for over three years. And while it seemed like they’d finally be put out to retirement with the launch of AMD’s 7nm Navi chips late last year, Polaris is getting (another) new lease on life, this time in a video card that’s being released exclusively in China.

Dubbed the Radeon RX 590 GME, the new card isn’t receiving any formal fanfare for its release. But AMD has added it to their product stack and updated their Chinese-language pages accordingly.

So what is Radeon RX 590 GME exactly? Unfortunately, as has become a recurring theme with China-only video cards, AMD and its partners are playing fast and loose with product names. Despite the name, the RX 590 GME is notably slower than a proper RX 590 – about 10% slower, on paper – making it an RX 590-lite at best, or more pragmatically, a mildly overclocked RX 580.

AMD Radeon RX Series Specification Comparison
  AMD Radeon RX 590 GME AMD Radeon RX 590 AMD Radeon RX 580 AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT
CUs 36
(2304 SPs)
(2304 SPs)
(2304 SPs)
(1408 SPs)
Texture Units 144 144 144 88
ROPs 32 32 32 32
Base Clock 1257MHz 1469MHz 1257MHz 1607MHz
Game Clock N/A N/A N/A 1717MHz
Boost Clock 1380MHz 1545MHz 1340MHz 1845MHz
Throughput (FP32) 6.4 TFLOPs 7.1 TFLOPs 6.2 TFLOPs 5.2 TFLOPs
Memory Clock 8 Gbps GDDR5 8 Gbps GDDR5 8 Gbps GDDR5 14 Gbps GDDR6
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 128-bit
Transistor Count 5.7B 5.7B 5.7B 6.4B
Typical Board Power N/A 225W 185W 130W
Manufacturing Process GloFo 14nm? GloFo/Samsung 12nm GloFo 14nm TSMC 7nm
Architecture GCN 4 GCN 4 GCN 4 RDNA (1)
GPU Polaris 20? Polaris 30 Polaris 20 Navi 14
Launch Date 03/09/2020 11/15/2018 04/18/2017 12/12/2019
Launch Price N/A $279 $229 $199/$169

In fact, while AMD hasn’t confirmed which specific Polaris GPU the card is using, the specifications are closer to an RX 580 (Polaris 20) than they are an RX 590 (Polaris 30). The RX 590 GME ships with the RX 580’s 1257MHz base clock, but offers a 40MHz higher boost clock, topping out at 1380MHz. The card’s (listed) specifications are otherwise identical to the 590/580, including a full 36 CU configuration and 8GB of GDDR5 VRAM on a 256-bit bus that’s clocked at 8Gbps.

Otherwise, unverified third-party reports have claimed that the card is indeed using Polaris 20, and these specifications would be consistent with that.

On paper, this puts the peak performance of the card at just less than 3% ahead of the RX 580, which is similar to what AMD’s partners have previously been doing with their own factory overclocked cards. So the performance of the RX 590 GME is by and large a known quantity at this point, with the card set to offer just a bit more performance than AMD's well-tenured RX 580.

The big question, of course, is why AMD is releasing another Polaris 10/20/30 card almost 4 years after the GPU was first launched. With previous China-only cards this has been to fill specific market needs or to sell off excess stock, and both may be a factor here. Within AMD’s product stack, RX 580-class cards in particularly are wholly redundant; the newer 8GB RX 5500 XT delivers 8% better performance than those cards, which means the new RX 590 GME is going to be slower than AMD’s slowest 8GB Navi cards.

What the RX 590 GME offers that the RX 5500 XT doesn’t however is ease of availability. AMD continues to be somewhat capacity constrained on TSMC’s 7nm process – they have a lot of CPU demand to fill, never mind GPUs – whereas if AMD needed to fab more chips, GlobalFoundries’ 14nm lines are readily available. Furthermore, the RX 590 GME enjoys a lower bill of materials cost as far as memory is concerned: whereas the RX 5500 XT uses newer (and still more expensive) GDDR6, the Polaris-based 590 uses more readily available GDDR5.

Ultimately, while China is still a growing market for technology – both in terms of total scale and in how much consumers have to spend on individual products – it’s still primarily a market dominated by mainstream parts. So if AMD is looking to scrape together a cheaper offering to compete on a purely price/performance basis – and especially if they still have leftover chips lying around – then they could do worse than another Polaris 20 card. That said, they could definitely do better as far as the product name goes.

Source: AMD (via SH SOTN)

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  • kpb321 - Wednesday, March 11, 2020 - link

    I'm surprised we haven't ever seen a second card using the Polaris 30 chip. It would make some sense for this to be Polaris 30 chips that couldn't clock high enough. That would let them use more of those chips and would make it less a straight renaming of the 580.
  • 69369369 - Wednesday, March 11, 2020 - link

    RX 590 G(i)M(ped)E(dition)
  • Retycint - Thursday, March 12, 2020 - link

    Should have named it RX585, like the R9 285
  • Lord of the Bored - Thursday, March 12, 2020 - link

    Shoulda brought back the old ATi naming schemes and called it the RX 590 Special Edition.
  • ET - Thursday, March 12, 2020 - link

    Should have just released an entire new family, with RX 670, 680, 690 with slight clock bumps to each over the previous generation, and preferably all using Polaris 30. There's already an RX 640, why not complete the family?
  • Thud2 - Thursday, March 12, 2020 - link

    Fire Sale!
  • watzupken - Thursday, March 12, 2020 - link

    Perhaps too much stock left from the mining days. I doubt they are still actively producing these now.
  • AshlayW - Thursday, March 12, 2020 - link

    Polaris 20 and 30 are likely still in production to some degree. They are active members of the product stack (at least in 20's case) and RX 590 is still AMD's most competitive sub 200 USD card right now. It makes sense because of long-term wafer agreements with Global Foundries.
  • GNUminex_l_cowsay - Thursday, March 12, 2020 - link

    Long-term wafer agreements don't entirely make sense here. If it were just contract obligations one would expect AMD to switch to only using 12nm for Polaris. Certainly no one would complain if it turned out their new RX 580/70 was on a slightly better node.
  • eastcoast_pete - Thursday, March 12, 2020 - link

    AMD must have a lot of these dies left over or GloFo contracting obligations to fill. How much do they want for these "classics" again?

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