Once a year, Cologne Germany becomes gamer central for the world. With the demise of the E3 show this year, even more announcements came to Gamescon. I attended the show in 2018 in connection with a preview for Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080 launch. This year Nvidia focused on more RTX technology and its GeForceNow streaming service but announced no new hardware. AMD launched two new midrange graphics cards for 1440p gaming and Qualcomm launched a new spectrum of handheld gaming platforms.
AMD Serves Up Mainstream Gaming Cards
The newest members of AMD’s Radeon graphics family are the Radeon RX 7700XT and Radeon RX 7800XT. Both cards target gaming at 1440p monitor resolution (2560 x 1440 pixels), which is the fastest growing resolution for PC gaming (based on a Steam hardware survey). The RX 7700XT has 12GB of GDDR6 memory, 54 RDNA 3 Compute engines, 54 RT Accelerators, and 108 AI accelerators. It draws up to 245W of power. The RX 7700XT is positioned against the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060Ti with AMD claiming the former as having double digit-percentage faster frame rates on a number of popular games.
The Radeon RX 7800XT has 16GB of GDDR6 memory, 60 RDNA 3 Compute engines, 60 RT Accelerators, and 120 AI accelerators. The card can draw up to 263W of power. The RX 7800XT is positioned against the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 with AMD asserting up to 23% faster performance for the RX 7800XT on some games.
Both AMD cards feature DisplayPort 2.1 support and AV1 video encoders for streaming games. Both cards also support AMD’s latest FidelityFX super resolution 3 upscaling technology, and both cards will ship bundled with the highly anticipated Starfield game on September 6, 2023, when the game is expected to be released.
The list prices for the Radeon RX 7700XT and Radeon RX 7800XT is $449 and $499, respectively.
AMD will offer performance tuning software called AMD HyperRX. The software is built into the AMD driver to enable wide support. HyperRX (without AMD fluid motion frames) is scheduled to launch in early September ’23 for RDNA3 graphics cards. AMD will add Fluid motion frames, which reduces frame jitter, to HyperRX in early 2024.
Nvidia DLSS 3.5 Introduces Ray Reconstruction
At Gamescom, Nvidia’s GeForce announcement was the introduction of Nvidia DLSS 3.5 that includes a new feature called Ray Reconstruction, which uses AI to improve the quality of ray-traced visual effects. Ray Reconstruction in DLSS 3.5 will improve ray-traced image quality for all GeForce RTX GPUs. Using AI to denoise ray traced images offers a significant improvement to lighting effects like reflections, global illumination, and shadows and provides a more immersive gaming experience.
Ray-traced computer graphics compose a final image more efficiently by using denoising techniques to fill in missing pixels. Nvidia trained its denoising AI on 5x more training data for DLSS 3.5 (vs. DLSS 3), allowing it to recognize different ray-traced effects and make better choices constructing a visual representation of the scene. Nvidia’s DLSS 3.5 includes Ray Reconstruction, Super Resolution, Deep Learning Anti-Aliasing, and Frame Generation. The DLSS technology does need to be incorporated into the development of the game, so release of DLSS games depends on game developer support.
DLSS 3.5 arrives this fall in Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, Alan Wake 2, Portal with RTX, NVIDIA Omniverse, Chaos Vantage, and D5 Render. DLSS 3 will also come this fall to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, PAYDAY 3, and Fortnite.
Qualcomm offers three handheld gaming platforms
Qualcomm released three new gaming reference designs, just as handheld gaming is taking off with successful products like the Nintendo Switch, the Valve Steam Deck, and the ASUS ROG Ally. Qualcomm released the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 Gaming Platform in late 2021, and based on the feedback about that product, Qualcomm has developed three distinct flavors of handheld Android gaming platforms.
The three tiers start with the lowest G1 tier – which is designed to support 1080p game streaming content from consoles or online over WiFi. It’s optimized for long battery life, with WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 5 connectivity, and is targeted at entry level price points of around $199. This tier appears to be a new handheld category, as Sony recently announced the PlayStation Portal, a $199 handheld that combines a controller and display in a platform that lets gamers play their PlayStation 5 games at home without tying up the television. The Snapdragon G1 can also be used to stream video content as well.
The Qualcomm G2 tier adds 5G connectivity and is capable of running mainstream android games on the platform well. The price point is estimated to be around $300 to $400 for a G2-class handheld. The Snapdragon G2 Gen 1 adds support for 5G in addition to Wi-Fi 6/6E, and Bluetooth 5.
The G3x tier is the high performance “enthusiast-class” tier. Qualcomm has enhanced the original G3x to produce a second-generation device with twice the GPU performance over gen 1 and 30% higher CPU performance. It supports AAA games, cross platform gaming, and will support XR headsets. The key design criteria is sustained, maximum performance. The G3x tier’s Adreno GPU has hardware-accelerated ray tracing and super resolution video upscaler.
Qualcomm is sampling a Snapdragon G3x
Gen 2 handheld gaming reference design to select OEMs and ODMs (sorry, but not to the general public). Qualcomm showed a reference design at Gamescon and it won the Best in Show award. The reference design features XR headset tethering, low-latency premium Bluetooth 5.3 audio with Snapdragon Sound Technology Suite, and Wi-Fi 7 High-Band Simultaneous (HBS), as well as 5G sub-6 and mmWave connectivity. The price point for a Snapdragon G3X Gen 2-class device is likely $400 and above. The performance of the platform may also make it interesting for non-Android applications.
Qualcomm announced partners AyaNeo, Huaqin, Inventec, Thundercomm, and other companies for handheld gaming devices with Snapdragon G Series Platforms.
While the mainstream PC market has hit some doldrums, there’s plenty of evidence the gaming market is still going strong and there’s plenty of innovation in gaming hardware that will enhance the gaming experience and allow gamers to game anywhere they want. While AI has taken center stage for the chip industry, gaming hardware still is an important part of the computing ecosystem.
Tirias Research tracks and consults for companies throughout the electronics ecosystem from semiconductors to systems and sensors to the cloud. Members of the Tirias Research team have consulted for AMD, Arm, Intel, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and other companies throughout the CPU and GPU ecosystems.