Earlier this week AMD revealed more details of the upcoming Radeon RX 5000-series 'Navi' GPUs including a few hints at performance and a peek of the GPU die. More will be known after AMD's E3 Next Horizon Gaming Livestream on June 10th, but that hasn't stopped various inquisitive publications from attempting to tease out more info. on the hardware launch expected this July. And one of the more pressing questions has been the existence (or otherwise) of non-reference cards.
AMD's typical next architecture GPU launch (such as the RX 400-series, or RX Vega) has reference card exclusivity for up to two months before custom cards enter the market. Custom cards are factory overclocked and incorporate the manufacturers' own cooling solutions, differentiating models much more effectively than a raft of reference models in different packaging.
According to PCGamesN and echoed by LegitReviews non-reference Radeon RX 5000-series cards will follow approximately eight weeks after reference card availability. However, as and when they are launched, a huge variety of models will be available suiting different price bands and with variable degrees of factory overclock.
AMD partner Sapphire in particular will offer models in their mainstream Pulse, gaming Nitro+ and enthusiast Toxic range. This is a far more comprehensive offering than was the case with Polaris, a GPU architecture which couldn't justify premium partner branding, and may indicate confidence in the architecture's competitiveness.
For NVIDIA GPUs this wouldn't be a cause for concern as their reference cooling is, while not superb, at least on par with the temperature and noise characteristics of mainstream partner solutions. AMD however have until recently relied on blower cooler designs for their reference cooling, drawing sustained criticism due to their noise and general inadequacy for GPUs pushing there limit. They were taken to task for the poor quality of the blower cooler on the Radeon R9 290X, and minor improvements in intervening years have done little to improve the red team's reputation.
The Radeon VII was a departure from the norm, shipping with a much more sensible (and likely more costly) triple-fan reference cooling solution deserving of its status as a premium GPU, and hopefully that's an indication of a change in approach from AMD. That said, the leaked Navi reference PCB uncovered last month featured mounting holes for a blower cooler; expectations therefore are pretty low.
Tune into the AMD E3 Livestream on June 10th to find out more about Navi ahead of its mid-July release date.