AMD: Polaris becomes affordable to bring VR to the general public

AMD plans to bring virtual reality to the general public by making graphics cards with Polaris GPU affordable. AMD expects its Polaris GPUs to be cheaper than Nvidia cards based on the Pascal architecture, but has not yet announced prices.

AMD CEO Roy Taylor says in a conversation with Ars Technica that the company wants to significantly expand the “total addressable market” for VR by releasing affordable video cards. The addressable market consists of the people who have a system that meets the system requirements for VR headsets.

For example, for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, a GTX 970, R9 290 or higher is recommended. Currently, according to Taylor, there are about 7.5 million people worldwide with such a system, making the market too small for developers to invest a lot of money into making VR games.

Taylor bets that Nvidia Pascal GPUs will cost between 600 and 1000 dollars and states that the market for VR will not grow with such video cards. He is convinced that this will happen with the Polaris GPUs, which should become considerably cheaper. However, he does not name a price.

The verdict seems to indicate that there will be affordable video cards with Polaris GPUs, which are fast enough to run VR applications. For example, it could be cards that offer comparable performance to the R9 290 and 390, but are cheaper.

The most powerful variant of Polaris 10 is rumored to be comparable in speed to the GeForce GTX 980 Ti. If AMD manages to sell such a video card for a ‘mainstream’ amount, it would be a breakthrough in terms of price-performance ratio. Whether that will actually happen, however, remains to be seen. Taylor emphasizes with his statements that Polaris will be a mainstream GPU and not a high-end video card. It is likely that the Fiji-based R9 Fury and Nano cards will remain in the range. It therefore seems plausible that Polaris is not directly faster than the current generation, but in particular makes cheaper video cards possible.

AMD’s roadmap previously showed that the new Vega GPU is planned for early 2017. This will use hbm2 memory and probably form the basis for new video cards in the highest segment. It is expected that both AMD and Nvidia will announce their plans for the new generation of video cards at the end of May. The first new models may be available around June.