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What to expect from AMD in 2021

AMD had a huge year in 2020, launching its Ryzen 4000 laptop chips, Ryzen 5000 desktop processors and its Big Navi graphics cards. 

But despite having a very successful year, the company doesn’t appear to be resting on its laurels. In fact, rumours suggest 2021 will be another huge year for Team Red.

To ramp up the excitement for the new year, we’ve compiled a list of the most exciting AMD reveals expected in the following 12 months. So without further ado, here’s what we can look foward to from AMD in 2021.

Related: AMD RX 6800 review

A black and a white Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 laptop floating on white-black background

1. Big Navi in gaming laptops

AMD announced three Big Navi desktop graphics cards in 2020: the Radeon RX 6800, RX 6900 and RX 6900 XT. The next obvious step is for AMD to launch mobile variants of its GPUs, so gaming laptops can benefit from the performance gains of the new graphics cards.

Such a move would open the door for 4K-capable AMD-powered gaming laptops, an arena in which Nvidia has previously dominated without competition. However, these laptops will likely be super-expensive, with Nvidia RTX portables typically costing above £2000 when they first launched.

It’s anyone’s guess when Big Navi mobile GPUs will arrives, but we reckon there could possibly be an announcement as early as January with CES 2021 still going ahead as a digital event.

2. AMD’s take on DLSS

The new Big Navi graphics cards are fantastic, finally taking on Nvidia with high-end features such as 4K support and ray tracing. However, one big omission is holding back AMD’s new cards from being worthwhile alternatives to Nvidia’s GeForce cards – and that’s DLSS.

DLSS allows Nvidia’s compatible graphics cards to boost frame rate performance via clever AI upscaling tricks. It’s arguably an essential feature for ray tracing, since the light-rendering technology is such a drain on the graphics card. Since AMD currently doesn’t offer a DLSS alternative, it’s very difficult to run a game at 30fps or above with both 4K and ray tracing activated.

The good news is that AMD has promised that it’s working on its own variation of DLSS, and so it should hopefully arrive at some point in 2021. The sooner it arrives the better, as more games will likely support ray tracing now that the technology is widely supported by both consoles and PCs.

Related: What is DLSS? 

AMD Big Navi

3. Big Navi graphics cards for 1080p gaming

The cheapest Big Navi graphics card has a starting price of £529. Compare this to the £369 price of Nvidia’s RTX 3060 Ti GPU, and you’ll immediately see the issue: AMD is neglecting the 1080p market.

While AMD has historically been very good at providing budget-priced graphics cards, it’s currently lacking an affordable ray tracing option for gamers who are happy to stick to 1080p gaming. Fortunately, the internet is rife with rumours that the Radeon RX 6700 XT and RX 6700 cards arriving in January 2021 will supposedly directly challenge Nvidia’s RTX 3060 Ti card.

If such rumours are true, we won’t have to wait very long for the new graphics cards to be announced – but whether they offer the specs and price point to be fiercely competitive remains to be seen.

4. New generation of laptop processors

It’s looking likely that 2021 will be a massive year for AMD in the laptop space, as the company looks set to launch two different mobile chip ranges: Cezanne and Van Gogh.

The former will essentially be the next traditional generation of AMD laptop chips, succeeding the existing Ryzen 4000 mobile units. A leaked roadmap shows Cezanne to feature a 7nm process and the new Zen 3 architecture. This suggests these will be intended for top-end laptops that require high processing speeds.

Meanwhile, Van Gogh mobile processors will supposedly feature a 7nm process and Zen 2 architecture, but will be equipped with integrated Navi graphics rather than Vega. Such a processor series will likely be designed for ultraportable laptops that are too thin to accommodate discrete graphics. This sounds a lot like Intel’s existing Tiger Lake and Ice Lake mobile processors, so will likely prove to be a direct rival.

We’re not sure when these new mobile processor families will launch, but it’s looking increasingly likely that it will be during the first half of 2021.

Related: Best gaming laptop 2020

AMD Ryzen 5000

5. Even more desktop processors

It was only a couple of months ago that AMD revealed its Ryzen 5000 series of processors, but rumours suggest we could see even more arrive in 2021.

The Ryzen 5 5600 is widely tipped to launch in early 2021, with an estimated $220 price point, despite likely sharing similar specs to the existing Ryzen 5 5600X. This would become the most affordable desktop processor in the new Ryzen 5000 range, and could well be the most popular option for mainstream gamers in 2021.

A Ryzen 7 5700X processor has also been mooted, squeezing in between the current Ryzen 7 5800X and Ryzen 5 5600X chips. This rumoured processor could become the cheapest 8-core processor of the Ryzen 5000 generation.

Plenty more Ryzen desktop processors could emerge throughout the year, although the next generation of desktop chips (Ryzen 6000) aren’t expected to launch until 2022. It’s hard to be too upset about that when we only recently saw the last batch of Ryzen desktop processors become available.

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