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AMD's New RX 500X GPUs are OEM Rebrands, Not New Cards

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AMD technically just launched a new lineup of GPUs this week, but don’t worry if you can’t find them on store shelves. The new 500X family adds an “X” to the brand of each previous Radeon card. The Radeon RX 580 is now the RX 580X, the 570 is the 570X, etc, etc, right on down the stack. But that’s literally the only changes to these cards.

The RX 580X is an RX 580. The RX 570X is an RX 570. The RX 560X is… you get it.

Gamers tend to dislike these periodic rebranding efforts, but they’ve been a feature (or “feature”) of the GPU market for decades. GPU companies often keep low-end models around for 2-3 refresh cycles, or split the low and higher ends of the market between a suite of upper-level cards that are refreshed more rapidly, while lower-end models on outdated process nodes may bump along for a longer period of time.

Gamers tend to blame AMD and Nvidia for these efforts, viewing them as an attempt to hoodwink gamers into paying for “new” chips that aren’t new at all. According to AMD, that’s not what’s driving this refresh cycle. “There are no hardware differences to non-X [RX 500 GPUs],” an AMD spokesperson told PCWorld. “The Radeon RX 500X series graphics cards is a brand refresh for 2018 OEM platforms that ensures Radeon RX 500 series cards are using the latest ‘Polaris’ architecture-based hardware and driver revisions (Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition) for 2018.”

Radeon500XSeries
We’ve put this question to OEMs before, and they generally agree with AMD (Nvidia has explained the situation similarly as well). PC OEMs like regular brand refreshes. It gives them new opportunities to market parts that are new as opposed to actually having to validate and bring up new designs from scratch. And if we’re going to have to deal with this kind of issue on a regular basis, I’d actually rather companies kept the model numbers simpler. Spinning up a new product brand (Radeon 6xx) would be more likely to leave people thinking they’re getting fundamentally new hardware as opposed to the same chips that have previously been available.

There’s no expectation that the Radeon 500X family will even come to store shelves, but if you should happen to see the odd card for sale here or there, you can just knock the “X” off and read the product as a standard 500-series part. As of this writing, we’re not aware of any near-term AMD plan for a midrange refresh this year — the only public GPU launch on the roadmap the company announced at CES were plans for a 7nm machine learning variant of Vega as a pipecleaner for GF’s 7nm process node later this year. Such a chip would be a very limited run part intended to validate the process rather than a major launch or revenue driver.

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