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AMD's most powerful GPU yet is built for VR

At $1,500, the Radeon Pro Duo bridges the gap between Radeon and FirePro.
Steve Dent, @stevetdent
March 15, 2016
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AMD has just launched the liquid-cooled Radeon Pro Duo, a graphics card that boasts a lot of superlatives. With 16 teraflops of computing power, it's the fastest single-slot graphics card available, according to the company. At $1,500, it's also the most expensive Radeon card ever and consumes 350 watts (via three eight-pin power connectors), meaning it could add $10 a month to your electric bill if you game all day, every day. Despite the high-end specs, however, AMD is not going after gamers, but VR content creators.

"With its LiquidVR SDK ... [the] platform is aimed at most all aspects of VR content creation: from entertainment to education, journalism, medicine and cinema," according to the company. At the same time, it says that the board's power and DirectX 12 support will let you game "at maximum fidelity while off work." The card will be particularly well suited to stereoscopic VR, since the two GPUs (each with 4GB of HBM1 RAM for 8GB total) can be efficiently mapped to each eye with LiquidVR and other tech.

On the other hand, that makes the card an odd duck, since AMD says its FireGL cards -- which can run up to $4,000 -- are the choice for professional use. Like the FireGL, the Pro Duo's drivers will be validated for content creation applications like Adobe's After Effects and Premiere Pro CC (assuming you're okay with OpenCL rather than NVIDIA's Cuda). At the same time, a single GPU card like AMD's $650 R9 Fury X -- which has 8 teraflops of power -- might be a better choice for gaming. That's because dual GPU and SLI cards have performed worse than expected in recent AAA titles.

AMD also announced its "Radeon VR Ready" GPU certification program, aimed at helping consumers select graphics cards for virtual reality PCs. The program, which HP has already pledged to support, will allow PC manufacturers to guarantee systems for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets. The Radeon Pro Duo is AMD's first graphics card certified for the program.

The product is competing against not only high-end gaming GPUs, but also workstation-class cards like the NVIDIA Quadro M6000 or AMD's own FirePro W9100. As such, it may be ideal machine for building and then testing VR titles. At $1,500 it's a tough sell for gamers against some formidable single-GPU gaming cards like NVIDIA's Titan X or (two) R9 Fury X cards, though. We should see how it stacks up in the real world soon, as the Radeon Pro Duo will arrive early next quarter.

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