AMD teased the Radeon Pro Duo last month as a graphics solution powerful enough for the forthcoming Assassin Creed movie's virtual reality experience, but waited a few weeks to launch the dual-GPU card in a semi-official manner that mirrors its "tweener" status in the graphics board market.
Instead of the usual release hoopla that includes benchmark-based testing from third-party sites, the company apparently isn't sending out review samples, and AMD's product page provides an email notification form for when the Pro Duo is actually available. The in-between status of the card's release is similar to its positioning as a card that's not just for gamers and not just for content professionals. (In fact, separate drivers will be available that are specifically tailored for gaming or for professional applications.)
The Pro Duo consists of a pair of Radeon R9 Fury X GPUs (using Fiji technology and not AMD's new Polaris architecture) that are kept cool(er) with an integrated liquid cooling system. The result is what AMD calls the fastest desktop graphics card to date, besting Nvidia's GeForce GTX Titan X in performance by 50 percent, though we don't have an independent source verifying its claims. It includes 8GB of High-Bandwidth Memory, 8,192 stream processors, and a PCIe 3.0 interface.
In additional to traditional appeals to gamers and digital media creators, AMD is promoting the Pro Duo as perfect for a new application: virtual reality. It's the first card in its Radeon VR Ready Creator product lineup, which means it offers enough firepower for developing VR applications (as opposed to Radeon VR Ready cards that are capable of playing back those experiences). AMD first mentioned the Pro Duo as the tool used to create the virtual reality experience that will be used to promote the forthcoming Assassin Creed's movie. The card includes AMD's LiquidVR technology, which touts the ability to reduce latency in VR apps along with other VR workflow optimization tools.
The company hopes this burgeoning market will provide a new set of buyers for its pricey card, scheduled to cost $1,500 when it actually sees the light of day. Though there have been other desktop graphics cards that cost as much (or more) than the Pro Duo, the number of consumer gamers who can pay more than most PCs cost just for a graphics board is limited. If VR takes off as expected, AMD may be well-positioned to take advantage of the need for optimized and powerful graphics solutions to create new experiences and games for Oculus Rift and other headsets, though we should fully expect Nvidia to match its efforts almost immediately.