AMD's Radeon Pro Duo is a monster graphics card

The Radeon Pro Duo delivers 16 teraflops of peak performance for $1,499

AMD has just taken the wraps off of what could be the world's highest performing graphics card, the Radeon Pro Duo.

The monster card has two GPUs based on AMD's Fiji architecture. It delivers 16 teraflops of single-precision performance, which AMD claims is the highest performance offered by a single graphics card.

Announced at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, the Radeon Pro Duo will go on sale in the next few months priced at $1,499.

The card follows Nvidia's Titan X, whose single GPU delivers peak performance of 7 teraflops. That performance can be greatly increased in SLI configurations, where two or three cards are added to one desktop.

AMD and Nvidia have been overtaking each other in GPUs for years. Real world performance depends partly on the application, but for a top-line product, the Radeon Pro Duo is certainly reasonably priced, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

Nvidia still holds the greater market share, however, and has been pulling away. Last quarter, Nvidia had 74 percent of the standalone GPU market, up from 72 percent a year earlier, according to figures from Mercury. AMD had 26 percent, down from 28 percent the year before. So it will be hoping this latest product gives a kick to its sales.

The Pro Duo has 8192 processing units and draws up to 350 watts of power, AMD says. It has 8GB of HBM (high-bandwidth memory), which is faster than conventional GDDR5 and the upcoming GDDR5X. The card delivers 1 teraflop of double-precision performance, important for more complex calculations.

The Pro Duo is targeted especially at virtual reality content. High-end headsets like the Oculus Rift are tethered to desktops, whose powerful GPUs render the graphics.

Cards like the Pro Duo are needed to make VR images render quickly and look realistic.

VR is emerging as the next big thing in consumer tech, so it's a natural target for high-end GPUs after gaming, McCarron notes.

The Pro Duo can also help with creation of VR content, using AMD's LiquidVR SDK, which provides the rendering and programming tools.

At GDC, AMD also announced the VR First initiative with Crytek, to promote VR content development among developers and students. VR First includes equipping university computer labs with Pro Duo graphics cards. Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul has been equipped with the hardware already and others will follow.

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