At CES 2019 today, AMD unveiled their NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 competitor- the Radeon VII. Unlike the RTX card, the Radeon VII will not feature a VirtualLink port.
VirtualLink is the new USB-C single cable standard for future PC VR headsets and GPUs. It’s intended to simplify the setup process of PC VR, guarantee compatibility, and allow laptops to easily support VR.
AMD is listed as a founding member of the standard, so we were hoping the Radeon VII would feature the port. Unfortunately, an AMD representative just confirmed via email it does not.
The major advantage of VirtualLink is that it provides power, data and video through one port. Even more importantly, it’s able to provide 27 Watts of power and handle 10Gbps of data. The VirtualLink spec gives the example of headset cameras and sensors. Without the port, the video card only handles video, meaning power and data is reliant on the motherboard’s USB controllers. 27 watts is equivalent to over 5x USB 3.0 ports.
Given that AMD is a founding member of the standard, it seems likely that the company’s next GPU, codenamed ‘Navi’, will feature the port. While there’s no firm release window for Navi, AMD stated at CES that we’ll “hear more about Navi in 2019”. For now, if you’re interested in VR, it may be wise to hold off.