Final words and conclusion
Final words and conclusion
It has been a long wait for Vega. You know, internally at AMD they claimed that Vega was on track schedule wise. If that was the case then why create hype for more than a year now? The success of all that hype, virals might have also brought disappointment to a lot of end-users who got tired of waiting. What really happened? Who knows. We like to think it was HBM2 not being ready for mass volume production, with too high prices. See, pioneering new technology is great, fantastic even. But you always need a plan B, Nvidia had one and created SKUs with GDDR5X, allowing them to produce and bring to market a card like the GTX 1080 a year ago (May 2016). Looking back, we like to think that GDDR5X might have been a wiser 'in-between' choice for AMD as well. Whether or not the launch was delayed (or not) simply is irrelevant. We need to look and judge the product based on what is available starting today and position it within the price segment versus the competition, and that would be the Geforce GTX 1080. The team green card sits at prices above 500 USD/Euro, the Vega 64 just under that. That 1080 however is available in factory tweaked models and sure, as mentioned has been around for a year already. Regardless, Vega for consumers is finally here. You're going to see three reference models from AMD, the Vega 56, Vega 64 and the Vega 64 LCS edition. AMD submitted the Vega 64 initially, ergo the LCS version might hit the market in small batches initially, Vega 56 testing is done as we speak. Testing Vega 64 was a pleasure. The card does perform nicely with games anno 2017 and does position itself in a very competitive performance bracket. We had little issues with the card really, though sometimes the perf is way worse (GTA5) compared to the GTX 1080, but then again excellent with, say, Battlefield 1. Well sure, there will be some anomalies, however driver support from team red has greatly improved over the past year or two. It'll all be addressed. One note I'd like to add is that I am fairly fascinated by the new HBCC feature. Much like 10 years ago with Turbocache (Nv) or Hypermemory (ATi) you can add an extra cache / memory pool or swap-file if you wish and assign it to the GPU to use at its disposal (at the cost of RAM memory). This implementation is a sound one, which so much more volume and bandwidth anno 2017 on your system memory available If you have plenty of system memory, this can benefit games in the long run with extensive high quality textures etc. Currently the benefits do not show up that much, but I am very excited to see this new feature. Time will tell, but there is good potential in the Vega chip alright.
The Vega GPU & performance
Credit where credit is due, Vega performs nicely and sure does look sexy with the two HMB2 stacks on that single Godzilla sized chip. The end result is a chip that has close to 12 Billion transistors on the GPU (that's excluding HBM I think), and that is fairly massive, a chip sized 512 mm²; imagine that for a 14nm graphics processor. Despite its size, AMD also managed to keep power consumption reasonably under control though it seems to pass the 300 Watt marker when stressed. The Vega 64 air-cooled edition is a good notch faster than the RX 580 8GB and the Fury series. It is good to see we left the 4 GB VRAM cards behind us as I feel 8 GB is the current sweet spot for modern age PC gaming, the way it's meant to be played (no pun intended). In its reference performance bracket the card is a good choice for 1080p, 1440p as well as 3840x2160 gaming. And, well, let's be brutally honest here, for the 499 USD price tag, it needs to be a card that can deal with 3840x2160. I am however very interested to see what the liquid cooled version will offer with its higher clocks, as well as board partner cards with proper cooling. See, there is more performance to be found in that GPU at a 1.65 GHz boost range. So yes, i am excited to test more of these puppies. That is the same for the Vega 56 model, which might hit a certain sweet-spot compared to the GeForce GTX 1070. But I can only make objective comments on that once we actually have had that card at hand to test. Vega 64 has the potential to be a bit of a beast, but needs the right circumstances to really shine. We think a driver tweak or two is still in order. The Radeon RX Vega 64, in most scenarios (depending on the game / render intensity / resolution), will perform close to the GeForce GTX 1080, with the usual and unusual exceptions here and there. And then once Ultra HD kicks in, things equalize or get better real fast at very acceptable framerates. Typically in Ultra HD you are bound to run out of graphics memory fairly fast, here's where that 8 GB kicks in nicely. Remember though, most of the data that resides in the framebuffer is cached data, that prevents things like swapping files from your HDD/SSD. Not all cached data is used and, in most scenarios, when you run out of graphics memory it just doesn't matter. It does start to matter when you have Ultra HD texture packs and weird AA modes. If you want 8x MSAA at Ultra HD, we assume that 8 GB will still not be enough. Fool around a bit with the HBCC options, and you can use your system memory as an extra memory pool / buffer. HBM2 does offer very low latency graphics memory with nice bandwidth. But hey, performance wise really there's not one game that won't run seriously good at WQHD and even Ultra HD and that remains a fact. Vega definitely can crunch and render them games.
Value wise the Radeon RX Vega 64 is making sense, but likely should have been 50 bucks cheaper. When compared to the rest of the the market that would make sense. However, at launch there will not (likely) be a lot of volume available, and with the ongoing mining craze these cards will sell regardless of the 499 USD pricetag. So let me reiterate pricing, Vega 56 will cost 399, Vega 64 499 USD (the standalone air-cooled versions). The liquid cooled edition that is clocked faster will sell at a price of 699 USD. We'll leave out the bundling stuff for now, as it is merely confusing and we doubt that many people are actually interested in the discount bundles where you need to purchase a specific monitor and Ryzen processor.
Cooling & Noise Levels
So yeah, Vega 10 is a big chip. Big chips produce heat when clocked high, and at a 1,247 MHz base / 1,546 MHz boost it is clocked relatively high. Now, the regular Vega will be an air based cooler product series, as tested today. Yet the liquid cooled version does appeal more as it is getting that higher 1,406 MHz / 1,677 MHz clock. The end result for Vega 64 reference is a product package that keeps the graphics processor at a maximum of ~80 degrees C, and that works okay. Once you hit that marker you'll see some limited throttling on the GPU bringing that boost frequency down. Long term gameplay does show a drop in the clocks. The noise levels here are definitely moderate to noisy, you can hear the fan airflow clearly once housed in a PC. Overall dBA readings as such are high but in a real world situation where you leave the measurement metrics out of the equation and just listen with your ears, it is in line with a normal PC making above average noises. I certainly cannot quantify or qualify Vega 64 air-cooled as a silent solution, and that's the honest truth. On the flip-side of that coin, again it certainly isn't stupendously loud either, but it is very audible. It has to be said, we heard coil-whine as well. Personally we're far more interested as to what the premium cooling solutions from AIB partners will bring on cooling and noise levels.
While the overall power consumption is spicy, the card is rated as having a 295 Watt TDP, depending on the workload. We measure numbers in the 335 Watt range (peak) with gaming. That number varies a bit per game title and resolution of course. It's a substantial wattage, especially compared to the competitions product in the same performance bracket.
I'll reserve any further judgements on tweaking until AMD has finished a proper driver and I can spend some more time on this. The current configuration makes tweaking seriously complicated as the first 30 to 60 seconds your card behaves stable overclocked and then all of a sudden, when it hits a limiter, drops down in performance massively. AMD has verified issues with the beta driver, we have no doubt it'll all be fixed soon, maybe even in the first public release driver.
Let's call the Radeon RX Vega 56 and 64 the GeForce GTX 1080 sandwich :) As confusing as it was to wait on Vega, we had to admit, we're happy that it finally arrived. Let's call it fashionably late. Unfortunately, the product I really wanted to show you was the LCS edition, however AMD deemed it more important to send the available LCS kits to vloggers. So y'all have to wait on that, in my opinion it is however what really should have been tested today. Vega 64 Black (air-cooled) performs nicely and with the 8 GB of graphics memory you can game at 2560x1440 really well for a fair amount of money. Honestly, it doesn't disappoint in Ultra HD either. There is very little wrong with the card as it offers nice performance respective to its price. It, however, is not a competition killer, in fact we doubt that Nvidia is even the slightest bit worried with this release. Ergo and again, we are confused as to why AMD did not send the fastest SKUs (LCS kits to) media as well, as these clock substantially higher. Right now it's all a bit average sitting in a performance bracket that the competition offers for the same amount of money for a year now, the GeForce GTX 1080. That, however, is a nice performance bracket to be in, let's be honest here as that is a lovely performance level as it offers a terrific PC gaming experience. We do hope to see some driver tweaks that will lift up game performance in the Full HD to WHQD domain a bit more, we still see a bit of CPU overhead with AMD drivers, and that shows at 1920x1080 (it's all very relative though). The brutal truth is that being as close to the reference GTX 1080 Ti really is what this release was in everybody's expectations. If you plan to go for an Ultra HD build, then the Radeon Vega 64 could be a nice match alright. Just connect it to a FreeSync monitor and you'll have a really nice gaming experience. The card isn't silent, in fact it has moderately audible airflow that you will hear continuously while gaming. However, I will make a side-note, it is not at an irritating level though. We also heard a fair bit of coil-noise in high-fps games, again nothing too worrying in a closed chassis. Cooling wise we hope to see AIB partners offer solutions with much improved coolers, cooling levels and also noise levels as there is a lot to be gained there over the reference design. Gaming wise you are rock solid though. Nicely rendered game-play is what you get back in return whilst you enable the most intensive image quality settings. And isn't that what it is all about with PC gaming? The final MSRP pricing of this product is 499 USD and, depending on volume and availability, prices are going to vary here and there in the long run. It is a lot of money, sure. But the high-end space always has been expensive. Overall we can recommend the Radeon RX Vega 64 - if it fits your budget and brand preference, specifically for the Vega 64 I would however wait for the AIB cards with improved cooling, but that is a personal note. I also think there will be little stock available at launch, at least here in the EU stock seems to be limited right now. For the money you do receive a product that is overall lovely and performs very nicely, but not necessarily exceptionally. In some games the Vega 64 lacked perf, in others it shines. Let's await some driver updates would be my motto here. While it might not be the perfect competition slaughtering product, it definitely is close enough to make that difference. Vega 64 is a massive step forwards for AMD and, as such, we do like and recommend it.
- Unigine Heaven Stress test
- MSI AfterBurner
- 3DMark FireStrike + Time Spy (2016)
- Download AMD Radeon drivers
- Download GeForce drivers
- “You Know Nothing, Jon Snow”