Enthusiasts Need Not Apply
If you're an enthusiast that couldn't wait for a high-end Radeon card, you probably already purchased a real enthusiast graphics card like the GTX 1080 Ti. For those with a GTX 1080 Ti, there is absolutely zero reason to buy Radeon right now.
Radeon enthusiasts who have waited with their Radeon R9 290X, you might want to look at the Radeon RX Vega 56, or wait for the RX Vega 64 air-cooled variant. The power consumption is much higher than a GeForce GTX 1070 or GTX 1080 set up, and it's going to be even worse under CrossFire.
I'm an enthusiast, and I wouldn't buy RX Vega. Sorry, AMD - this is the truth.
If the Radeon RX Vega 56 and RX Vega 64 had come out closer to NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 release (May 2016... nearly 18 months ago now), then we'd be sitting in a different position. But the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 have been out for so long now that they've been joined by the GTX 1080 Ti, and even the TITAN Xp. All of these cards trounce AMD on power efficiency, and there's LOTS of custom GTX 1070/1080/1080 Ti cards to choose from now.
Heck, even the second hand market is filled with people upgrading from GTX 1070 and GTX 1080s, to GTX 1080 Ti (and not Radeon) that you could find a second hand GTX 1070 card cheaper than the Radeon RX Vega 56.
AMD is going to hate me for this review, I know it. But you know what, I'm here to give you guys my opinion no matter what. A reviewers life is so hard sometimes, becasuse you get branded as a brand fanboy for just recommending it, or hyping said product.
I've hyped Radeon RX Vega for so long because I wanted it to be a return to form for AMD... another Radeon 9700 PRO moment, and it's not. It's another Radeon R9 Fury X moment, or another Radeon RX 480 or Radeon RX 580 moment. Where there's so much hype, and so many games played by marketing teams and everything in between - that the card comes out, and it barely delivers on half the hype.
- HBM2 is bust.
- HBCC is bust.
- Vega is so beyond inefficient in power.
- No CrossFire support at launch.
I need to spend more time with Radeon RX Vega, which is what the next couple of weeks is going to be about. This review might seem harsh, but it's coming directly from my heart, and benchmarking, and testing. This is what I see, and this review is what you get. The harsh reality of Vega.
Vega is good, but it is so far from great that I don't see how a Vega refresh can help AMD beat NVIDIA.
NVIDIA can react in multiple ways:
- Drop GTX 1070/1080 pricing (but this isn't going to happen)
- NVIDIA refreshes Pascal with GTX 1170/1180
- NVIDIA destroys AMD with early consumer Volta-based GeForce cards
NVIDIA will not be dropping the prices of GTX 10 series cards, I know that much and have had that confirmed by NVIDIA. The refreshed Pascal GPUs sound like the go, but NVIDIA isn't being threatened by any Radeon RX Vega series card, period. If NVIDIA really were threatened, and they aren't, they could just dump consumer Volta to the market with GV102.
I think we'll see NVIDIA react in Q1 2018 with a consumer-oriented release of Volta, with the first showing of GDDR6 from SK Hynix. GDDR5X helped NVIDIA win the memory bandwidth battle against AMD before AMD were even able to get HBM2 to market on Radeon RX Vega. NVIDIA proved it didn't need a next-gen memory technology like HBM2 to beat AMD, and they did it without even really trying.
So for now, I would hold off on Radeon RX Vega until custom cards are released.
AMD Radeon fans that have been holding onto their Radeon R9 200 or R9 300 series card, and have a great FreeSync monitor, will want to look at Radeon RX Vega. It's not all bad, but there's just so much wrong with it that it's hard to recommend at this point. If you're a FreeSync display owner with 1080/1440p 60Hz, then the Radeon RX Vega 56 is a great choice if you don't want to buy a G-Sync monitor (remember, you can run a GeForce card on a FreeSync display, and vica versa).
It's Not All Bad
I think the message of Vega is completely muddled. It's a high-performance compute machine when in Radeon Pro SSG form (something we have to investigate, because we saw MAJOR stuttering at SIGGRAPH when pushing 8K video in real-time).
I get what AMD has done here... and we can see it on the CPU side, except it's much easier to understand and see the bigger picture. AMD, with their new Zen CPU architecture, build a top-to-bottom CPU stack. Starting with EPYC, the company etched out their server CPUs and went down, instead of up.
EPYC is a monster 32C/64T processor that features - in a roundabout way - 4 x Ryzen 7 1800X clusters (8C/16T per cluster). Disabling two of these results in Ryzen Threadripper 1950X (16C/32T)... so you can see it scales well. Here's how it works:
- EPYC: 32C/64T
- Threadripper: 16C/32T
- Ryzen 7 1800X: 8C/16T
You can see that if AMD were to do that with GPUs, it would be a win. Right now, it seems like it isn't - and I'm hoping this comes down to VERY immature drivers. I want to see HBM2 and HBCC fly... and that's something I just couldn't get working in 2 days of testing.
HBM2 and HBCC will be testing much more thoroughly in the days and weeks coming, so I'm hoping to have multiple new articles and videos on AMD's new Radeon RX Vega graphics cards.
Radeon RX Vega is a major disappointment to any enthusiast, but they've purchased a GTX 1080 Ti by now. For the GTX 1070 competitor in the RX Vega 56... we have a good, but not great offering. But remember, AMD is aiming the Radeon RX Vega 56 and Radeon RX Vega 64 at gamers who want GTX 1070 or GTX 1080 performance, but want Radeon. If that's you, then RX Vega is for you.
Except, it uses MUCH MORE power, and we have no idea about AIB custom cards yet. The pricing is right, but it's 18 months late and uses more power. I don't see the positives there.
I'll end with a quote from a movie, let me know in the comments below if you get it - and don't cheat by using Google! :)
Vega is great, it wishes to be, it just lacks the light to show AMD the way.
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- Page 1 [Introduction & Late Review Sample]
- Page 2 [Radeon Packs... A Good Deal?]
- Page 4 [Detailed Specs: RX Vega 56 & Vega 64]
- Page 4 [Test System]
- Page 5 [Benchmarks - Synthetic]
- Page 6 [Benchmarks - 1080p]
- Page 7 [Benchmarks - 1440p]
- Page 8 [Benchmarks - 4K]
- Page 9 [Benchmarks - 3440x1440]
- Page 10 [Performance Analysis]
- Page 11 [Overclocking, Power Consumption, Temps]
- Page 12 [What's Hot, What's Not]
- Page 13 [Performance Thoughts + Final Thoughts]