AMD, you've really delivered with the Radeon VII. It might not be a planned release but it is big and loud enough to make an entrance and it stands as a huge flag planted firmly in 2019 for launching the world's first 7nm gaming GPU.
It's not a new GPU architecture, but the shift to 7nm has granted AMD enough room to create a much bigger beast in the Radeon VII. Being the first on 7nm is something that has AMD enjoying another technological win over NVIDIA, and double the fact since AMD is using much faster HBM2 on the Radeon VII with 1TB/sec of memory bandwidth. We're talking about doubling not just in the amount of memory, but memory bandwidth - all on a GPU that is smaller than the original Vega 10 and its 8GB of HBM2.
The 'supercharged' Vega GPU architecture and its 16GB of HBM2 propel it to performance levels that rival NVIDIA's new GeForce RTX 2070 graphics card, trading in the RTX abilities for the larger and faster 16GB of HBM2. If you don't plan on playing games with real-time ray tracing, DLSS or other NVIDIA features and technologies, the Radeon VII is a fine choice from AMD.
If you're a content creator by day and a gamer by night and the 8GB framebuffer on the RTX 2070, RTX 2080, or Vega 56 and Vega 64 aren't enough. AMD has planted 16GB of even faster HBM2 memory on Radeon VII which will provide more compute performance for content creation but it's not a lazy, lower-performing card when it comes to gaming. AMD is kicking ass and taking names when it comes to this one-two punch attack with Radeon VII.
So... performance is great. 16GB of HBM2 is great. Vega 20 on 7nm is great. Free games is also great.
What are the downsides?
It's loud... like, really loud. I was talking with Rob Williams (a great friend of mine, one of the best in not just the industry but the world - he is an awesome guy, and you should check out his site and his review on the Radeon VII right here) about this in the home stretch of writing our Radeon VII reviews. He asked if I thought it was loud and I said yeah it was, and he confirmed what I experienced: loud fans even in the menus of games. Not the game, but the fans spin up in the main menus rather quick.
In comparison, none of my NVIDIA cards do this in both the GeForce GTX 10 series and GeForce RTX series cards. AMD's older Radeon RX Vega cards get loud but not in the game menus that quick. The only other niggly bit here is that it gets rather warm, even with its improved cooler and triple-fan rig. Vega is just a hot-running GPU no matter what node (14nm or 7nm) and I think that's not something that'll change with Radeon cards until Navi.
AMD is asking $699 for its new Radeon VII which is a great price considering what card you're getting: a bleeding edge GPU on 7nm, and a huge (and expensive) 16GB of super-quick HBM2. There's also the three games that AMD is throwing in for free which is not a bad deal at all. Sure, you can get the GeForce RTX 2080 for $699 but they do scale upwards of $800-900 on Amazon at the time of writing.
If you need a new gaming monitor to go with your new Radeon VII graphics card, then you're in luck as FreeSync gaming displays are way cheaper than G-Sync monitors. The savings here alone can be hundreds of dollars depending on the display, so you can offset some of the loss of RTX features if you're not going to use them, in the Radeon VII and cheaper and very compatible FreeSync 2 gaming display.
So what happens now with Radeon now that we have the Radeon RX 590 and Radeon VII graphics cards?
Radeon RX Vega isn't really pushed anymore, which will lead us to the release of Navi. I think we'll see a few different Navi SKUs released that will hit price points of between $399 and $599, at $100 intervals from RX 590 at $289. The Radeon RX Vega 56 and 64 can be retired with similar or better performing cards that use GDDR6 memory and are much better on thermals (Navi will be on 7nm) and power consumption (because it's not Vega).
AMD's next step in the enthusiast world will be their next-gen GPU architecture after Navi which will be a truly big step in a new direction as it'll be the first GPU architecture since GCN launched in 2011. We've had a bumpy ride with the GCN architecture over the years, where GCN started out as a graphics card first approach before AMD went towards semi-custom and the GPU architectures were created as products for Apple (Vega) and Microsoft and Sony (Polaris) for the Xbox and PlayStation consoles.
The same is happening with Navi in our exclusive report that said the next-gen PlayStation 5 console will be powered by the Navi GPU architecture. Sony worked directly with the RTG engineers on the Navi GPU architecture, which means it's another console-derived chip that will be made into a graphics card. Don't expect Navi to come knocking down the Radeon VII as it'll be the highest-end card that AMD will offer this year.
We should start hearing about the new GPU architecture from AMD in 2020, which will need to compete with the new Intel GPUs that will be launching, and NVIDIA shifting down to the 7nm node - and will include its next-gen Ampere GPU architecture. 2020 is going to be an absolutely huge year for the GPU market with both AMD and NVIDIA taking the fight to another level with new releases and GPU architectures, as well as Intel entering the game with most of the ex-RTG team at the helm at a time when its CPU division is going through tumultuous times.
We shouldn't expect to see millions of Radeon VII cards sold and that's for a few reasons: 7nm isn't in massive numbers yet, HBM2 is still expensive and being chewed up by the enterprise/deep learning/AI markets, and AMD's fight is better fought in the mainstream market where Navi will be soon. Radeon VII is a flashy new release that if its performance wasn't there, would be near game over for AMD's high-end graphics cards.
But Radeon VII is not that, it has kick ass performance for the money this time around.
For now, AMD has released a formidable new card in the high-end/enthusiast space that has a few sore spots - but other than that, it's a kick ass release from AMD that brings them back to the high-end graphics card space. Forget the taste that Vega 56 and 64 left in our mouths, and take a look at Radeon VII. It's a huge improvement in virtually all ways, and deserves the praise it will get.
It comes at a time when lots of gamers aren't happy with NVIDIA over the pricing of the GeForce RTX series, so now they have a new alternative with Radeon VII - something AMD didn't offer until now. Great work, and great timing, AMD. Kudos for the surprise and great release of the Radeon VII.
Now... all roads for Radeon lead to Navi...
Product Summary Breakdown
|Performance (overclocking, power)||95%|
|Quality (build, design, cooling)||90%|
|General Features (display outputs, etc)||90%|
|Bundle, Packaging & Software||90%|
|Overall TweakTown Rating||91%|
The Bottom Line: AMD re-enters the high-end/enthusiast GPU race once again with its new Radeon VII, the world's first 7nm gaming GPU that packs a huge 16GB of super-fast HBM2. It trades blows with the GeForce RTX 2080 which is a big deal, #TeamRed is back and swinging.
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