AMD Reveals RX Vega Price, Performance & Specs
AMD’s RX Vega is here….almost. As a matter of fact it is now one more tentative step closer to reality. While yet another step towards a launch that’s been over a year in the making won’t placate would-be buyers, AMD is now allowing us to talk about specs, pricing and potential performance for the first time. Hey, at least that’s something, right?
Typically Saturdays and Sundays are slow days for the tech industry as we all gear up for the coming weekly cycle of news, reviews and an endless litany of emails. Not so this weekend. AMD decided to have a show and tell during the annual SIGGRAPH show that detailed RX Vega and a few other technologies and products they have been working on. If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, you’d have seen plenty of Vega photos since that elusive GPU was finally captured in the wild.
Since I am away on vacation, Eber is attending the event for us and much of the information is still under NDA until when reviews are supposed to drop on August 14th or four days after Threadripper hits shelves. There's also some conflicting information about in-store availability with some of AMD's documents stating late August while others say early September. Due to that, this article will be an abbreviated high level overview of what you can expect come launch and I’ll follow it up with a complete in-depth technical piece when we are able to properly analyze Vega.
There has obviously been a lot of debate about Vega in the hope that it will be a savior for AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group after nearly half a decade of playing second fiddle to NVIDIA in the flagship realm. Due to this perpetual underdog position and the inherent nature of humans to root for the underdog, AMD has developed something akin to a cult of personality.
As a result, many have been waiting for just this day when RX Vega is announced and the Radeon lineup can once again compete with the absolute best NVIDIA has to offer. Ryzen’s success simply cemented that belief among the masses. Unfortunately don’t expect anything of the sort this time around but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should write off Vega before it even launches.
In many ways the Vega architecture is based upon an upscaled and massively enhanced Polaris design. While many of the broad architectural details have already been revealed over the last year or so, the exact changes between Polaris and Vega are being kept under lock and key until the official launch. What we can say is that much like the RX 480 and RX 580, Vega contains a Compute Unit structure with 64 vector units (also called SIMD units by AMD) as well as localized cache, a dedicated data share and likely a quartet of Texture Units. The other major addition to this equation is HBM2 which not only gives these GPUs massive bandwidth but likely contributed to the epic delays as well.
Right now RX Vega will be broken down into a trio of distinct products: Vega 64 Liquid Cooled Edition, the standard Vega 64 and a lower priced Vega 56. All of these are based off of the new Vega 10 core and there are some additional nuances as well. Make sure you keep reading below because pricing and segmentation aren’t as clear cut as they seem.
Let’s start with the bad news for some of you guys. The RX Vega series isn’t meant to compete against NVIDIA’s high end Pascal lineup like the Titan XP and GTX 1080 Ti. Rather, AMD is targeting the space between the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 along with a segment slightly above the 1080 for the Vega 64 Liquid Cooler Edition.
Starting at the very top of this lineup, we have the two Vega 64 based parts which boast 4096 Stream Processors and 8GB of high bandwidth HBM2 memory operating at 484GB/s. The main differentiating factor other than the water cooed component is the clock speeds with the Liquid Cooler Edition has a higher set of clock frequencies.
Then there’s the power consumption numbers which are a concern to say the very least. It is more than obvious it was a struggle for AMD to get to this point since Vega 64 can consume a whopping 345W of power. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s 100W more than a GP102-based GTX 1080 Ti coupled with framerate performance that should trend just above a GTX 1080. Even the vanilla RX Vega 64 gobbles down nearly 300W compared to a GTX 1080’s frugal 180W.
Moving slightly down-market and there’s the RX Vega 56 which, as its name implies, has 56 instead of 64 Compute Units, totaling 3584 SPs. It also 8GB of memory which runs at a slower speed so expect about 410 GB/s. AMD expects this to compete directly against NVIDIA’s GTX 1070 but with a 210W power envelope that might be a challenge give the GeForce card sucks down about 150W.
Thus far everything I’ve said should prepare you for this chart but there are some glimmering rays of hope for the RX Vega. What AMD’s Radeon Technology Group is focusing upon goes beyond high average framerates; they are hoping performance consistency will be what draws gamers into their fold. Whereas the Vega 64 is may lose by a narrow amount in averages, minimum or 99th percentile framerates show it delivering a much more consistent overall gaming experience at 3440x1440. This does however disguise the fact the cart above deals with ranges rather than real numbers we can digest properly.
AMD also showed some impressive 4K “minimum range” results which is heartening since UHD resolutions are one area where NVIDIA’s GTX 1080 tends to struggle a bit. If the Vega 64 can deliver playable results from 1080 all the way to 4K, it has a fighting chance of being quite successful.
Let’s talk about pricing since going forward it will become an extremely important factor for all of these cards as they endeavor to go head to head against firmly entrenched rivals. The RX Vega 64 will start at $499 USD which happens to be the exact same price as NVIDIA’s GTX 1080. Now AMD claims this card will actually beat its direct price competitor in a head to head comparison so the price seems to be in line with expectations.
The RX Vega 56 on the other hand hits the exact same $399 price point as the GTX 1070 which should surprise just about no one. Much like the Vega 64, AMD is expecting it to come out slightly ahead of NVIDIA’s card so the value quotient should be there.
Unfortunately pricing for graphics cards is a bit of a hit and miss game right now so these “suggested retail prices” are likely pretty far fetched. At a time when crypto currency mining on GPUs is back in vogue, prices have skyrocketed to some pretty insane levels with RX 580’s hitting nearly $400 and GTX 1070’s at one point leveling out just under $600. If RX Vega 64 and 32 are indeed available for $499 and $399, expect them to be gobbled up by the miners in no time at all.
At this point in time you might be wondering why the images above showed two cards that you might not have seen before. Well, let me explain…
Vega 64 will be launched in three different versions. There will be the Liquid Cooled model as well as a Radeon RX Vega 64 Limited Edition which is the one that AMD showed off at this weekend’s event. The Limited Edition model has a brushed aluminum heatsink and an illuminated logo but will only be available for a short time and will not be available for purchase separately. Rather, you will need to pony up the money for a so-called Radeon Pack for the privilege of owning this little guy. The same can be said of the Liquid Cooled model: only available as part of a package.
Meanwhile, the standard Vega 64 and Vega 32 will have reference heatsink shroud that has a design which dates back to the Fury X days and carried on to Polaris. I mean it looks pretty good with a stealthy black shroud but folks who were expecting the metal shroud will be disappointed.
Now about those so-called “Radeon Packs” that may be your only ticket into the liquid cooled and Limited Edition realms, they represent a way for AMD to sell you into their ecosystem by leveraging these new cards. Basically paying more for the graphics card “unlocks” additional savings on other components. For example, the Radeon Aqua Pack sees you buying the RX Vega 64 Liquid Cooled for $699 and along with that you will receive up to $200 off a FreeSync Monitor, $100 off a Ryzen 7 + X370 combo and two free games valued up to $120.
The Black and Red Packs on the other hand see the Vega 64 and Vega 56 rise in cost to $599 and $499 respectively but purchasers will still get access to all the rebates I mentioned above. Personally I think this is a great way for AMD to leverage their top-to-bottom product stack to help sell graphics cards but it will be of no help to gamers who want to upgrade their existing GPUs alone.
As for that Limited Edition card, I’m sure if it ever becomes available outside a Radeon Pack, people will snap it up since it looks incredible. With the Vega logo and illuminated “R” front and center, it boasts a clean yet refined look but still has a bit of eye candy for gamers with clear side panels. It also comes with an isothermic vapor chamber and a 30mm fan but those two items are also available on the standard version. For those wondering, power input is handled by a pair of 8-pin power connectors so you may need a PSU upgrade to run it.
The connector plate is interesting as well with a trio of DisplayPort 1.2 outputs and a single HDMI 2.0. Gone are the DVI ports of yesteryear but I expect board partners will have those added soon after launch.
I’m going to end this article with a story since I think it is appropriate right now. Back at CES I had the chance to sit down over supper with a long-time ex employee of AMD and RTG. When asked about the long, drawn out release of Vega his simple answer was: There’s two ways to break bad news to someone - either all at once or prepare the person little by little so acceptance comes easier.
In this case the long, meandering trail of breadcrumbs had sown just enough doubt that gamers had put off their purchases in the hope that Vega would offer them something new and different. The saying “wait for Vega” became a meme that could have equaled “Half Life 3 Confirmed”. It turns out there wasn’t much bad news to prepare for but we won't see something new and different either.
So here we are with yet another drip in the bucket of information but this time around with a good amount of meaty details too. AMD has revealed they are competing against an NVIDIA card that is 16 months old with something that runs hotter and consumes more power. Some may laugh at that but I’ll take a slightly different approach. While Vega 64 has obviously been pushed beyond its limits in an effort to simply compete against the GTX 1080, it does so at a very reasonable price. The same can be said about Vega 56.
There is certainly something you can infer about this situation though; somewhere NVIDIA’s designs skipped a full generation (or more) ahead of AMD. Like the Fiji architecture was obviously meant to compete against Maxwell GPUs only to be released a year later, Vega’s target was Pascal. The only problem is that Pascal has been gracing the GeForce lineup for a long while whereas Radeon users are only getting their first taste of that performance level now. Regardless of how you look at things, AMD is playing catch up and their launch cadence is dropping further behind.
While efficiency is very much a concern here, Vega may be a great solution for those who want an upgrade with an eye towards a certain price to performance ratio. NVIDIA could also throw a huge wrench into the works by dropping the GTX 1080’s price a bit. Regardless of what happens, one thing is certain: the next few weeks are going to be interesting ones.
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