We’ve seen the architecture. We’ve seen the teasers. We’ve seen the Frontier. And we’ve seen the specifications. Now the end game for AMD’s Radeon RX Vega release is finally upon us: the actual launch of the hardware. Today is AMD’s moment to shine, as for the first time in over a year, they are back in the high-end video card market. And whether their drip feeding marketing strategy has ultimately succeeded in building up consumer hype or burnt everyone out prematurely, I think it’s safe to say that everyone is eager to see what AMD can do with their best foot forward on the GPU front.

Launching today is the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64, or just Vega 64 for short. Based on a fully enabled Vega 10 GPU, the Vega 64 will come in two physical variants: air cooled and liquid cooled. The air cooled card is your traditional blower-based design, and depending on the specific SKU, is either available in AMD’s traditional RX-style shroud, or a brushed-aluminum shroud for the aptly named Limited Edition.

Meanwhile the Vega 64 Liquid Cooled card is larger, more powerful, and more power hungry, utilizing a Radeon R9 Fury X-style external radiator as part of a closed loop liquid cooling setup in order to maximize cooling performance, and in turn clockspeeds. You actually won’t see AMD playing this card up too much – AMD considers the air cooled Vega 64 to be their baseline – but for gamers who seek the best Vega possible, AMD has put together quite a stunner.

Also having its embargo lifted today, but not launching until August 28th, is the cut-down AMD Radeon RX Vega 56. This card features lower clockspeeds and fewer enabled CUs – 56 out of 64, appropriately enough – however it also features lower power consumption and a lower price to match. Interestingly enough, going into today’s release of the Vega 64, it’s the Vega 56 that AMD has put the bulk of their marketing muscle behind.

AMD Radeon RX Series Specification Comparison
  AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 Liquid AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 AMD Radeon R9 Fury X
Stream Processors 4096
(64 CUs)
4096
(64 CUs)
3584
(56 CUs)
4096
(64 CUs)
Texture Units 256 256 224 256
ROPs 64 64 64 64
Base Clock 1406MHz 1247MHz 1156MHz N/A
Boost Clock 1677MHz 1546MHz 1471MHz 1050MHz
Memory Clock 1.89Gbps HBM2 1.89Gbps HBM2 1.6Gbps HBM2 1Gbps HBM
Memory Bus Width 2048-bit 2048-bit 2048-bit 4096-bit
VRAM 8GB 8GB 8GB 4GB
Transistor Count 12.5B 12.5B 12.5B 8.9B
Board Power 345W 295W 210W 275W
(Typical)
Manufacturing Process GloFo 14nm GloFo 14nm GloFo 14nm TSMC 28nm
Architecture Vega
(GCN 5)
Vega
(GCN 5)
Vega
(GCN 5)
GCN 3
GPU Vega 10 Vega 10 Vega 10 Fiji
Launch Date 08/14/2017 08/14/2017 08/28/2017 06/24/2015
Launch Price $699* $499/599* $399/499* $649

Between these SKUs, AMD is looking to take on NVIDIA’s longstanding gaming champions, the GeForce GTX 1080 and the GeForce GTX 1070. In both performance and pricing, AMD expects to be able to bring NVIDIA’s cards to a draw, if not pulling out a victory for Team Red. This means we’ll see the $500 Vega 64 set against the GTX 1080, while the $400 Vega 56 goes up against the GTX 1070. At the same time however, the dark specter of cryptocurrency mining hangs over the gaming video card market, threatening to disrupt pricing, availability, and the best-laid plans of vendors and consumers alike. Suffice it to say, this is a launch like no other in a time like no other.

Overall it has been an interesting past year and a half to say the least. With a finite capacity to design chips, AMD’s decision to focus on the mid-range market with the Polaris series meant that the company effectively ceded the high-end video card market to NVIDIA once the latter’s GeForce GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 launched. This has meant that for the past 15 months, NVIDIA has had free run of the high-end market. Meanwhile AMD’s efforts to focus on the mid-range market to win back market share meant that AMD initially got the jump on NVIDIA in this market by releasing Polaris ahead of NVIDIA’s answer, and their market share has recovered some. However it’s a constant fight against the dominating NVIDIA, and one that’s been made harder by essentially being invisible to the few high-end buyers and the many window shoppers. That is a problem that ends today with the launch of the Vega 64.

I’d like to say that today’s launch is AMD landing a decisive blow in the video card marketplace, but the truth of the matter is that while AMD PR puts on their best face, there are signs that behind the scenes things are more chaotic than anyone would care for. Vega video cards were originally supposed to be out in the first-half of this year, and while AMD technically made that with the launch of the Vega Frontier Edition cards, it’s just that: a technicality. It was certainly not the launch that anyone was expecting at the start of 2017, especially since some of Vega’s new architectural functionality wasn’t even enabled at the time.

More recently, AMD’s focus on product promotion and on product sampling has been erratic. We’ve only had the Vega 64 since Thursday, giving us less than 4 days to completely evaluate the thing. Adding to the chaos, Thursday evening AMD informed us that we’d receive the Vega 56 on Friday, and encouraging us to focus on that instead. The reasoning behind this is complex – I don’t think AMD knew if it could have Vega 56 samples ready, for a start – but ultimately boils down to AMD wanting to put their best foot forward. And right now, the company believes that the Vega 56 will do better against the GTX 1070 than the Vega 64 will do against the GTX 1080.

Regardless, it means that we’ve only had a very limited amount of time to evaluate the performance and architectural aspects of AMD’s new cards, and even less time to write about them. Never mind chasing down interesting odds & ends. So while this is a full review of the Vega 64 and Vega 56, there’s some further investigating left to do once we recover from this blitz of a weekend and get our bearings back.

So without further ado, let’s dig into AMD return to the high-end market with their Vega architecture, Vega 10 GPU, and the Vega 64 & Vega 56 video cards.

Vega 10: Fiji of the Stars
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  • Makaveli - Monday, August 14, 2017 - link

    https://www.newegg.ca/Product/ProductList.aspx?Sub...

    Air cooled Vega 64 for $839 CAD I don't think so.

    When you can pay $659 CAD for the 1080?

    I prefer AMD cards over NV but even I'm not dumb enough to do this.

    $180 extra for the same performance and must higher heat output.
    Reply
  • mapesdhs - Monday, August 14, 2017 - link

    That was exactly my point, real pricing is way out of whack for the Vega64 to make any sense atm. Can you check, is it possible to buy a 1080 Ti for the same price as the cheapest Vega64/Liquid? This is the case in the UK, where the 64/Liquid is basically 700 UKP, same as a Palit Jetstream 1080 Ti. Reply
  • Makaveli - Monday, August 14, 2017 - link

    @mapesdhs

    Liquid Vega 64 is $979 CAD

    1080 TI air is in the $924-$984 CAD.

    Liquid 1080 Ti's are in the $1,014-$1,099 range.

    And the 1080 Ti will still be faster and using less power....
    Reply
  • zodiacfml - Monday, August 14, 2017 - link

    AMD is truly an underdog. Fighting Nvidia and Intel at the same time but I could see that they are doing their best based on their designs. Their unique position is what made them successful in gaming consoles. Can't wait to see the performance of Raven Ridge parts. Reply
  • Frenetic Pony - Monday, August 14, 2017 - link

    Regarding FP16 game use, Devs are already using it because it's supported on the PS4 Pro. While the specific "Checkerboard" rendering used in Mass Effect Andromeda and Battlefield 1 are PS4 Pro only due to hardware oddities, it still uses FP16 optimizations. And since both PS4 and Xbox One have FP16 register capabilities it's an easy target for optimization there, and easy to bring over to PC.

    Frankly I'd expect it to be adopted fairly quickly. Register pressure alone is reason enough for high end games to call for explicit FP16 where applicable, and porting such to the PC is relatively easy.
    Reply
  • BaroMetric - Monday, August 14, 2017 - link

    Vega is already sold out and the bundles on newegg require you buy gpu, cpu, mobo etc. You can't just pay the extra hundred dollars you actually have to purchase the other components. Which is not what we were lead to believe Reply
  • Azix - Tuesday, August 15, 2017 - link

    need to include clock speed profiles. should be basic information reviewers include nowadays. put performance in context. This is nearly useless without it. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, August 18, 2017 - link

    Ask and you shall receive. Check the power/temp/noise page.=) Reply
  • HollyDOL - Tuesday, August 15, 2017 - link

    It was all good... until I reached power consumption/noise part of the review. Reply
  • Outlander_04 - Tuesday, August 15, 2017 - link

    Now go and work out what that extra power will cost you if you game 2 hours a day for a year.
    The answer is NOTHING if you heat your house with a thermostat controlling temps,
    And a very small amount if you don't.
    Now go turn off a couple of lights. You know you want to.
    Reply

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