AMD Radeon RX Vega 56

Is this the Vega card worth wait­ing for?

Maximum PC - - IN THE LAB - WEGA Crypto price hike; hot; loud; power draw still higher than com­pe­ti­tion. $ 500, www.

WE MEN­TIONED in our up­grade fea­ture (pg. 26) how the Vega se­ries has been a botched launch for AMD. Whether that’s the jab­bing mar­ket­ing cam­paigns, the hushedup launch, the con­fu­sion over ini­tial price re­bates, or the hor­ren­dous power draw, pric­ing, and per­for­mance of Red’s flag­ship card, it’s been less than ap­peal­ing to jump aboard the AMD hype train. Vega 56, on the other hand, is a dif­fer­ent beast. Al­most. It’s de­signed to chal­lenge the mid to high-end range of GPUs, sit­ting snug­gly be­tween the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080, at an af­ford­able price.

So, what are the key dif­fer­ences be­tween this and its el­derly king­pin, the Vega 64? For a start, the core clocks have been re­duced by 90MHz (from a 1,247 core clock down to 1,156), you get 512 fewer stream­ing cores (lim­it­ing it to 3,584), and 32 fewer TMUs (Tex­ture Map­ping Units). Ev­ery­thing else is iden­ti­cal, from the ROPs to the 8GB of HBM 2.0 VRAM. The big dif­fer­en­tia­tor is the price. You can cur­rently grab a Vega 56 for a cool $500, com­pared to the 64’s $620. And it’s that last part that makes most, if not all the dif­fer­ence.

For the price, Vega 56 is a to­tally ac­cept­able mid-range 1440p card. In our test­ing, it eas­ily hit the 60fps sweet spot at the QHD res­o­lu­tion, with an av­er­age frame rate of 69 in Far Cry Pri­mal, 67 in The Divi­sion, and To­tal War: At­tila and Rise of the Tomb Raider scor­ing 31 and 36 re­spec­tively. On top of that, power draw was far more ac­cept­able than its beefier cousin, draw­ing a max­i­mum of 331W through­out our load test­ing.

AMD has clearly been work­ing on the lat­est driv­ers for these cards as well, be­cause we saw a marked im­prove­ment in frame rates since first test­ing Vega 64. In fact, in some cases, the 56 out­per­formed the 64’s fig­ures on our first test­ing runs. This helps shunt the 56 slightly higher than the GTX 1070 in most cases as well, with the card reg­is­ter­ing a 5–10 per­cent per­for­mance in­crease over its Nvidia ri­val.

How­ever, there’s a prob­lem. Let’s get one thing straight: If you’re after a card de­signed to hash out cryp­tocur­rency, Vega is the go-to card right now. Nvidia falls a lit­tle flat in this re­gard, which is good for con­sumers, and sort of bad for AMD’s rep. As the GeForce se­ries is dras­ti­cally cheaper than its AMD coun­ter­parts, if all you’re in­ter­ested in is gam­ing, Nvidia reigns as king—quite dra­mat­i­cally, in fact. You can pick up a GTX 1070 right now for less than $400. That’s a $100 sav­ing for a per­for­mance dif­fer­ence of less than 7 per­cent. For a card that’s cooler, qui­eter, with af­ter­mar­ket ver­sions avail­able, and draw­ing less power from the wall, it’s hard to ar­gue against it.

Ul­ti­mately, the Radeon RX Vega 56 is a solid at­tempt at cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the Vega ar­chi­tec­ture. Its per­for­mance and de­sign are de­cent enough for the price. How­ever, Nvidia still lies un­chal­lenged across the lion’s share of the high end, with AMD’s only hope ly­ing with Vega 56. And with ru­mors of a GTX 1070 Ti now seem­ingly set in stone, it’s un­likely that we’ll see AMD make its way back into the hearts of gamers and out of the hands of the cryptofiends any­time soon. –ZAK STOREY

AMD Radeon RX Vega 56

AL­PHA LYRAE Solid 1440p per­for­mance; im­pres­sive driver up­dates; AIB cards likely.

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