AMD Radeon RX Vega 64

From £470 inc VAT

Tech Advisor - - Contents - Paul Mon­ck­ton

It’s been a long wait, but AMD’s high-end Vega graph­ics cards have ar­rived, pro­vid­ing a much­needed al­ter­na­tive to Nvidia’s en­thu­si­ast-grade cards, match­ing the GeForce GTX 1080 on both price and per­for­mance. Build­ing on tech­nolo­gies in­tro­duced with the RX Fury, the Radeon RX Vega range is a big step up from the Radeon RX 500-se­ries cards (which launched only re­cently), and in­cludes a host of new fea­tures de­signed to dra­mat­i­cally in­crease per­for­mance.

The RX Vega cur­rently comes in three va­ri­eties: the RX Vega 56, the faster RX Vega 64 and a high-end RX

Vega 64 with liq­uid cool­ing. Here, we’re con­cen­trat­ing on the stan­dard Vega 64.

Price

We’ve re­viewed one of AMD’s ‘own-brand’ ref­er­ence boards, which isn’t ac­tu­ally avail­able to buy, un­like Nvidia’s Founders Edi­tion cards.

RX Vega cards from part­ners in­clud­ing ASUS, MSI and oth­ers will of­fer the same level of per­for­mance, priced from around £470.

Limited Edi­tion mod­els sell for rather more, at about £600, while the faster wa­ter cooled ver­sion starts at around £700.

Ex­pect more op­tions to ar­rive with a wider range of prices once board part­ners start to ship prod­ucts based on their own mod­i­fied hard­ware de­signs.

De­sign

As a re­place­ment for AMD’s pre­vi­ous high-end boards, the Radeon Fury X and Radeon Fury, the RX Vega im­proves upon the pre­vi­ous de­sign while retaining many core fea­tures.

Man­u­fac­tured us­ing a 14nm process, the RX Vega 64 of­fers 64 com­pute units and 4096 stream pro­ces­sors with a greatly in­creased base clock speed of 1,247MHz, boost­ing to 1,546MHz un­der load.

Liq­uid cooled ver­sions can reach 1,667MHz – an im­prove­ment of around 60 per­cent over the R9 Fury X.

The new card uses the same High Band­width Mem­ory ar­chi­tec­ture found in the Fury boards to achieve a mem­ory band­width of 484GB/s in a new ‘HMB2’ ver­sion. This is a lit­tle slower than the 512GB/s

mem­ory on the Fury boards. But Vega dou­bles the about of RAM from 4- to 8GB – a very wel­come de­vel­op­ment as Fury cards were of­ten crit­i­cised for offering less video mem­ory than some less ex­pen­sive AMD cards.

Vega also ben­e­fits from a new paged mem­ory ar­chi­tec­ture which greatly im­proves ef­fi­ciency when read­ing data over the PCI-Express bus while si­mul­ta­ne­ously op­er­at­ing as a cache for fu­ture data ac­cess. This process is man­aged by a new HighBand­width Cache Con­troller (HBCC) which al­lows your PC’s main mem­ory to be­have like video mem­ory, po­ten­tially giv­ing the Vega chip ac­cess to huge amounts of RAM with higher per­for­mance than has pre­vi­ously been avail­able.

The Vega ar­chi­tec­ture also in­cludes a new and more ef­fi­cient ge­om­e­try en­gine which is able to more quickly de­ter­mine which parts of a scene will be vis­i­ble, avoid­ing any wasted com­pu­ta­tion on those parts which will never be seen. It is also de­signed to speed up nu­mer­i­cal op­er­a­tions by vary­ing the level of math­e­mat­i­cal pre­ci­sion as re­quired.

Vega also ben­e­fits from DirectX 12.1 sup­port, rather than DirectX 12.0 which was sup­ported by the Po­laris ar­chi­tec­ture found in the RX 500-se­ries. Fur­ther­more, you can now con­nect more ul­tra-high res­o­lu­tion dis­plays to the card si­mul­ta­ne­ously with higher re­fresh rates than be­fore. For ex­am­ple, the Vega RX 64 will al­low up to three si­mul­ta­ne­ous 4K HDR dis­plays at 60Hz, where Po­laris is limited to a sin­gle mon­i­tor.

Although the first wave of RX Vega 64 cards are all based on AMD’s ref­er­ence de­sign, the cos­metic de­tails

of your par­tic­u­lar looks will de­pend on which part­ner you buy it from. Our re­view sam­ple which is one of a limited edi­tion batch fit­ted with a rather fetch­ing brushed alu­minium ex­te­rior.

We don’t know for how long these ver­sions will be avail­able, but they’re not the best value for money as they do cost around £100 ex­tra yet of­fer no per­for­mance ben­e­fit. Limited edi­tion ver­sion or not, the ref­er­ence Vega 64 boards all have a pre­mium metal con­struc­tion which sets them apart from the less ex­pen­sive mod­els.

Each board fea­tures an il­lu­mi­nated ‘Radeon’ logo along its length, with a smaller il­lu­mi­nated ‘R’ next to the power con­nec­tors. Also in­cluded is a row of 8 in­di­vid­ual LEDs form­ing a ‘tachome­ter’, in­di­cat­ing the cur­rent GPU load level.

Un­usu­ally for a graph­ics card at this level, the board comes with only four mon­i­tor out­puts: three Dis­playPort 1.4 and one HDMI 2.0b con­nec­tors are pro­vided. These al­low for multi-mon­i­tor ‘Eyefin­ity’ set­ups, 4K and HDR.

De­spite ex­ten­sive cus­tomis­able power man­age­ment set­tings, the RX Vega 64 board is rated at up to 295W,

or 345W in the liq­uid cooled ver­sion, to al­low for higher clock speeds. This is a much higher re­quire­ment than a GeForce GTX 1080, which is rated at only 180W.

The RX Vega 64 board also re­quires two 8-pin PCIEx­press con­nec­tors and AMD rec­om­mends at least a 750W power sup­ply. That’s 50 per­cent more pow­er­ful than the 500W PSU rec­om­mended for use with a GeForce GTX 1080.

Per­for­mance

As part of AMD’s new en­thu­si­ast grade prod­uct line up and based on en­tirely new sil­i­con, the RX Vega 64 rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant step up in per­for­mance from the Radeon RX 580.

As you’ll see from our per­for­mance re­sults be­low, it also rep­re­sents a solid chal­lenge to Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 in terms of both price and per­for­mance.

The RX Vega 64 de­liv­ers am­ple per­for­mance for VR and even 4K gam­ing with less de­mand­ing ti­tles,

of­ten out­pac­ing the RX 580 by around 65- to 70 per­cent. When com­pared to a GTX 1080 re­sults are much closer, with re­sults of­ten within just a hand­ful of frames per sec­ond de­pend­ing on the cho­sen game and qual­ity set­tings. If you’re try­ing to choose be­tween the two, the de­ci­sion will vary de­pend­ing on which games you like to play.

An­other im­por­tant fac­tor is that the RX Vega 64 is, of course, a much newer card than the GTX 1080 and de­vel­op­ers have there­fore had less op­por­tu­nity to op­ti­mise their game code to take full ad­van­tage of its new fea­tures. We can there­fore ex­pect more sig­nif­i­cant per­for­mance im­prove­ments on the RX Vega 64 over

time. It should also be noted that the RX Vega 64 has far greater power and cool­ing re­quire­ments than a GTX 1080, so you’ll cer­tainly need to take this into ac­count if your cur­rent power sup­ply isn’t up to the task. Our air cooled sam­ple also gets quite loud when pushed to the limit. This be­come even more crit­i­cal if you’re in­tend­ing to set up a dual card con­fig­u­ra­tion.

Should I buy a Radeon RX Vega 64?

If the price is right for you, then the RX Vega 64 is a sound pur­chase. It sim­i­lar per­for­mance to the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 at around the same price, while offering newer tech­nolo­gies which are yet to be fully ex­ploited. You can also take ad­van­tage of FreeSync mon­i­tors which typ­i­cally cost less than the equiv­a­lent G-Sync mon­i­tors de­signed for Nvidia cards.

How­ever you may run into is­sues re­lated to power and noise as the RX Vega 64 needs con­sid­er­ably more power to run, so you may find that a power sup­ply

up­grade is re­quired for the RX Vega 64 which you wouldn’t need for a GeForce GTX 1080.

Those want­ing the ultimate per­for­mance are still best served by an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti which is much faster, although con­sid­er­ably more ex­pen­sive.

Verdict

The Radeon RX Vega 64 is a much-needed high­end up­date from AMD which de­liv­ers sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments over the pre­vi­ous ‘Fury’ cards and fi­nally of­fers a wor­thy com­peti­tor to Nvidia’s GTX 1080. The per­for­mance crown still goes to the GTX 1080 Ti.

3DMark Fire Strike Ex­treme

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