AMD new architecture, Vega, was supposed to be the equivalent to the Pascal architecture of Nvidia. It comes a year later and with a considerably inflated price due to choices of assembly components.
Vega was announced by AMD to put up with the 1050-1080 graphics cards of the rival Nvidia, but also featuring a new architecture in design. HBM 2, faster and low consumption memory, along with a new reference design GPU.
All in paper sounded perfect, 14 nm, 12.5 billion transistors, infinity fabric with up to 16 GB 2048-bit HBM 2, 4096 stream processors, 64 render back ends, 256 texture units, 4 next gen asynchronous compute engines and geometry engines.
Yes, it does sound like a lot, and it performs a lot. It’s a must if it wants to keep up with Nvidia Pascal architecture.
And here comes the culprit that didn’t play good for AMD.
In order to keep up with the competition, these cards need to be fed. Power. A lot of it.
And we must not forget the use of low power consumption components, otherwise, things would go up the roof in energy bills… and power supplies.
AMD Radeon RX Vega is expensive to build, and AMD can’t lose money as a market brand company. The fact that the launch of the cards was a marketing mistake didn’t also help either for this particular GPU getting into the gaming market, a year later and expensive.
For the argument of optimization, if this architecture doesn’t surpass what NVidia achieved with Pascal a year ago, something went wrong.
This is one of those cases where things look great on paper, but real life shows that it is not optimized. This makes Vega feels more like a transition built, rather than an optimized series to keep up with market rivals.
HBM 2 is 3 times more expensive than GDDR 5. With more performance, seems AMD had to use HBM to keep the Vega architecture up to date. This new memory controller setup will not allow the swapping for GDDR. Vega is using HBM for all graphics cards that might come in the future.
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Performance, Cost & Consumption.
The inflated price of the launch and marketing mistake, that left many reviewers angry at AMD and feeling fooled since all reviews usually also take into account the price of the component they are analyzing.
After most of the reviews came out, it comes the revelation that the prices at launch were just novelty introduction prices, then prices will go up by $100 (!).
But for $100 less you can get a graphics card that outperforms these cards, and consumes a lot less power.
The TDP is almost twice of the rival Nvidia, which means many users would have to buy a new power supply in order to run these cards without crashing all system.
Then the thermal problems many reviewers found during testing: some cards reached the 65 Celsius in stock clocks, with the fan reaching the incredible noise value of +2000 rpm. It’s too much hot air coming out of the GPU, enough to heat a small room.
Worse when you get the rival overclocked leaving the RX Vega behind in most benchmarks and doesn’t even warms that much or consumes that much power.
Stock speeds the RX Vega can reach very good scores leaving behind the Nvidia by a few points in synthetic benchmarks.
We can only hope future drivers will get more optimized, and so the games in the market take advantage of the technology these new cards introduced in the market.
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Mining – The GPU Sold-out Panic
AMD Radeon Vega is a hard to buy graphics card; as soon they come out, they sold-out, many consumers blaming the GPU based Cryptocurrency mining for the peak in prices.
With the launch of RX Vega, AMD released a blockchain driver (beta), that was optimized for increasing mining performance for the RX Vega cards and the Polaris based cards, but with AIB partners and retailers controlling the market price, it is not clear what is the extra profit per cards for AMD, since miners are now representing a profit opportunity for retailers and second-hand re-sellers become the only way for gamers to acquire graphic cards at an inflated price.
Let’s just hope miners don’t become the scapegoat for AMD lack of supply for market demand quantity while continuing to cater to whoever audience loves their products for what they are.
The professional side
This is a bit too soon to compare professional software performance without proper updates to most encoders and GPU recognition and acceleration enabled rendering processes.
Improvements were made on the compute workloads, more than rendering workloads actually.
DaVinci Resolve and Final Cut might take advantage of the increased promised performance but the tests I found online were not conclusive as of this date (August 2017). Sony Vegas and Premiere Pro I really doubt unless they get updated soon, all tests I found shown no difference in rendering times by swapping GPU´s and testing individually.
It is a step further for AMD regardless of how anyone feels about the launching price scandal, the out of stock market and Cryptocurrency mining. If AMD still has the resources to innovate, maybe taking some share from the CPU division, the NAVI architecture might be the worthy future promise.
They upgraded their base work and, although more tests and driver optimizations will be on the way, AMD tried to keep up with a winner rival architecture – Nvidia Pascal. Maybe it came a year later but it is a good step for further improvement on next generation AMD GPU´s.
AMD has hardcore fans, even through times of over-promising and under-deliver, the architecture got stronger on paper and computation. But lack of supply and retailers inflating prices will not make the RX Vega the chosen card for consumers looking for an upgrade right now.