At AMD’s first ever CES keynote Lisa Su has once more professed the red team’s love for gamers by unveiling the “world’s first 7nm gaming GPU” the Radeon VII graphics card – the next generation of AMD high-performance graphics silicon. Just in case it’s not clear AMD is using Roman numerals there, so it’s pronounced Radeon Seven, and is coming February 2019.
But wait, there’s sub-text! This is the second generation of AMD’s Vega graphics architecture, hence the VII – Vega 2. Though because it’s the first 7nm gaming GPU it’s also Radeon 7. Damn, this AMD Radeon VII is just layers upon layers of clever.
The big news is that this is a high-performance graphics card that is capable of delivering gaming performance on par with, or even slightly ahead of, Nvidia’s RTX 2080 in some of the latest games. AMD had Battlefield V and Far Cry 5 results on stage showing a 1fps lead for the new Vega-based Radeon VII, but with the Vulkan-based Strange Brigade you could see a massive 20% performance lead for the AMD card at 4K Ultra settings.
That’s a hell of a result for AMD when the Radeon RX Vega is regularly off the pace compared with the Nvidia competition. So what’s inside the new Radeon VII? Well, Dr. Lisa Su has been relatively cagey about the exact GPU specifications at the heart of of the new high-performance card.
What we do know is that it is a 60 Compute Unit (CU) GPU, built on the 7nm production process and uses the second generation of Vega graphics architecture. Interestingly the RX Vega 64 houses, you guessed it, 64 CUs, which means the new Radeon VII actually has fewer GCN cores inside it.
The RX Vega 64 has 4,096 GCN cores, while the 7nm 60 CU version of the Vega core contains 3,840 GCN cores. AMD is claiming that the 7nm shrink of the Vega GPU allows it to generate up to 25% more performance at the same performance level as the previous generation.
But the 7nm process also allows the GPU to be run faster too, and the Vega core at the heart of the Radeon VII is running at up to 1,800MHz. We assume that marks the boost clock of the gaming GPU, but that is still some 300MHz quicker than the boost clocks of the RX Vega 64. And that, along with the boost from the 7nm Vega architecture, could be what brings the Radeon VII up to the performance level of the RTX 2080.
|AMD Radeon VII||AMD RX Vega 64|
|Memory Bandwidth||1 TB/s||484 GB/s|
Along with the 7nm GPU AMD is also filling the Radeon VII with a huge amount of video memory, and that means a full 16GB of HBM2 – way more than even the RTX 2080 Ti. But that also means that Radeon VII is going to be one hugely expensive graphics card too.
If it can match the performance of the RTX 2080, however, Nvidia has already established that you can charge up to $800 for such a card. Toss it out for $700 and AMD could make a mark on the enthusiast gaming landscape without having to so much as mention real-time ray tracing.
It does need to be said that the performance benchmarks that AMD has presented for the Radeon VII are very much hand-picked and that when the full suite of modern PC games and benchmarks are pushed through the 7nm Vega GPU things might look a lot different. All things being equal Far Cry 5 and Battlefield V both generally favour AMD GPUs thanks to their history with its GCN architecture. There’s a chance that across the board of DX11 and the dwindling number of DX12 games that the Radeon VII might start to lag behind a touch.
But still, a new, high-performance 7nm Vega GPU is a surprise given that AMD had previously stated it wasn’t even considering the shrunken chip for a gaming release. I guess maybe that changed when AMD saw the pricing and performance of the Nvidia RTX range…
And what of Navi? Well, Dr. Su mentioned the next-gen GPU architecture by name only once, when mentioning the future architectures of AMD. So, still no news as to when that little beauty is going to make an appearance, but we’re still betting on Computex, around the same time as the new AMD Ryzen 3000 CPUs…