AMD Vega - reviews, news, performance, and availability

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After what seemed like an age of waiting and unrelenting hype, the AMD Vega GPUs have arrived. And, in a bit of a silicon contradiction, they’ve managed to be simultaneously disappointing and completely sell out. 

Want to know what the best GPU is right now? Check out our guide to the best graphics cards available today.

The Vega launch feels classically AMD, in that they’ve worked hard to create some interesting hardware, with some unique selling points, but it’s a little too forward-thinking to be of a lot of use right now. And there’s also the potential problem that when the forward-thinking tech does become useful this iteration of it will be outdated.

Unfortunately, right now, the AMD RX Vega cards suffer by comparison to their smaller, more efficient, and more powerful Nvidia competition.

AMD Vega reviews

AMD Vega news

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At the moment, there are only a pair of gaming-focused AMD RX Vega cards: the Radeon RX Vega 64 and the Radeon RX Vega 56. These both essentially sport the same Vega 10 GPU at their hearts, utilising the full 14nm, 12.5bn transistor silicon, with only a few small cuts to make up the lower-spec card.

There will be Vega 11 GPUs coming soon - they’re moving into production at the moment - which ought to replace the current 500-series, Polaris-GPU-based cards. Given that those graphics cards are barely available anyway that’s definitely a positive on the horizon. When exactly that means we’re likely to see them, and what impact they’re going to have on the market, we’re not too sure.

The tricky thing is they can’t really come with the second-gen high-bandwidth memory (HBM2) given that’s one of the main reasons behind the high price of the current Vega stock, so they’re going to have to rely on GDDR5 or GDDR5X. If they want GDDR6 they’ll have to wait until sometime in early 2018.

They’re also not really going to be able to offer much greater performance than the Polaris generation. There’s not a great performance chasm between the RX 580 and the RX Vega 56, so where are the smaller-scale Vegas going to sit in AMD’s current GPU stack?

And, also, how much of the intriguing Vega architecture are they going to contain?

AMD Vega architecture

AMD Radeon RX Vega architecture

The new AMD Vega architecture represents what they’re calling the most sweeping architectural change their engineers have made to the GPU design in five years. That was when the first Graphics Core Next chips hit the market and this fifth generation of the GCN architecture marks the start of a new GPU era for the Radeon team.

Fundamental to the Vega architecture, represented here by the inaugural Vega 10 GPU, is the hunt for higher graphics card clockspeeds. The very building blocks of the Vega 10, the compute units, have been redesigned from the ground up, almost literally. These next-generation compute units (NCU) have had their floorplans completely reworked to optimise and shorten the physical wiring of the connections inside them.

They also include high-speed, mini memory SRAMs, stolen from the Zen CPUs and optimised for use on a GPU. But that’s not the only way the graphics engineers have benefitted from a resurgent CPU design team; they’ve also nabbed the high-performance Infinity Fabric interconnect, which enables the discrete quad-core modules, used in Ryzen and Ryzen Threadripper processors, to talk to each other. 

AMD Radeon RX Vega GPU layout

Vega uses the Infinity Fabric to connect the GPU core itself to the rest of the graphics logic in the package. The video acceleration blocks, the PCIe controller and the advanced memory controller, amongst others, are all connected via this high-speed interface. It also has its own clock frequency too, which means it’s not affected by the dynamic scaling and high frequency of the GPU clock itself.

This introduction of Infinity Fabric support for all the different logic blocks makes for a very modular approach to the Vega architecture and that in turn means it will, in theory, be easy for AMD to make a host of different Vega configurations. It also means future GPU and APU designs (think the Ryzen/Vega-powered Raven Ridge) can incorporate pretty much any element of Vega they want to with minimal effort.

The NCUs still contain the same 64 individual GCN cores inside them as the original graphics core next design, with the Vega 10 GPU then capable of housing up to 4,096 of these li’l stream processors. But, with the higher core clockspeeds, and other architectural improvements of Vega, they’re able to offer far greater performance than any previous GCN-based chip.

The new NCUs are also capable of utilising a feature AMD is calling Rapid Packed Math, and which I’m calling Rapid Packed Maths, or RPM to avoid any trouble with our US cousins. RPM essentially allows you to do two mathematical instructions for the price of one, but does sacrifice the accuracy. Given many of today’s calculations, especially in the gaming space, don’t actually need 32-bit floating point precision (FP32), you can get away with using 16-bit data types. Game features, such as lighting and HDR, can use FP16 calculations and with RPM that means Vega can support both FP16 and FP32 calculations as and when they're necessary.

AMD Radeon RX Vega NCU

We’ll see the first game supporting RPM, and other Vega-supported features, like asynchronous compute, when Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus launches. The Far Cry 5 developers have also come out in support of RPM, and could make FC5 very Vega-friendly. 3D technical lead, Steve Mcauley, has gone on record stating: “there’s been many occasions recently where I’ve been optimising shaders thinking that I really wish I had rapid packed math available to me right now. [It] means the game will run at a faster, higher frame rate, and a more stable frame rate as well, which will be great for gamers.”

The Vega architecture also incorporates a new geometry engine, capable of supporting both standard DirectX-based rendering as well as the ability to use newer, more efficient rendering pipelines through primitive shader support. The revised pixel engine has been updated to cope with today’s high-resolution, high refresh rate displays, and AMD have doubled the on-die L2 cache available to the GPU. They have also freed the entire cache to be accessible by all the different logic blocks of the Vega 10 chip, and that’s because of the brand new memory setup of Vega.

AMD’s Vega architecture uses the second generation of high-bandwidth memory (HBM2) from Hynix. HBM2 has higher data rates, and larger capacities, compared with the first generation used in AMD’s R9 Fury X cards. It can now come in stacks of up to 8GB, with a pair of them sitting directly on the GPU die, making the memory both more efficient and with a smaller footprint compared to standard graphics chip designs. And that could make it a far more tantalising option for notebook GPUs.

AMD Vega High Bandwidth Cache and Controller

Directly connected with the HBM2 is Vega’s new high-bandwidth cache and high-bandwidth cache controller (HBCC). Ostensibly this is likely to be of greater use, at least in the short term, on the professional side of the graphics industry, but the HBCC’s ability to use a portion of the PC’s system memory as video memory should bare gaming fruit in the future. The idea is that games will see the extended pool as one large chunk of video memory, so if tomorrow’s open-world games start to require more than the Vega 64’s 8GB you can chuck it some of your PC’s own memory to compensate for any shortfall.

"You are no longer limited by the amount of graphics memory you have on the chip," AMD’s Scott Wasson explains. "It's only limited by the amount of memory or storage you attach to your system."

The Vega architecture is capable of scaling right up to a maximum of 512TB as the virtual address space available to the graphics silicon. Nobody tell Chris Roberts or we won’t see Star Citizen this side of the 22nd century.

AMD Vega performance

AMD Radeon RX Vega performance

The thinking behind Vega seems to have been to put the RX Vega 64 up against the GTX 1080 with the RX Vega 56 going head-to-head with the GTX 1070. Unfortunately, with most games on the market today, the AMD cards are always that little bit behind the Nvidia GPUs. It’s only when you start looking at the more modern DirectX 12 and Vulkan APIs that the Vega architecture starts to show its worth.

It’s this bifurcated performance - poor in legacy games and impressive with modern software - that makes the Vega cards difficult to recommend right now. AMD’s classic ‘fine wine’ approach may mean that when architecture matures, and devs start to use the impressive feature set to its fullest, the AMD cards might be able to push past their Nvidia rivals.

But that’s scant comfort to anyone wanting class-leading performance for every game in their Steam libraries, or even just the games they’re playing at the moment. There is a little light at the end of the overclocking tunnel however, with tweakers uncovering increased capabilities of the card, unlocked by undervolting the GPU. But that’s a whole other story...

AMD Vega availability

AMD Radeon RX Vega graphics cards

There are still precious few RX Vega cards available right now. And those you can buy are often vastly overpriced for the performance they can deliver. There are some pre-order cards available at both Amazon US and Amazon UK, but the smaller-scale retailers are where you’re more likely to find better priced cards.

The US is a mighty tricky place to try and pick up a Vega, with Newegg struggling to offer anything that isn’t pricing the new Radeons out of relevance.

It’s a little better on the verdant shores of the UK, where the likes of Overclockers and Scan have some reasonably priced stock and pre-orders on cards actually at the contentious price AMD launched the cards with.

AMD RX Vega 64 prices

AMD RX Vega 56 prices

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SkankwOn avatarDave James avatarKeyvan avatarShriven avatargamertaboo avatarfuchs avatar+34
SkankwOn Avatar
98
9 Months ago

I've pretty much tied myself to Radeon GPUs after buying a Freesync monitor, so I've been awaiting Vega with hope and interest.

Could even be time to upgrade CPU/Mobo/RAM, as I'm guessing my trusty old i5 2500K (at 4Ghz) will likely bottleneck the GPU.

Ryzen perhaps. We'll see on both fronts.

7
Dave James Avatar
421
9 Months ago

Genuinely really excited about what AMD could be like in 2017. A serious Vega-based RX Fury and 16-thread Ryzen CPU could make for a stunning rig - and will make your Freesync monitor shine :)

6
b¤cek Avatar
1
5 Months ago

i'm also tied due to uncertainity. i'm still using i5 3570k with gtx660 on a 1080p display. wanna change them all and performance and prices of vega vgas will be the decision maker for the trio.

1
NandorHUN Avatar
1
5 Months ago

I see no reason to upgrade from the 2500K, if you are a 1080p player just OC it to 4,5Ghz and you are good to go, or change it to 2600K, today's games will benefit from the 2600K, and it is still a much better buy then any other new CPU.

If you are a 1440p or 4K player, then there is no reason to change the CPU, because bottlenech only ocures if you play on high end GPU and 1080p, so the CPU can't handle the fps. In case of 4K and 1440p there is bigger stress on the GPU, because of the less fps there is no bottleneck.

That's why I bought a new 1440p monitor instead of an upgrade from my 2600K.

You should only consider an upgrade if you are playing on 1080p AND 144Hz freesync monitor.

Other than that a new CPU is just a waste of money.

0
Salty Mac Avatar
6
5 Months ago

you explain it very odd but you are right for the most part. all except the very beginning.

if he is playing on 1080p and upgrades to high end vega the 2500k will 100% bottleneck the gpu. i would guess even a 2600k would bottleneck if he went high enough.

also a new cpu is not a waste of money if you are on the 2500k. a new cpu/motherboard/ram would give many new features, speed, reliability, cooler, and energy efficiency.

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SkankwOn Avatar
98
4 Months ago

Interesting replies from both 'Salty Mac' & 'NandorHUN'.

For the record, I'm gaming on a 1440p/144Hz monitor. Right now, the only game that I've actually struggled to run is PUBG (which is still in Early Access anyway).

Concerning the news (or lack of) today of Vega's two-month wait. Well, it's a bit disappointing that AMD is still lagging behind NVIDIA when it comes to the higher end cards. VOLTA could well trump VEGA straight off the bat ... :(

1
vajjala1986 Avatar
4
7 Months ago

Freesync monitors are much more cheaper than Nvidia G-Sync. Unncessarily, we have to pay 200$ on average to get a G-sync over freesync monitor. If AMD puts a Vega card with performance between between GTX 1070 and 1080, but with a price tag of GTX 1070 - then I am buying it. Otherwise, I will wait for GTX 1070/80 price drop.

4
Salty Mac Avatar
6
5 Months ago

hey you got your 1080 price drop, you getting one??

1
xGhostFace0621x Avatar
2
1 Month ago

Yeah, good luck with the prices. I bet you anything they'll be overpriced, thanks to cryptocurrency miners out there. AMD cards are usually their go to cards when it comes to that.

1
Keyvan Avatar
11
8 Months ago

If AMD can pull this, then it'll be a nightmare for NVIDIA on the gaming market. They have more FreeSync screens, a more open standard, and better value for the money. I've said this before though and have been disappointed. That's why I'm saying "IF" they can pull it off... they still have to get the DEVs onboard for programming in the new offerings.

2
fuchs Avatar
2
8 Months ago

deep learning is more important than rendering some random game.

2
RanC Avatar
4
5 Months ago

And documentaries are more important than porn, but I think both of us know which one is the money maker as of right now. If you're short on cash and it makes money, you simply don't say no to it. They aren't mutually exclusive either. Neither do you say no to superb profit margins if you want to do expensive R&D. So what was your point again?

Besides, rendering some random games is what paved the road to HPC, deep learning, AI etc for Nvidia.

2
Gen Avatar
5
2 Months ago

Which is why Vega can be a flop as a gaming card but still incredibly profitable for AMD. That and Altcoins.

We all know that if not for the coin mining craze there might not be an AMD today.... but also how long you couldn't buy a 480/580 at a sane price because of it.

1
gamertaboo Avatar
3
8 Months ago

Can't believe they are going to wait until may to release Vega. They are out of their minds waiting that long. They should just release it alongside Ryzen in a month.

2
dwearle1 Avatar
1
8 Months ago

As this article indicates, it may just be a strategic marketing move on BOTH GPU manufacturers to wait for the other one to drop their next-gen GPU - if they drop too soon, they could be shooting themselves in the foot, so to speak.

1
RanC Avatar
4
5 Months ago

Yeah I don't really see any reason to hurry. From what I can tell, AMD is promising a product that is essentially a 1080 Ti but with some features which Nvidia decided to just not bother consumers with and instead push them for Volta (but Pascal workstation cards have them though, looking at you Unified Memory vs. High-Bandwidth Cache). I honestly they did it out of greed and because they didn't perceive AMD as a big enough threat... until suddenly you start seeing GP102 chips flooding the market without being neutered, at a price you supposedly just can't refuse. AMD has only one chance to do this right, better safe than sorry anyway. It might be the comeback of the decade or the biggest disappointment of the century. If there's any room for something between those two options, I think it's going to be pretty narrow.

I'm not particularly on either side of the fence, I admire both companies currently for very different reasons though. I have to say though, it's been way too long since I last owned an AM.. ATI card. It's been way too long since I updated my gpu too, but hey, it's not my fault Nvidia can't (won't, really) offer a reasonable upgrade for 780 Ti which has gotten me this far reasonably well.

2
Windows 10 Avatar
2
5 Months ago

If there is a card going against the GTX 1070 it cannot be over $400. There are a lot of 1070's dipping below $400 on amazon right now.

2
0V3RKILL Avatar
293
5 Months ago

all I'm going to say is that I am glad I waited. time to replace this twin frozr 290x. its been very good to me I have to say

2
SkankwOn Avatar
98
4 Months ago

We still gotta wait my friend ... 2 months!

I have the MSI Gaming Twin Frozr 290X also.

1
Death of Chaos Avatar
2
5 Months ago

Seeing as how there's a 500Mhz difference in clock speed between the chip tested and the 1080, I'd say that's not too bad. If this is a competing card for the 1070, that's still impressive in it's own right because it's hitting roughly the same scores as a 1070 at a clock speed lesser to it by 400Mhz. Would that mean it would be less hot and more power efficient than a 1070? Obviously that isn't taking into account the build of the card, it's possible that it could run hotter and all that at lower clocks. I'm still looking forward to what the actual, final card will present us with.

2
crashman95t446 Avatar
2
3 Months ago

Problem is the repeated word power hog. As great as it is for competition and to keep Nvidia prices reasonable, where electricity use is high Intel and Nvidia still have an edge . Although the Ryzen for X264/hevc rocks

2
Gen Avatar
5
2 Months ago

Intel don't have the edge. Nvidia do. Ryzen has been shown to dominate Atoms and Skylake at super low draw (sub 20W) and there is no low draw Kaby.

Pascal is so many miles ahead I think it will take more time to catch it from AMD. The reason it is less efficient may also be the reason it is so good at coin mining however, so it may be against AMD's interests.

It's just a matter of time before Ryzen starts coming out in mobile form though.

1
Shriven Avatar
3449
8 Months ago

I just worry about Nvidia locking off driver development access to certain titles before release. Shady shit, but not having a working driver on launch day is putting me off AMD. That, and past experience.

1
Dave James Avatar
421
8 Months ago

The recent AMD drivers have been really solid and they've also been a lot better at getting launch day driver fixes out too.

I reckon if they can get the performance at a good price they deserve to do well.

1
Recko Avatar
1
7 Months ago

AMD drivers and there Relive software have actually surpassed Nvidia now. AMD has also been releasing drivers on launch days but more often they release them before game launch day

1
meLAW Avatar
1
8 Months ago

Mhm, I wonder if it's really that smart to bring the top-tier model first, then fill up with the lower models afterwards. Yes it promises more hype and more profit right away, but that strategy also demands fully operational chips prior to launch. Whereas the other way round, optimisation in the fabrication process can run parallel with the launch sequence.

1
Bitdestroyer Avatar
2
7 Months ago

That is specifically why they released the 4xx series as budget cards... they already have offerings to compete at those levels.

2
Ramboy Avatar
1
7 Months ago

My ancient gtx560 died recently (not totally). I can still play some games but on low settings. Im looking for a replacement card. Should I go buy a rx480 8gb now or should I wait for the 500 series. And also when is the release date of the new radeon series?

1
7UKECREAT0R Avatar
2
6 Months ago

I would say choose if you want a budget card right now (rx480) or if you want a more expensive, more powerful card, wait for the 500. You probably already have a new one, but just helping :)

1
Salty Mac Avatar
6
5 Months ago

yea even if you got a good 480, the 580 is not a big jump in performance. hope whatever you got is making you happy!

1
msroadkill612 Avatar
5
2 Months ago

To be the devils advocate, if the most recent incarnations of amdS gpus have any distinct and meaningful hardware legacies in vega, then its tempting to be closer to the vega ecosystem.

dunno, but i dont think much changed betw 480 & 580 - both are 14nm polaris?

if u gpu is so old, u r easy to please for a while.

u could go below the level miners want & escape that premium, spend $150 on an amd polaris gpu, wait a year & get vega, sell polaris for $80?

some folks mainly want modern connectors on their pc - too much power is a pain, & the cheapest such card is ~90usd new. it should sell ok.

the brand escapes me, but its well known asian one - i hear good things about their factory OC 470 gpu cards, cheap, may only be 4GB tho.

1
FC_Nightingale Avatar
1
7 Months ago

Well the 1080TI was announced and drops in a couple days, what's your answer AMD??

1
dmoody19 Avatar
1
6 Months ago

THe answer is "YAWN... HO HUMMMM....." SO? lol

0
ŊU | Xxx Avatar
1
6 Months ago

Waiting in patience, promised myself never to go amd again 8 years later i now own freesync screen thank to Nvidia GREED and waiting for new Gpu release :) Not going back again before amd really dissapoint me again wich i hope then don't.. Looks like AMD have done a great job now and also compete on cpu's too.

Give us release date :)))

1
ju-uh77 Avatar
1
5 Months ago

I agree with you on nvidia greed, Be a cold day in hell before i ever spend the cash they want for a Gsync monitor. One the other side I also think Amd was dumb as shit for giving away the freesync, They should have charged 45$ for it so it didn't adjust the price of the monitor much and they could have made some extra cash for R&D rather then giving the chip away and all the monitor makers getting the chip free and still jacking up the damn prices. I like the free mindset but have seen over and over again it either not get adopted or some other company get fat off their freebies.

1
wiesner8 Avatar
1
5 Months ago

does this mean i need to sell my dual R9 Fury X cards :(

1
Salty Mac Avatar
6
5 Months ago

no way, dual r9 fury x do some work in games.

1
[HFA]Dragonstongue Avatar
5
5 Months ago

did you seriously state "WFCCTECH as from the always trustworthy" LMAO, even a blind squirrel can manage to get a few nuts now and then, I would not trust one to feed me however.

1
Dave James Avatar
421
5 Months ago

Hehe, no it really wasn't serious. Was hoping folk might sense the sarcasm there ;)

2
daroule1982 Avatar
1
4 Months ago

Couldn't of happen at a better time. I just went to shopping for a new gpu after I found out my GTX 750ti wasn't so great for game modding. This is going to arrive just in the nick of time!

1
Teemu Avatar
1
4 Months ago

It is an overheater More watts than Ti. Only the basic cooler of the Ti. Why wouldn´t the overheating issues of Ti limit Vega?

1
UbajaraMalok Avatar
1
4 Months ago

Those guys at amd are fucking kidding! No vega until the end of july!

1
Suros# Avatar
1
1 Month ago

What's this guy talking about when he says you'll need a 1000 watt power supply? I've got a GTX 770 pulling 230 watts, and my 750W supply is easily overkill for it. Pretty sure I don't need an extra 250W extra to supply a ~300W card. Estimated draw of my whole build is only around 450-500W under extreme load.

1
msroadkill612 Avatar
5
1 Month ago

Does anyone give a rats about power usage when the power is needed?

What matters to most imo, is how little is wasted when its idling, yet it barely rates a mention usually.

1
msroadkill612 Avatar
5
1 Month ago

Does anyone give a rats about power usage when the power is needed?

What matters to most imo, is how little is wasted when its idling, yet it barely rates a mention usually.

1
xGhostFace0621x Avatar
2
1 Month ago

I really can't wait to see what Vega has to offer. This reign of Nvidia GPUs being the go to for gaming needs to end. We need some pretty good competition in the market.

1
danteandvirgil Avatar
1
1 Month ago

Sounds like AMD is releasing another set of cards that on paper carry significantly higher specs than the competition yet only just reach the same if not lower level of performance. Aside from HBC if developers actually use it, performance wise there's nothing to be excited about. If the lower Vega is as good as GTX 1070 then I fail to see what's special about it. GTX 1070 is a 980Ti, hat's old now. Still powerful without question but that it means it's taken AMD quite a while to catch up to it. How is it AMD cards carry twice the raw TFLOP rating of Nvidia cards yet fail to demonstrate it...Despite what benchmarks have already shown I wouldn't be surprised if the gTX 1070 outpaces all three cards. AMD has been cursed bad drivers for years and this is always the topic of discussion. Nvidia cards see little problems in regards. Trust goes far.

1
MadMage999 Avatar
1
1 Month ago

Let's talk about the elephant in the room, the GTX 1080Ti. Where are those numbers? No way I'm buying a 1080 or an rx vega!

1
MRlacp Avatar
1
1 Month ago

These tests don't say nothing, because Amd Rx Vega 64 is superior to Geforce GTX 1080. In other reviews sites the Amd RX Vega 64 appears clearly ahead in the benchmarks of the Geforce GTX 1080. It is between the 1080 and 1080 Ti in the majority of the tests.

1
7UKECREAT0R Avatar
2
3 Weeks ago

Can it run my minecraft at 8 f p s???/?

1
mikeweatherford7 Avatar
2
2 Weeks ago

These cards respond extremely well to undervolting. The difference can be dramatic, higher stable clocks, at much lower temps, and lower fan levels. My Reference Vega56 can do 1550 Mhz (actual full 3d load clock) at 1040 volts, and 950 MHZ HBM clock. At these settings it's significantly faster then a 1070, on the heels of a 1080, at reasonable temps and noise levels. This result seems to be typical with Vega56 owners.

1
joki8688 Avatar
2
8 Months ago

GPU as good as 1070, maybe 1080 (in the real applications) released a year later, when Pascal will go even cheaper, and NVIDIA will release faster version of Pascal...

And if you think that those cards will be cheaper than a year old Pascal, you are CRAZY (new type of memory for ex) . AMD was always cheaper for a reason. Because they had old and slower products. In the best scenario we will have the same products, for the same price, just in different colors...

I'm sorry, but I don't care about Vega.

0
jr2 Avatar
5
7 Months ago

Cared enough to troll...

5