January 7, 2019 Updated as Sapphire has called the price cut an error.
In the immediate wake of the Nvidia RTX 2060 launch, Sapphire had slashed the price on both its Nitro+ and Pulse versions of the AMD RX Vega 64 and Vega 56 cards respectively. The Nitro+ RX Vega 64 was due to sit at a $379 MSRP, and the Pulse RX Vega 56 at a base price of $329.
But Sapphire has just recalled the news announcement, calling an error. That would have meant the top two AMD RX Vega cards were sandwiching the latest Nvidia Turing GPU in terms of pricing, with the actual gaming performance of the RTX 2060 almost level-pegging with the RX Vega 64.
Without the price drop the Vega cards are prohibitively expensive, especially compared with the $350 (£329) RTX 2060. And, on the whole, the Nvidia card produces the higher gaming frame rates almost across the board, and has more to offer in the future too.
So far, the AMD folk we’d spoken to hadn’t heard anything about it, but did say that it “can’t comment on behalf of our partners. It’s something you would need to ask them about.”
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But it seemed the reaction to the release of the RTX 2060 did suggest something interesting, that AMD wasn’t likely to be launching a ~$300 graphics card around its own CES press conference on Wednesday. With the price cut just an error, does that mean it’s now more likely?
There was some speculation from eager Radeon fans that Dr. Lisa Su would take to the stage at AMD’s first ever CES keynote and unveil the 7nm next generation of its gaming graphics cards: the Navi GPUs. From the people we’ve spoken to in the industry – from AMD itself to its graphics card partners – that seemed unlikely.
Unless, of course, AMD has a high-end Navi card up its sleeve that can deliver RTX 2080 levels of gaming performance for the price of an RTX 2070. Or a fiver. Or whatever made up rumour has been circling the YouTube drains lately.
If Navi was arriving this early, with cards able to put the RTX 2060, RTX 2070, and RTX 2080 to shame, then I’m not convinced its lead partner, Sapphire, would have been trying to make a quick buck on existing Vega cards just two days before any new GPU announcement. As it is, it looks like Sapphire was just trying to make the highest-performing AMD gaming cards as relevant as possible in light of the latest Nvidia release.
Unfortunately Sapphire is no longer looking to give its RX Vega cards any help in the crowded, competitive graphics card market.
In terms of the relative performance of the RTX 2060 and the twin AMD RX Vega graphics cards, for the most part the Nvidia card has the edge. There are a couple of titles – namely Far Cry 5 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – where the Vega silicon is capable of delivering higher frame rates than the Turing GPU, but Nvidia can point to the cheaper sticker price and the fact that more often than not the RTX 2060 is either level or faster.
It would have still made it difficult to recommend the RX Vega cards over the new Turing option, but without the recalled price cuts the gap between the similarly performing cards is vast.