AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 Video Card Review

We put the new AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 to the test in eleven games mixed among DX11, DX12, and Vulkan to find out what it can deliver. We pit it against the competition's GeForce GTX 1080 and GTX 1070, and in the end, find the strengths and weaknesses of the new AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 for PC gaming. Is there value at $499?

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Conclusion

Today we have reviewed the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64, a new video card from AMD based on a new architecture with an MSRP of $499. We are already seeing bundle deals show up on Amazon. Here, and here. While bundles, may or may not be appealing to you, this is one way that AMD is trying to prevent so many of these cards being snatched up by cryptocurrency miners. AMD has also stated that it has been anticipating this and has tried its best to supply the channel with enough inventory to hopefully quell demand. You can see Chris Hook of AMD touch on this below in our exclusive interview from a couple weeks ago.

Game Performance

In terms of performance AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 can be broken down into a couple of factors based on our evaluation today. One, performance is mostly sub-par to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 performance in DX11 games, except for some exceptions. Second, DX12 helps to bring the performance of AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 to be in-line with GeForce GTX 1080, with some exceptions. We are looking at maybe 4 games where AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 was the same or faster than the competition, out of 11.

In Deus Ex: Mankind Divided the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 was very competitive, until we turned on MSAA. DOOM was a big win for AMD Radeon RX Vega 64. Sniper Elite 4 was very close. Tom Clancy’s The Division was also right on par with each other. What is the commonality here? DX12 or Vulkan gaming. That’s right, DX12 and Vulkan do work well on AMD Radeon RX Vega 64. (Expect a lot more big-name Vulkan titles coming soon since AMD has partnered with Bethesda.) It takes these APIs to bring performance up to the level of GTX 1080, or slightly faster. However, without it, in every other DX11 game performance was well under GTX 1080 in many cases.

We cannot explain the performance with Fallout 4 or Watch Dogs 2, but we have submitted all our data to AMD for evaluation, hopefully this will be worked out soon. These two games do rely heavily on texture performance rather than shader performance.

AA Performance Issue?

An issue that we weren’t expecting, is traditional Multi-Sample or Super Sample Anti-Aliasing performance.

Based on our testing there is indication that MSAA is detrimental to AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 performance in a big way. In three separate games, enabling MSAA drastically reduced performance on AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 and the GTX 1080 was faster with MSAA enabled. In Deus EX: Mankind Divided we enabled 2X MSAA at 1440p with the highest in-game settings. The GeForce GTX 1080 was faster with 2X MSAA enabled. However, without MSAA, the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 was faster. It seems MSAA drastically affected performance on AMD Radeon RX Vega 64.

In Rise of the Tomb Raider we enabled 2X SSAA at 1440p. Once again, we see AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 drop in performance. GeForce GTX 1080 was faster with 2X SSAA compared to Radeon RX Vega 64 with SSAA. Finally, in Dirt 4, which is playable at 8X MSAA, was faster on GTX 1080.

This is combined evidence enough that enabling forms of anti-aliasing like MSAA or SSAA are for some reason performance-impacting on AMD Radeon RX Vega 64. We need to do more testing on this for sure.

The conclusion so far is thus, when using shader based AA methods like SMAA, or FXAA or Temporal AA, or CMAA AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 performs much better and can compete with GTX 1080. However, if enabling any level of MSAA or SSAA then performance will decrease more on AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 and GTX 1080 will give more performance in that scenario. Therefore currently, AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 is best played with shader based AA methods versus traditional MSAA or SSAA in games for now. It will be interested to see if this can get addressed in a driver update.

Power and Noise

In terms of power, heat, and efficiency our testing concludes that AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 is far beyond the GTX 1080 in power and heat, but certainly not efficiency or performance per watt. The AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 requires 130w-150w more power than a GeForce GTX 1080. In games like Fallout 4 and Watch Dogs 2 the RX Vega 64 is slower and still drawing a lot more power.

The AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 exhausts a lot of heat out of the back card. It’s a hot running card, and will heat up a room in no time. As noted by Kyle's data on the previous page, the exhaust temperature under full load is up to 69C/158F. The stock fan on this video card is loud and annoying. (Editor's note: I did not find the fan and sound profile to be annoying like Brent did. You can hear it, but it would not be something that would bother me during gaming. The fan at full speed shows us a 45.5db measurement at 4 feet away.) It sounds like it’s at 100% fan speed and it’s audible even through headphones. AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 is nowhere close to the performance per watt GeForce GTX 1080 is able to achieve. For all intents and purposes NVIDIA is on another level compared to AMD with architecture power and efficiency.


The Bottom Line

Our conclusion may sound harsh upon first glance, but we urge you to think about the points we are making. The point is not forgotten on us that at least AMD is once again offering a high-performance video card that can compete with the competition in the $500 range. We do give kudos to AMD for finally providing something competitive to gamers at this price range.

We feel AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 makes for a great performing 1440p gaming experience video card, however, like the GTX 1080, we do not see the RX Vega 64 being a true 4K gaming card. The RX Vega 64 does offer a good gaming experience at 1440p, no question about that. If you want to spend your money with Team Green, you now have option with Team Red. This is all good news of course, and we are glad to see AMD stepping up in performance, albeit slowly.

Our main issues lie in the fact that NVIDIA has been offering this level of performance for over a year now, while AMD hasn’t. While AMD has caught up to the GeForce GTX 1080, it hasn’t yet caught up to the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, and that is what most were hoping Vega would achieve, but it is nowhere even near the GTX 1080 Ti level of performance. AMD still has a long ways to go to catch up with NVIDIA at the ultra-high end of the product stack. The RX Vega 64 is nowhere near a competitor to the GTX 1080 when it comes to performance per watt. It takes ~150w more for AMD to achieve what NVIDIA can in performance. NVIDIA is way ahead of AMD in this regard.

AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 is most definitely a move in the right direction. If AMD wants to truly compete in the GPU space though it needs some of that magic dust from Ryzen to rub off on the Radeon Technology Group. We want AMD to not forget about enthusiast gamers, but to once again embrace the highest level of PC gaming performance, bar none.

Discussion

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