Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 Video Card Review

We put the new AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 to the test in twelve games against the competition in DX12, DX11, and Vulkan to find out if this new video card offers a value. We will also overclock the video card and see if there is any extra potential for gamers.

Introduction

AMD’s Radeon RX Vega 64 may have left many gamers with a bit unsatisfied, but the saving grace in the Radeon Vega lineup may be the AMD Radeon RX Vega 56. This less expensive, and lower-clocked variant of AMD Radeon RX Vega architecture, may be the diamond in the rough. That is if prices can remain stable at the specified $399 MSRP.

Let’s back-track just a little bit first and summarize the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64, and then we will talk about the AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 and what makes it tick and then test it to our eyes and ears turn a shade of Radeon red.

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AMD has launched the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 first, on August 14th of 2017. We evaluated this video card in eleven PC games against the competition’s Founders Edition graphics cards.

For $499 (if you can actually find one at that price), the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 contains 64 Compute Units (hence the name) and 4,096 Stream Processors, and 64 ROPs and 256 Texture Units. It runs at a Base Clock of 1247MHz and a Boost Clock of 1546MHz. In our testing, we actually discovered there is a third "Peak Clock" and that is set to 1630MHz. There is 8GB of HBM2 on board providing 484GB/sec of bandwidth. The TDP of the video card is 295W.

Our testing revealed that the video card traded blows with the competition, depending on the game and API. AMD still reigns when it comes to Vulkan API and DirectX 12 API gaming performance. There were however several DX11 games that still run a great deal faster on the GeForce GTX 1080. One drawback we immediately noticed up front was the heightened power draw over GeForce GTX 1080 and the noise produced by the cooling system.

AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 simply requires a lot more power than the GeForce GTX 1080 just to barely match it in performance. In addition, the fan screams while it tries to keep the GPU cool enough pushing that much power. AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 is simply not as efficient as GeForce GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 has a much better performance-per-watt ratio. It left us, un-excited after evaluation, after all we’ve been experiencing this level of performance in games with the NVIDIA GTX 1080 since My of 2016. AMD is very late to the party.


AMD Radeon RX Vega 56

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AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 is not all AMD has up its sleeve however. Also based on the AMD Vega architecture is the AMD Radeon RX Vega 56. This $399 MSRP video card is poised to take on the likes of the competition’s GeForce GTX 1070. The GeForce GTX 1070 also has an MSRP of $399, though current mining craze has ramped up prices on these video cards lately in retail. But by MSRP, the video cards match perfectly in price.

The AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 is simply a cut-down version of AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 in performance. Instead of 64 compute units there are 56 compute units, hence the name with 3,584 Stream Processors. There are still 64 ROPs but a lesser 224 Texture Units. The clock speed is also less, the Base Clock is set at 1156MHz and the Boost Clock (which now represents average clock speed) is 1471MHz. We also noticed that the hidden "Peak Clock" is 1590MHz on Radeon RX Vega 56. Radeon RX Vega 56 still has 8GB of HBM2, but it does run at a lesser clock speed providing 410GB/sec of memory bandwidth, which is less than the 64’s 484GB/sec. The TDP of the video card is 210W.

Beyond those specifications the two video cards are identical in architecture. Both are based on the Vega architecture so they both contain all the new features AMD is touting, such as High Bandwidth Cache Controller (HBCC) (though that doesn’t work just yet in drivers) and Tile-Based Rasterization, and Rapid Packed Math and Draw-Stream Binning Rasterizer.

The video card design is also exactly the same, with the same shroud and cooling setup on the reference design. Both video card also only has one HDMI and three DisplayPorts. AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 still has two 8-pin power connectors, though we have learned the maximum board power is limited to 300W.

With these similarities in architecture, and a simple cutting down of compute units and clock speed, we are very interested how this compares to GeForce GTX 1070. We will be making that comparison today in no less than twelve games this time, including DX12 API, DX11 API and Vulkan API.

Just some quick physical properties of AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 for you, the video card measures 11 inches in length. This is exactly the same size video card as an AMD Radeon RX Vega 64. In fact, you cannot tell the two video cards apart from each other without looking at the small green label on the back and staring intently to pick out the small printed "56" or "64" on the label.

One thing we have appreciated from NVIDIA’s card designs is the model name of the video card imprinted on the front shroud in the metal itself. It allows us to quickly recognize which video card is which, even inside the static bags. With the AMD Radeon RX Vega cards, we have to take them out of the bags and examine the green label, else we could get them mixed up easily.

It would be visually appealing, and advantageous if AMD imprinted the model name "Vega 56" or "Vega 64" on the graphics card shroud itself in some manner, it would look very cool, perhaps an opportunity missed. Otherwise, the cooling apparatus and shrouds are identical on the two video cards, right down to the off-center "R" sticker on the fan.