Final Words

While there are definitely more areas to investigate, what we've seen of the Radeon VII is still the first 7nm gaming GPU, and that is no small feat. But beyond that, bringing it to consumers allows a mid-generation option for buyers; and the more enthusiast-grade choices, the merrier. The Radeon VII may be a dual-use prosumer/gaming product at heart, but it still has to measure up to being the fastest gaming card of the Radeon stack.

At the risk of being redundant, I can’t help but emphasize how surprised both Ryan and I are that this card is even here at this time. We’re still very early into the 7nm generation, and prior to last month, AMD seemed content to limit the Vega 20 GPU to their server-grade Radeon Instinct cards. Instead a confluence of factors has come into place to allow AMD to bring a chip that, by their own admission was originally built for servers, to the consumer market as a mid-generation kicker. There isn’t really a good precedent for the Radeon VII and its launch, and this makes things quite interesting from tech enthusiast point of view.

Kicking off our wrap-up then, let's talk about the performance numbers. Against its primary competition, the GeForce RTX 2080, the Radeon VII ends up 5-6% behind in our benchmark suite. Unfortunately the only games that it takes the lead are in Far Cry 5 and Battlefield 1, so the Radeon VII doesn't get to ‘trade blows’ as much as I'm sure AMD would have liked to see. Meanwhile, not unlike the RTX 2080 it competes with, AMD isn't looking to push the envelope on price-to-performance ratios here, so the Radeon VII isn't undercutting the pricing of the 2080 in any way. This is a perfectly reasonable choice for AMD to make given the state of the current market, but it does mean that when the card underperforms, there's no pricing advantage to help pick it back up.

Comparing the performance uplift over the original RX Vega 64 puts Radeon VII in a better light, if not a bit of a surprising one. By the numbers, the latest Radeon flagship is around 24% faster at 1440p and 32% faster at 4K than its predecessor. So despite an interesting core configuration that sees the Radeon VII ship with fewer CUs than the RX Vega 64, the Radeon VII pulls well ahead. Reference-to-reference, this might even be grounds for an upgrade rather than a side-grade.

All told, AMD came into this launch facing an uphill battle, both in terms of technology and product positioning. And the results for AMD are mixed. While it's extremely difficult to extract the benefits of 16GB of VRAM in today's games, I'm not ready to write it off as unimportant quite yet; video card VRAM capacities haven't changed much in the last two and a half years, and perhaps it's time it should. However at this moment, AMD's extra VRAM isn't going to do much for gamers.

Content creation, on the other hand, is a more interesting story. Unlike games there is no standard workload here, so I can only speak in extremely broad strokes. The Radeon VII is a fast card with 16GB of VRAM; it's a card that has no parallel in the market. So for prosumers or other professional vizualization users looking to work on the cheap, if you have a workload that really does need more than the 8 to 11 gigabytes of VRAM found in similarly priced cards, then the Radeon VII at least warrants a bit of research. At which point we get into the merits of professional support, AMD's pro drivers, and what AMD will undoubtedly present to pro users down the line in a Radeon Pro-grade Vega 20 card.

As for AMD's technology challenges, the upside for the company is that the Radeon VII is definitely Vega improved. The downside for AMD is that the Radeon VII is still Vega. I won't harp too much on ray tracing here, or other gaming matters, because I'm not sure there's anything meaningful to say that we haven't said in our GeForce reviews. But at a broad level, Vega 20 introduces plenty of small, neat additions to the Vega architecture, even if they aren't really for consumers.

The bigger concern here is that AMD's strategy for configuring their cards hasn't really changed versus the RX Vega 64: AMD is still chasing performance above all else. This makes a great deal of sense given AMD's position, but it also means that the Radeon VII doesn't really try to address some of its predecessor's shortcomings, particularly against the competition. The Radeon VII has its allures, but power efficiency isn’t one of them.

Overall then, the Radeon VII puts its best foot forward when it offers itself as a high-VRAM prosumer card for gaming content creators. And at its $699 price point, that's not a bad place to occupy. However for pure gamers, it's a little too difficult to suggest this card instead of NVIDIA's better performing GeForce RTX 2080.

So where does this leave AMD? Fortunately for the Radeon rebels, their situation is improved even if the overall competitive landscape hasn’t been significantly changed. It's not a win for AMD, but being able to compete with NVIDIA at this level means just that: AMD is still competitive. They can compete on performance, and thanks to Vega 20 they have a new slew of compute features to work with. It's going to win AMD business today, and it's going to help prepare AMD for tomorrow for the next phase that is Navi. It's still an uphill battle, but with Radeon VII and Vega 20, AMD is now one more step up that hill.

Power, Temperature, and Noise
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  • peevee - Tuesday, February 12, 2019 - link

    "that the card operates at a less-than-native FP64 rate"

    The chip is capapble of 2 times higher f64 performance. Marketoids must die.
    Reply
  • FreckledTrout - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    Performance wise it did better than I expected. This card is pretty loud and runs a bit hot for my tastes. Nice review. Where are the 8K and 16K tests :)- Reply
  • IGTrading - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    When drivers mature, AMD Radeon VII will beat the GF 2080.

    Just like Radeon Furry X beats the GF 980 and Radeon Vega 64 beats the GF 1080.

    When drivers mature and nVIDIA's blatant sabotage against its older cards (and AMD's cards) gets mitigated, the long time owner of the card will enjoy better performance.

    Unfortunately, on the power side, nVIDIA still has the edge, but I'm confident that those 16 GB of VRAM will really show their worth in the following year.
    Reply
  • cfenton - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    I'd rather have a card that performs better today than one that might perform better in two or three years. By that point, I'll already be looking at new cards.

    This card is very impressive for anyone who needs FP64 compute and lots of VRAM, but it's a tough sell if you primarily want it for games.
    Reply
  • Benjiwenji - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    AMD cards have traditional age much better than Nvidia. GamerNexus just re-benchmarked the 290x from 2013 on modern games and found it comparable to the 980, 1060, and 580.

    The GTX 980 came late 2014 with a $550USD tag, now struggles on 1440p.

    Not to mention that you can get a lot out of AMD cards if you're willing to tinker. My 56, which I got from Microcenter on Nov, 2017, for $330. (total steal) Now performs at 1080 level after BIOs flash + OC.
    Reply
  • eddman - Friday, February 08, 2019 - link

    What are you talking about? GTX 980 still performs as it should at 1440.

    https://www.anandtech.com/bench/product/2142?vs=22...
    Reply
  • Icehawk - Friday, February 08, 2019 - link

    My 970 does just fine too, I can play 1440p maxed or near maxed in everything - 4k in older/simpler games too (ie, Overwatch). I was planning on a new card this gen for 4k but pricing is just too high for the gains, going to hold off one more round... Reply
  • Gastec - Tuesday, February 12, 2019 - link

    That's because, as the legend has it, Nvidia is or was in the past gimping their older generation cards via drivers. Reply
  • kostaaspyrkas - Sunday, February 10, 2019 - link

    in same frame rates nvidia gameplay gives me a sense of choppiness...amd radeon more fluid gameplay... Reply
  • yasamoka - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    This wishful in-denial conjecture needs to stop.

    1) AMD Radeon VII is based on the Vega architecture which has been on the platform since June 2017. It's been about 17 months. The drivers had more than enough time to mature. It's obvious that in certain cases there are clear bottlenecks (e.g. GTA V), but this seems to be the fundamental nature of AMD's drivers when it comes to DX11 performance in some games that perform a lot of draw calls. Holding out for improvements here isn't going to please you much.

    2) The Radeon Fury X was meant to go against the GTX 980Ti, not the GTX 980. The Fury, being slightly under the Fury X, would easily cover the GTX 980 performance bracket. The Fury X still doesn't beat the GTX 980Ti, particularly due to its limited VRAM where it even falls back in performance compared to the RX480 8GB and its siblings (RX580, RX590).

    3) There is no evidence of Nvidia's sabotage against any of its older cards when it comes to performance, and frankly your dig against GameWorks "sabotaging" AMD's cards performance is laughable when the same features, when enabled, also kill performance on Nvidia's own cards. PhysX has been open-source for 3 years and has now moved on to its 4th iteration, being used almost universally now in game engines. How's that for vendor lockdown?

    4) 16GB of VRAM will not even begin to show their worth in the next year. Wishful thinking, or more like licking up all the bad decisions AMD tends to make when it comes to product differentiation between their compute and gaming cards. It's baffling at this point that they still didn't learn to diverge their product lines and establish separate architectures in order to optimize power draw and bill of materials on the gaming card by reducing architectural features that are unneeded for gaming. 16GB are unneeded, 1TB/s of bandwidth is unneeded, HBM is expensive and unneeded. The RTX 2080 is averaging higher scores with half the bandwidth, half the VRAM capabity, and GDDR6.

    The money is in the gaming market and the professional market. The prosumer market is a sliver in comparison. Look at what Nvidia do, they release a mere handful of mascots every generation, all similar to one another (the Titan series), to take care of that sliver. You'd think they'd have a bigger portfolio if it were such a lucrative market? Meanwhile, on the gaming end, entire lineups. On the professional end, entire lineups (Quadro, Tesla).

    Get real.
    Reply

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