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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  • eva02langley - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    I think you are the one in denial over this.

    This is a Radeon Instinct M150. This is a compute card that was never intended to be a gaming card. The biggest integration AMD had to do were drivers. Drivers will indeed be better in the next 3 months.
    Reply
  • yasamoka - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    So please explain why AMD are designating this as a gaming card. I explained this in my previous post. Their lack of product differentiation is exhausting them and the apologetic acrobatics pulled by their die-hard fanboys is appallingly misleading. This is the same Vega architecture. Why isn't AMD releasing their cards with the drivers optimized beforehand? They have been doing this since the 7970. Remember that card getting beat by the GTX 680 just because they had unoptimized drivers? It took AMD almost a year to release drivers that thoroughly bested that series. CrossFire performance on these was also way ahead of SLi. It took them around another year to solve microstuttering. I had 2x 7970's back then. These delays need to stop, they're literally murdering AMD's product launches. Reply
  • Bp_968 - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    Nvidia is also guilty of the same thing. The entire Turing lineup is a die designed and R&Ded for the Enterprise customers. The "flagship features" they keep raving about for Turing are slapped together ways to use all the ASIC cores on the dies designed for AI and content creation.

    Its why when you compare a 1080 to a 2070, or a 1080ti to a 2080 (the same price bracket) you get almost zero rasterization improvements. Its a huge and expensive die reused from the enterprise department because no one else has anything competitive in the same space.

    Nvidia is likely holding back their actual 12nm/7nm gamer design for 2020 out of concern for what Intel might have and possible concern over Navi. I also think Nvidia vastly underestimated how poorly the repackaged cards would sell. I expect Turing to be a very short generation with the next series being announced in late 2019 early 2020 (depending on what intel and AMD end up fielding).
    Reply
  • Alistair - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    exactly! Reply
  • ToyzRUsKid - Friday, February 08, 2019 - link

    The updated NVENC encoder chip may become a major selling point for the RTX cards for streamers/content creators. I'm actually disappointed Nvidia is not emphasizing this feature more. Once OBS Studio releases their new build that will further increase NVENC encoding efficiency it will create an even more compelling argument to switch to NVENC.

    I have been testing the new encoder and it's rivaling and beating medium preset x264 at 1080p60 using 8k bitrate. Single pc streamers will see steam quality improvements along with massive cpu resource savings. I'm of the opinion the dark horse selling point of these cards will be the new NVENC encoder. It appears the Turning generation is more of an advancement for content creators than the average gamer. Ray tracing is superfluous at this point for sure.

    I'm ok with this. I still run a 1080Ti in my gaming rig and I'm comfortable waiting another generation. But the RTX 2070 in my streaming rig is delivering the best quality stream to date. That is comparing against x264 medium running on an i9 9900k@5GHz. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom and people with more credibility than me will need to help change the winds here. But this is my anecdotal experience.
    Reply
  • rahvin - Friday, February 08, 2019 - link

    If and I mean IF nvidia is holding back it's a purely financial move due to the huge overstock on GPU's caused by crypto currencies. Both AMD and nvidia massively underestimate how much demand crypto was creating. (IIRC AMD said during the earnings call now that crypto has dropped off that monthly GPU sales are less than half what they were) Supposedly there are more than 100K of nvidia cards (again the stuff I saw said that was somewhere between 3-6months normal gamer sales) sitting out there on store shelves rotting because of it, and it's so bad nvidia is having to take stock back from retailers that want the shelf space freed up.

    That's prime incentive to sit on the designs until the existing stock is used up. For both nvidia and AMD. Sure they might push out some high end high price product but they aren't doing anything in the middle of the market until that stock is cleared out.
    Reply
  • Korguz - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    yasamoka...

    at the least.. this could force, what seems to be your saint nvida.. to drop the price of their cards.. as it stands before today.. ALL of their 20 series cards.. are out of the price range i would pay for a video card, or are pushing it/hard to justify the cost over my current 1060, as the 1070/80 were way out of my price range..
    Reply
  • D. Lister - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    @Korguz

    The RVII performs 5%-6% below the 2080 (as per this review) and yet is priced the same. How is that going to force Nvidia to cut prices?
    Reply
  • Korguz - Friday, February 08, 2019 - link

    well.. where i am at least.. the radeon 7 starts at 949 ( preorder ), only 2 cards listed, Asus and xfx. the gtx 2080 ( which the radeon 7 is aimed at ) starts at 1130, almost 200 more... IMO.. 200 is not worth the premium for a 5-6% faster card.. the top of the line 2080 is the GeForce RTX 2080 SEA HAWK X which is priced at $1275... for my cash... id be looking at the radeon 7.. and saving 200+ bucks to use some where else in my comp... Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    The Instinct M150 is a VEGA class card, the architecture is incredibly similar to Vega 56/64. There are not massive gains to be made here.

    If there are, then AMD must be completely incompetent at driver management.
    Reply

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