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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  • Kevin G - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    Not a bad showing by AMD but this card isn't the victory that they needed either. The gaming side is OK and lines up with the GTX 1080 Ti and RTX 2080 fairly well. On the compute side it is actually very good with the extra memory capacity and more bandwidth. I have a feeling that this card should have shipped with 128 ROPs which would have given it an edge at higher resolutions.

    I'm also curious as to how this card would fair at even higher resolutions like 5K and 8K. The memory bandwidth is there to humor that idea and might be feasible to get playable frame rates on specific modern games. I'd also be interesting to see how it'd fair with some older, less demanding titles at these resolutions too.
    Reply
  • Holliday75 - Friday, February 08, 2019 - link

    This card feels like its meant to full the gap and now allow Nvidia to be the only player in the game for an extended period of time. This buys them time for their next architecture release. Reply
  • brokerdavelhr - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    Can You please retest running the Radeon VII (an AMD part) on a Ryzen II with X470 with 16 gig of RAM? You always run AMD parts on a non AMD processor. Please retest and post results! Reply
  • mkaibear - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    The point of comparative benchmarking is to change just one thing so you can see the impact of the thing you're changing. Reply
  • brokerdavelhr - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    SO why do they only test on Intel machines? Why not run the same tests on an RYZEN/Nvidia and Ryzen/Radeon combo? My point is that it simply never happens. Put aside the fact that Radeon always fairs better on a AMD machine, it just seems odd is all. For the longest time, nearly every Intel machine ran Nvidia graphics. You are more likely to find a Radeon in a AMD machine than you will an Intel one.
    See my point?
    Reply
  • DominionSeraph - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    Even AMD benches their video cards on Intel processors. Intel is just faster. Reply
  • brokerdavelhr - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    What link is that DS - and if you ask me too google it, I will not take anything you say seriously. Or are you deliberately trolling? I know they do a side by side with intel processors with their own to show the diff, bu thats all. What is the link to the tests you are referring to? Either way - it is unbiased as they bench with both. Not so here which was my point. Reply
  • Klimax - Friday, February 08, 2019 - link

    So can you post AMDs PR results that use AMD CPUs? Reply
  • krazyfrog - Sunday, February 10, 2019 - link

    From AMD's Radeon VII page:

    "Testing done by AMD performance labs 1/21/19 on an Intel Core i7 7700k, 16GB DDR4 3000MHz, Radeon VII, Radeon RX Vega 64, AMD Driver 18.50 and Windows 10. Using Resident Evil 2 @ 3840x2160, Max settings, DirectX® 11:Radeon VII averaged 53 fps. Radeon RX Vega 64 averaged 41 fps. PC manufacturers may vary configurations yielding different results. All scores are an average of 3 runs with the same settings. Performance may vary based on use of latest drivers. RX-291"
    Reply
  • mkaibear - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    Because they are for the most part running gaming tests, and if you want to remove CPU bottlenecks you pick the CPU which you have that's fastest in games.

    Which is Intel.

    If you pick anything else then you are artificially constraining performance which tends to show a regression to the mean - in other words it'll make the difference between AMD and nVidia smaller (whichever one wins)

    Equally the fact that AMD works best with AMD means they absolutely should *not* put an AMD processor in the system - that way they are artificially boosting system performance and skewing their benchmarks.

    You really need to do some reading on how you do a/b testing. Wikipedia has a good article.
    Reply

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