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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  • Dr. Swag - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    If I had to guess, those tests probably are more dependent on memory capacity and/or memory bandwidth. Reply
  • Klimax - Friday, February 08, 2019 - link

    Could be still difference between AMD's and Nvidia's OpenCL drivers. Nvidia only fairly recently started to focus on them. (Quite few 2.0 features are still listed as experimental) Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    That they changed the FP64 rate cap entirely in BIOS makes me wonder, should the iMac Pro be updated with something like this (as Navi is supposed to be launching with the mid range first), if it would have the double precision rate cap at all as Apple would be co-writing the drivers and all. Reply
  • tvdang7 - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    I feel AT needs to update the game list. I understand that these are probably easier to bench and are demanding but most of us are curious on how it performs on games we actually play. Lets be real how many of you or your friends play these game on the daily? BF1 and MAYBE GTA are popular but not on the grand scheme of things . Reply
  • Manch - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    7 DX 11
    1 DX 12
    1 Vulcan

    Need a better spread of the API's and denote which games are engineered specifically for AMD or Nvidia or neither. I think that would be helpful when deciding which card should be in your rig.
    Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Thursday, February 07, 2019 - link

    Perhaps tell game developers to get with the times then? You cant test what isnt there, and the vast majority of games with repeatable benchmarks are DX11 titles. That is not Anandtech's fault. Reply
  • Manch - Friday, February 08, 2019 - link

    Didn't say it was. Merely a suggestion/request. There are around 30 games that are released with DX 12 support and about a dozen with Vulkan. Some of the DX 11 titles tested for this review offer DX 12 & Vulkan supt. They exist and can be tested. If there is a reason to NOT test a DX version or Vulkan version, for example RE2's broken DX12 implementation, OK fair enough. I think it would offer a better picture of how each card performs overall. Reply
  • Manch - Friday, February 08, 2019 - link


    DX11 DX12 Vulkan
    BF1 Tested Yes No
    FC5 Tested No No
    AotS Yes Tested Yes
    Wolf Yes Yes Tested
    FF Tested Maybe? No
    GTA Tested No No
    SoW Tested No No
    F1 Tested No No
    TW Tested Yes No

    4 of the games tested with DX11 have DX 12 implementations and AotS has a Vulkan implementation. If the implementation is problematic, fair enough. Put a foot note or a ** but there are games with DX 12 and Vulkan out there on current engines so it can be done.

    Ryan, perhaps and article on the games, the engines, their API implementations and how/why you choose to use/not use them in testing? Think it would be a good read.
    Reply
  • Manch - Friday, February 08, 2019 - link

    Sorry bout the format didn't realize it would do that to it. Reply
  • eddman - Friday, February 08, 2019 - link

    "about a dozen with Vulkan"

    What are these dozen games? Last time I checked there were only three or four modern games suitable for vulkan benchmarking: Wolfenstein 2, Doom, Strange Brigade and perhaps AotS.

    IMO Wolfenstein 2 is enough to represent vulkan.

    "Wolf Yes Yes Tested"

    Wolfenstein 2 is vulkan only; no DX12.

    As for DX12, yes, I too think they could add more.
    Reply

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