Under The Hood
All disassembly pictures you see on this page were taken after performance testing of the card had concluded. The Radeon VII is fairly straightforward to take apart, certainly easier than any RTX 20-series Founders Edition card. We didn't run into any exotic screws or unfamiliar new ways of separating the cooler from the PCB. You'll only need a hex screwdriver. This bodes well for aftermarket coolers or water blocks which will do doubt come up for this card.
The PCB is sandwiched between the backplate and a steel metal heatspreader to collect heat from the VRM components peppered across the PCB. This heatspreader interfaces with the main cooling element, which is a large copper vapor-chamber spanning almost half the length of the card, making direct contact with the "Vega 20" MCM GPU over a lapped (mirror-finished) base.
The front half of the aluminium fin-stack makes direct contact with the vapor-chamber, while heat is sent to the other half of the fin-stack over five flattened copper heat pipes.
AMD has used conventional-looking thermal pads over the VRM MOSFETs, which are somewhat reusable. The GPU interface is a whole different story. Defying conventional logic, AMD went with what clearly feels like a high-conductivity thermal pad between the vapor-chamber base and GPU instead of thermal grease. We believe this to be a strip of Hitachi TC-HM03, a high-density thermal pad with graphite strands and a rated conductivity of 25-45 W/m·K, which is higher than the typically 12.5 W/m· K offered by certain diamond-based high-viscosity pastes. When we first took the card apart, we ripped this pad to shreds and had to scrape it off and replace it with thermal paste. Since the pad is certainly thicker than a standard blob of thermal paste, once we replaced this pad with thermal paste, we felt the need to increase cooler mounting pressure on the GPU to make sure there are no air-gaps between the GPU and the cooler.
Here is the business side of the Radeon VII reference PCB. We will go into finer details, such as a VRM component analysis and a higher-resolution version of this picture, in our full review. The PCB is certainly not as crowded as an RTX 2080 PCB, but uses a very premium VRM solution.
Overall, the Radeon VII is bound to impress with its reference-design aesthetics, and the build quality is certainly in the same league as NVIDIA's Founders Edition. It remains to be seen whether performance, thermals, and power draw of this card match up to NVIDIA's latest offerings. For that, you'll have to wait just a few more days.