AMD Radeon VII 16 GB Review 553

AMD Radeon VII 16 GB Review

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AMD today launched its Radeon VII graphics card. The Radeon VII (pronounced "seven") is this year's most unexpected product launch. We walked into AMD's CES 2019 keynote expecting a substantive teaser of "Zen 2" processors, which we got, but the Radeon VII unveil was a pleasant surprise. This is the world's first graphics processor built on the 7-nanometer silicon fabrication process and implements several segment-first features to restore AMD's competitiveness in the high-end graphics card segment.

At the heart of the Radeon VII is the second-generation "Vega" graphics architecture, and the new "Vega 20" GPU that made its debut late last year with the Radeon Instinct MI60. AMD has tweaked this chip for gamers by leveraging the switch to 7 nm and cranking up engine clock speeds significantly. The company has doubled both the memory capacity and bandwidth, eliminating many perceived bottlenecks to the "Vega" silicon.

The Radeon VII in this review is being launched at $699, which is bang on par with the GeForce RTX 2080. What's more interesting is that at its launch event, AMD was directly comparing performance of Radeon VII with the RTX 2080. If this card succeeds as a product, AMD will have bounced back to the high-end segment, which it practically abandoned for the past couple of years. NVIDIA's steep pricing for its "Turing" graphics cards has allowed AMD to price the Radeon VII high enough to cover its high manufacturing costs and turn a profit, which should keep investors happy, too.

NVIDIA's justification for higher pricing of "Turing" chips, however, is that the real-time ray-tracing and AI-acceleration hardware add billions of transistors to the GPU, making them more expensive to produce. Despite the switch to 12 nm, "Turing" GPUs indeed have among the largest silicon dies the company ever designed. AMD, however, does not have real-time ray-tracing or AI acceleration hardware features, and so it has a different list of deliverables.

For starters, AMD is offering 16 GB of video memory, which it believes will offer a great deal of future-proofing as AAA game memory usage and productivity data sets increase in size every year. The company has also doubled memory bandwidth to an incredible 1 TB/s, which should help move the bottleneck away from memory. AMD also appears to be focusing heavily on this card's 4K UHD gaming performance and performance with certain productivity workloads that can leverage GPU compute. As if that were not all, the 16 GB could sweeten the GPU's value should crypto-mining take off again, thanks to new mining algorithms that take advantage of over 10 GB video memory.

Radeon VII is the first high-end graphics card from AMD to feature a contemporary triple-fan aluminium heatsink reference cooler. The company has finally wised up to the realities of the axial blower cooler being way too loud and AIO liquid cooling solutions looking too clumsy. The company is also counting on the novelty value of the world's first 7 nm GPU to sell these cards.

In this review, we have with us an AMD Radeon VII graphics card, which is strictly reference-design. You'll be able to buy this card through AMD's various add-in board (AIB) partners—they'll all use the same physical design with only make minor changes, like stickers with their own branding.

Radeon VII Vega Market Segment Analysis
RTX 2060 FE$3501920481365 MHz1680 MHz1750 MHzTU10610800M6 GB, GDDR6, 192-bit
GTX 1080$460 2560641607 MHz1733 MHz1251 MHzGP1047200M8 GB, GDDR5X, 256-bit
RX Vega 64$400 4096641247 MHz1546 MHz953 MHzVega 1012500M8 GB, HBM2, 2048-bit
GTX 1080 Ti$675 3584881481 MHz1582 MHz1376 MHzGP10212000M11 GB, GDDR5X, 352-bit
RTX 2070$5002304641410 MHz1620 MHz1750 MHzTU10610800M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RTX 2070 FE$6002304641410 MHz1710 MHz1750 MHzTU10610800M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
Radeon VII$700 3840641400 MHz1750 MHz1000 MHzVega 2013230M16 GB, HBM2, 4096-bit
RTX 2080$7002944641515 MHz1710 MHz1750 MHzTU10413600M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RTX 2080 FE$8002944641515 MHz1800 MHz1750 MHzTU10413600M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RTX 2080 Ti FE$12004352961350 MHz1635 MHz1750 MHzTU10218600M11 GB, GDDR6, 352-bit
RTX 2080 Ti$13004352961350 MHz1545 MHz1750 MHzTU10218600M11 GB, GDDR6, 352-bit
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