AMD Vega Line-up Revealed…by AMD

Multiple gaming and hardware news sources broke the story today regarding the formal reveal of AMD’s new Vega video card line-up. This on the doorstep of the SIGGRAPH conference in which AMD is slated to discuss the card in greater detail. Details of the new Vega card have been on my watch list for some time, but the gaming outlets seemed to contradict each other on important details.

The AMD Vega line-up features three cards: the Vega 56, the Vega 64, and the Vega 64 Liquid. The number value on the card is associated with the number of compute units utilized by the GPU (56 and 64). Both the Vega 56 and Vega 64 come from AMD with reference coolers, much like the AMD Founder’s Edition cards. The Vega 64 Liquid is, as you may guess, a liquid cooled variant of the Vega 64 complete with a higher clock speed and boost speed. All variants come with 8GB of HBM2 (High Bandwidth Memory 2), a new type of memory that runs at a lower clock but at much higher bandwidth. For those of you who have heard that HBM2 is the end-all-be-all of memory, you should know that the HBM2 appearing in the AMD Vega 64 and the GDDR5X in Nvidia’s GTX 1080 Ti have the same resultant memory bandwidth of 484 GB/s based on the math (bandwidth = speed * interface width / 8).

Price of the upcoming cards was also discussed. According to the release, the AMD sold cards (not the third party cards that are to arrive later) will retail at $399 for the Vega 56 and $499 for the Vega 64. Each of these cards will also appear in a “pack”, which adds $100 to the price but features two games in the new Prey and Wolfenstein II as well as coupons for $100 off a Ryzen 7 1800X/370X motherboard combo and $200 off a Samsung CF791 curved 34″ ultrawide monitor (retails for $949). The Vega 64 Liquid is currently only available in a pack for $699. Many sites are taking this to mean that the retail card only would be $599, but this has not been confirmed by AMD, so it will remain to be seen with third party card makers send their wares to market.

Because review websites do not yet have their hands on the new Vega cards, performance details were scarce. We do know that the Vega 64 is to boast a FP32 performance of 12.7 TFLOPS while the Vega 64 Liquid 13.7 TFLOPS. These are great numbers, higher than the GTX 1080 Ti’s performance of 11.5 TFLOPS and the GTX 1080’s reported 8.9 TFLOPS. However, the only performance comparison we have at the moment shows the Vega 64 on par with the GTX 1080 (no, not Ti) at 1440p gaming over nine different games. Yes, the Vega 64 shows a tighter fps band of 53-76 while the GTX 1080 carries 45-78 frames, but this is using a card that supposedly has nearly a 4 TFLOP advantage in raw processing power. At this point, the only real hope for AMD is that their marketing team does not know the difference between a GTX 1080 Ti and a GTX 1080, meaning to write the former rather than the latter on the graphic (this was reported with the recent AMD tour of Vega, first saying that the Nvidia comparison card was a GTX 1080, then instead saying it was a GTX 1080 Ti). If this is the case, then everyone will want a new AMD Vega for Christmas. If not, then AMD might as well fold up shop on desktop graphics cards.

The other drawback to the Vega line-up is their power usage. The Vega 64 has a TDP of 295 Watts and the Vega 64 Liquid 345W. These are quite a bit higher than the GTX 1080 at 180W and GTX 1080 Ti at 250W. Again, what is AMD doing with this extra power draw and heat load? It would only make sense that the marketing literature is wrong and the Vega 64 is more in line with the GTX 1080 Ti, but, again, this remains to be seen.

Overall, the announcement of the Vega line-up has been long awaited by many who either enjoy Team Red or want to see more competition in the video card market. However, it seems that we will all have to wait a little longer to truly understand the capabilities of the Vega cards in light of some glaring discrepancies in performance numbers.

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