Home Gadgets AMD returns High-end graphics card market with RX Vega

AMD returns High-end graphics card market with RX Vega

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image : pcgamer.com

AMD has revealed most of the final details for its next two major hardware launches, Ryzen Threadripper and Vega 10. If you want to read more about Threadripper, I have a separate article covering Threadripper. Here, the story will be focused mostly on Vega and graphics cards.

Gamers have been waiting patiently for AMD’s Vega architecture for a long time now. Ever since the mainstream Polaris debut in June 2016, we’ve wanted a new high-end solution to replace the R9 Fury X. 2016 came and went with no such card, though details on Vega’s architecture were revealed earlier this year. Now, finally, the Vega cards are nearly here.

At its Tech Day held just before SIGGRAPH kicked off in Los Angeles, AMD revealed the full specs and pricing details for the various Vega models. The launch date is set for August 14. Here’s the overview of the cards, with Fiji and Polaris 10 included as points of reference:

image : pcgamer.com

By the numbers, the Vega 10 architecture will be a big step up from AMD’s previous designs. While Vega has the same number of streaming processors as Fiji, 4096 cores, each core is clocked significantly higher. If nothing had changed besides the clockspeed, Vega would be nearly 50 percent faster than Fiji. But it’s not just about raw clockspeed.

AMD has put a lot of emphasis on Vega’s High-Bandwidth Cache Controller (HBCC), which is designed to optimize memory accesses. At the same time, HBM2 delivers up to 8x the memory capacity per stack, giving Vega 8GB or 16GB of VRAM using two stacks, compared to 4GB using four stacks on Fiji. The combination should improve minimum framerates and help to eliminate stutters while gaming, along with allowing for significantly larger assets.

Other architectural improvements include packed FP16 math, potentially doubling the TFLOPS for workloads that don’t need the increased precision of FP32. AMD worked with Futuremark for the 3DMark Sierra demo to show what FP16 could allow, showing performance improvements of 20-25 percent on average. With both AMD and Nvidia hardware now supporting faster FP16 packed math, developers will want to pay attention to areas where they can use the feature to improve performance without affecting image quality.

There’s more of course. The geometry and shader pipelines have been reworked to be more efficient, AMD has added 40 new instructions to its ISA, and Vega will be the ‘most complete’ implementation of the DX12 and Vulkan APIs. That includes things like conservative rasterization tier-3 (vs. tier-2 on Nvidia’s Pascal architecture). AMD spoke about its Draw Stream Binning Rasterizer (DSBR), which has up to 5X the primitive discard rate of Fiji (for geometry culling). The Vega also includes improved support for professional level features, things like SRIOV (for hardware virtualization). How much these improvements will matter down the road isn’t clear, but giving developers additional flexibility is a good thing.

image : pcgamer.com

Pricing of Vega looks good, with the base RX Vega 64 starting at $499. That price is for an air-cooled graphics card, with no extras, but AMD will also have a liquid-cooled variant available (only as a limited edition, however). There will also be a lower spec RX Vega 56 that starts at $399, with performance that shouldn’t be too far off that of the Vega 64.

There’s a fourth consumer Vega card planned for the future, a Nano-like variant. AMD told us it will have a new ultracompact card later this year, though it hasn’t revealed anything more than the initial plans at present. It should be similar in practice to the R9 Nano: lower clockspeeds and a much lower TDP, all crammed into a card that’s just long enough to fill an x16 PCIe slot. For mini-ITX fans, this will be welcome news.

Along with the individual cards, AMD has various “packs” available that include additional hardware and games. These packs are designed to incentivize people who are building new PCs to buy into the AMD ecosystem, while the individual cards give a lower entry point for people that may already be in the AMD family.

image : pcgamer.com

Each Pack includes an RX Vega card, with a $200 discount on select FreeSync monitors—only an ultrawide Samsung CF791 34-inch was specified at present, though AMD says others should be available by the time Vega launches. There’s also a $100 discount on a Ryzen CPU/AM4 motherboard. Finally, there will be two free games (the North American market should get Prey and Wolfenstein II), with a retail value of $120. The monitor and CPU/motherboard discounts will only be at the time of purchase, so there’s no going back and picking up a discounted display later.

There are three different packs. The Black Pack and will cost of $599 and includes the air-cooled Vega 64, the Aqua Pack includes a liquid-cooled RX Vega 64 card and carries a $699 price tag, and the Red Pack includes an air-cooled RX Vega 56 card and costs $499. Note that the Aqua Pack is the only way to get the liquid-cooled RX Vega 64, at least for now.

These packs include ‘limited edition’ versions of the air-cooled RX Vega 64 that use a brushed aluminum shroud. Individual cards use the standard black shroud that we’re used to from previous cards like the RX 480 reference design. The air-cooled cards use blowers, though AMD notes the Vega cards will use 30mm blower fans compared to 25mm fans on previous generation cards, which should improve noise levels and cooling. AMD’s reference Vega cards will also use high-end isothermic vapor chambers to improve cooling performance.

The AIB partners are of course free to create non-reference cards with open-air coolers and multiple fans. We expect custom AIB designs to show up in late Q3 or early Q4.

image : pcgamer.com

For all the good aspects, there are some concerns with Vega. Performance should be good, and AMD made many comparisons with Nvidia’s GTX 1080. My impression based on what was said is that AMD expects the Vega 64 to trade blows with the GTX 1080—win some games, lose others, but on the whole performance should be comparable.

The problem is the GTX 1080 is over a year old now, and the 1080 Ti is the new king of the hill. GTX 1080 also has a 180W TDP and can get by with a single 8-pin power connector, while Vega cards we’ve seen use two 8-pin connectors. The board power quoted is also extremely high, at 345W for the liquid-cooled card and 295W for the air-cooled Vega 64. The Vega 56 has a far more tolerable board power of 210W, though it’s clocked quite a bit lower to get there (and overclocking should be much better than on the Vega 64).

Board power doesn’t mean the cards will necessarily use that much power while playing games, but based on the results from the Vega Frontier Edition it’s safe to say power use will be much higher than Nvidia’s 1080/1070 cards.

Vega is also late, not just to the high-end graphics card party, but initial hopes were that Vega would appear late last year. AMD never actually implied that would happen, but in December of last year we expected a June launch, not August. While Vega may compete well against GTX 1080, Nvidia is getting closer to releasing its Volta architecture. When Volta inevitably comes out, will it be a year before AMD can match it again? Let’s hope not.

source : http://www.pcgamer.com/amd-returns-to-the-high-end-graphics-card-market-with-rx-vega/

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