AMD Radeon VII GPU review: a hot, loud, powerful answer to Nvidia’s RTX 208

clicks | 6 months ago | comments: discuss | tags: cryptocurrency

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AMD’s Radeon VII is the company’s eagerly anticipated response to the RTX 2080 graphics cards that Nvidia launched last fall. Priced the same as the RTX 2080, the $699 Radeon VII is the first graphics card underpinned by a 7nm process, potentially giving AMD the ammunition to deliver a competitive high-end graphics card for the first time in years.
The VII is the direct successor to AMD’s Vega 64 and shares a similar architecture to that card, with specific improvements in clock speeds and VRAM. But with Nvidia’s cards dominating the conversation and loaded with unique features not available on the Radeon, the VII will have to prove its merit based on pure performance: can this card actually play modern AAA games at 4K resolutions and a steady 60 frames per second?
In addition, one of the main concerns of any high-end graphics card is supply and demand. PC gamers are all too familiar with fluctuating GPU prices and a lack of retail availability, whether it’s a change in market trends or a sudden interest in mining cryptocurrency . Nvidia suffers from this, too: supply is so low that it’s basically impossible to find an RTX 2080 Ti listed without a considerable markup. If AMD can’t produce and ship enough units, you won’t be able to find it for that $699 price — and its value proposition against Nvidia’s cards will completely fall apart.
I can’t help but feel some uncertainty about giving AMD the benefit of the doubt, because history has not been in its favor. When the Vega 64 launched in 2017, it also had comparable performance to Nvidia’s top-tier GTX 1080, but it wasn’t readily available in large numbers and its price spiked as a result. It’s not yet clear that will happen again, but the fact that AMD’s card went on sale late last week and is already out of stock doesn’t inspire confidence.
Over the past week, I tasked myself to test games in 4K and 1440p on the Radeon VII, looking for any indication that AMD’s card will be a competitive alternative for Nvidia’s RTX GPUs. The short answer? Yes, it is. The long answer: it’s complicated.
7 Verge Score AMD Radeon VII Good Stuff Decent 4K gaming performance Excellent QHD performance Can stream and game without too much performance penalty
Bad Stuff Fans get very loud under load High average temperatures Doesn’t support as many features as Nvidia’s cards Buy for $699.00 from AMD
The Radeon VII is powered by AMD’s second-generation Vega architecture and is designed to tackle the steadily increasing memory requirements of games, as well as the plethora of high-resolution displays that gamers and creative users work with. It actually has fewer cores than the Vega 64 did, but comes with a 300MHz higher boost clock speed and double the HBM2 memory, at 16GB.
A smaller 7nm process and double the memory since last generation That’s twice as much RAM as found in the 2080, and a full 5GB of RAM more than even in the top-tier 2080 Ti. AMD’s RAM also offers twice the bandwidth of Nvidia’s. The new 7nm manufacturing process is part of what gives the Radeon VII its name — AMD confirmed it also stands for “Vega II” — and it, too, is ahead of Nvidia’s current 12nm processes.
These improvements come at a cost, however. The Radeon VII is a power-hungry GPU, even though it’s using the most power-efficient manufacturing process to date. It requires two eight-pin connections and sips up to 300 watts of power, around five more watts than the previous generation’s requirement and 75 more than Nvidia’s RTX 2080.
The Radeon VII doesn’t quite look like any of AMD’s recent graphics cards, because its cooling system doesn’t work like them either. Instead of a blower design with a single fan that pushes the GPU’s hot air outside of your case, AMD has a new open-air, triple-fan design that’s different than some of the third-party coolers we’re used to seeing. Like Nvidia’s RTX cards, the Radeon VII is vapor chamber cooled, using a graphite thermal cooling pad instead of thermal paste to stay cool under load.
But even with the triple-fan design and vapor chamber cooling, the Radeon VII runs hot and loud. Whether I was using the card with an eGPU enclosure or inside of a desktop, the Radeon VII’s fans always sang a song of high RPM while it was under load.
4K test machine:
Processor: Intel Core i7-8700K 3.7GHz 6-Core CPU Cooler: Corsair H115i PRO Motherboard: Asus ROG STRIX Z370-G Micro ATX LGA1151 RAM: Corsair Vengeance LED 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-3333 Storage: Kingston UV500 480GB M.2-2280 SSD Case: Corsair Crystal 280X MicroATX PSU: Corsair 850W 80+ Gold Semi-Modular ATX It’s often difficult for my co-workers in the Verge office to figure out what I’m doing in front of some newfangled gaming monitor. But with the Radeon VII, it’s a different story: “Are you playing games?” is usually followed by “Is that the AMD card?” Having a quiet desktop gaming PC and using this graphics card (at least with AMD’s reference cooler, which all of its partners are currently shipping) are mutually exclusive.