Home / Technology / Review of the AMD Radeon VII GPU: a powerful, powerful and hot response to the RTX 208 from Nvidia

Review of the AMD Radeon VII GPU: a powerful, powerful and hot response to the RTX 208 from Nvidia


AMD's Radeon VII is the company's expected response to the RTX 2080 graphics cards that Nvidia released last fall. With the same price as the RTX 2080, the $ 699 Radeon VII is the first graphics card backed by a 7 nm process, which potentially gives AMD the ammunition to deliver a competitive high-end graphics card for the first time in years.

The VII is the direct successor of Vega 64 of AMD and shares an architecture similar to that card, with specific improvements in clock speeds and VRAM. But with the Nvidia cards dominating the conversation and loaded with unique features that are not available in Radeon, the VII will have to demonstrate its merit based on pure performance: can this card really play modern AAA games in 4K resolutions and a constant speed of 60 frames per second?

In addition, one of the main concerns of any high-end graphics card is supply and demand. PC players are very familiar with the fluctuating prices of the GPU and the lack of retail availability, either a change in market trends or a sudden interest in mining cryptocurrency. Nvidia also suffers from this: the supply is so low that it is basically impossible to find an RTX 2080 Ti in the list without a considerable profit margin. If AMD can not produce and ship enough units, you can not find it for that $ 699 price, and your value proposition against the Nvidia cards will collapse completely.

I can not help but feel some uncertainty about giving AMD the benefit of the doubt, because history has not been in their favor. When the Vega 64 was launched in 2017, it also had a performance comparable to the GTX 1080 top-level Nvidia, but as a result was not available in large quantities and its price skyrocketed. It's still not clear what will happen again, but the fact that the AMD card went on sale last week and is out of stock In most retailers (except directly from AMD) it does not inspire confidence.

Over the past week, I was in charge of testing 4K and 1440p games on the Radeon VII, looking for some indication that the AMD card is a competitive alternative for Nvidia RTX GPUs. The short answer? Yes it is. The long answer: it is complicated.


Edge score

Good material

  • Decent performance in 4K games
  • Excellent QHD performance
  • You can stream and play without too much performance penalty.

Bad things

  • The fans make a lot of noise under load
  • High average temperatures
  • Does not support as many functions as Nvidia cards

The Radeon VII is powered by Vega architecture of the second generation of AMD and is designed to meet the memory requirements of games, which are constantly increasing, as well as the large number of high resolution screens with which players and creative users work. In reality, it has fewer cores than the Vega 64, but it comes with a pulse clock speed greater than 300MHz and twice the HBM2 memory, with 16GB.

That is double the RAM that was found in 2080 and a total of 5 GB of RAM more than even in the first level 2080 Ti. AMD RAM also offers twice the bandwidth of Nvidia. The new 7 nm manufacturing process is part of what gives Radeon VII its name (AMD confirmed that it also means "Vega II"), and it is also ahead of Nvidia's current 12 nm processes.

However, these improvements have a cost. The Radeon VII is a GPU that consumes a lot of energy, even though it is using the most efficient manufacturing process to date. It requires two eight-pin connections and consumes up to 300 watts of power, about five watts more than the requirements of the previous generation and 75 more than the Nvidia RTX 2080.

The Radeon VII is nothing like any of AMD's recent graphics cards, because its cooling system does not work like them either. Instead of a blower design with a single fan that pushes the hot air of the GPU out of its box, AMD has a new design of air conditioning and triple fan that is different from some of the third-party coolers we're used to seeing . Like the Nvidia RTX cards, the Radeon VII is cooled by steam chamber, using a graphite cooling pad instead of thermal paste to keep cool under load.

But even with the triple fan design and the cooling of the steam chamber, the Radeon VII works hot and noisy Whether you are using the card with an eGPU cabinet or inside a desktop computer, Radeon VII fans always sang a high RPM song while it was under load.

It's often difficult for my co-workers in the Edge office to find out what I'm doing in front of a monitor of latest fashion games. But with the Radeon VII, it's a different story: "Are you playing games?" It is often followed by "Is that the AMD card?" Having a PC with silent desktop games and using this graphics card (at least with the AMD reference refrigerator, which all of your partners are currently sending) are mutually exclusive.

Those fast and noisy fans did not keep temperatures down as much as expected, either. I could feel the heat emitted by the GPU through the chassis of my desktop computer and the air vents, making my case the size of mATX hotter than any RTX series card. If you prefer to have a silent configuration or keep your GPU cold at all times, the Radeon VII can make it difficult for you.

However, what is really happening with the heat is a little complicated. At first, it seemed that the Radeon VII was burning: I measured a maximum temperature of 105 degrees centigrade playing Black Ops IIII, In 4K resolution and ultra configuration, which is a very hot peak temperature

But AMD told me that not only is it within normal operating temperatures, but this card measures the temperature very differently than the previous one, so it's not really comparable with other GPUs. The Radeon VII uses the temperature of the junction (the highest operating temperature of the real semiconductor and not the surrounding exterior) to better measure the performance of the accelerator under load, and has also doubled the number of temperature sensors since the last Vega card (64 in total).

AMD can run the card a bit hotter than before to give you better performance, because you can see more accurately when you approach the red line. AMD says that the Radeon VII will begin to accelerate when the temperature of the union reaches 110 degrees Celsius. I did not see temps that High in my tests, so the card apparently worked as designed.

AMD also includes software with its screen drivers called Radeon Chill, which has an energy-saving feature that drastically reduces fan noise and heat produced by the card. But it also limits performance, which hinders the game in 4K resolutions.

Over the next few weeks and months, we will see different versions of Radeon VII from original equipment manufacturers such as ASUS, MSI and others. It is possible that thermal management and noise can be addressed a little better in these models.

To understand why the Radeon VII is consuming all that power, I had to prove its ability to constantly reach more than 60 fps in popular PC games.

To see how this card works with a configuration that reflects the PC gaming team in 2019, I tried the Radeon VII with QHD and 4K monitors. Both screens have high refresh rates: 120Hz on the Acer Predator 4K and 144Hz on the AOC screen of 1440p, and HDR, and connected to the Radeon VII through DisplayPort. But if you're wondering if this GPU is perfect for your 120 / 144Hz monitor, my immediate answer would be "no". The Radeon VII only exceeded 120 fps in two of the five demanding games I tried.

Radeon VII Benchmarks (4K / 1440p)

Reference point4K with Radeon VII4K w / RTX 2080 Founder Edition4K w / RTX 2080TI Founder EditionQHD with Radeon VIIQHD w / RTX 2080 Founder EditionQHD w / RTX 2080TI Founder Edition
Reference point4K with Radeon VII4K w / RTX 2080 Founder Edition4K w / RTX 2080TI Founder EditionQHD with Radeon VIIQHD w / RTX 2080 Founder EditionQHD w / RTX 2080TI Founder Edition
3DMark Time Spy4,0254,6875,5368,4099,36311,384
3DMark Fire Strike Ultra6,5506,3658,00911,66911,65214,347
Black Ops 4Average of 81 fpsAverage of 90 fps112 fps averageAverage of 149 fpsAverage of 124 fps154 average fps
Rainbow Six: SiegeAverage of 96 fpsAverage of 105 psAverage of 121 fpsAverage of 109 fps113 fps average130 fps average
Battlefield vAverage of 65 fps73 average fpsAverage of 84 fps116 average fps129 average fps137 average fps
Forza Skyline 4Average of 84 fpsAverage of 97 fpsAverage of 109 fpsAverage of 110 fps114 fps averageAverage of 121 fps
Destination 291 fps averageAverage of 92 fpsAverage of 105 fps130 fps averageAverage of 135 fpsAverage of 140 fps

The Radeon VII has a great performance when playing 4K games without ray tracing. I could play Battlefield v in ultra 4K configurations at an average of 65 fps. But the RTX 2080 is operated at 73 fps in the same game, and the RTX 2080 Ti, considerably more expensive, reaches an average of 84 fps. With activated real-time ray tracing, the performance of Nvidia cards gets a hit, but that option is not even available in the Radeon VII.

Moving from a first-person shooter to showcasing the beautiful racing tracks of Forza Skyline 4 in the 4K and ultra settings, the Radeon VII recorded an average of 84 fps. This is not yet the best for the RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti cards, which averaged 97 fps and 109 fps, respectively.

The first time we tested the RTX cards at launch, we did not see 4K performance results anywhere near what we are seeing today. The improvements can be attributed to the many updates and optimizations of games released in the months after its release. That means that AMD could also catch up, but it has a lot of work to do.

In summary, while the performance of the Radeon VII is slightly behind the RTX card of the Founder's Edition, you can still play demanding AAA titles in 4K, staying strong at around 60 fps, while reaching higher values ​​for games less demanding.

On my low resolution QHD monitor, the Radeon VII crushed all the games that were played in 1440p that I launched. For example, I scored 116 fps while playing Battlefield v in ultra configuration. Similary, Black Ops IIII It is considered a light work for the Radeon VII, reaching 149 fps in ultra configurations at 1440p.

When testing games and streaming at the same time, I only lost ~ 5 fps in Rainbow Six: Siege at 1440p. The streaming transmitters should be able to record at 1440p (or 1080p for that matter) without worrying at all about having the performance margin to simultaneously handle the transmission and the game.

Based on my experience with the Radeon VII, it is a high quality graphics card for high resolution modern games. It remains stable under heavy loads, without blockages or stops in any of the machines with which I tried it. But even with double the memory and that new and sophisticated 7nm manufacturing process, the Radeon VII does not surpass the RTX 2080 in game performance, despite the fact that the card is built in a 12nm process and with only 8GB of RAM .

Creatives may be able to take advantage of Radeon's additional VRAM, but players may not yet be able to do so, since many games can not use all 16 GB of sweep. The RTX card also works better, uses less power and is compatible with options such as real-time ray tracing and DLSS, which are not available in Radeon. It is true that we are still waiting for enough games with ray tracing in real time to justify the purchase of a card for that function.

Like the way in which Nvidia was able to improve the performance of its RTX cards with a series of software updates, AMD has the ability to redeem the Radeon VII in the long term. Game optimizations and driver updates released after the card's release could slightly improve the performance of the Radeon VII and could make it more competitive at a performance level compared to Nvidia cards.

But it all depends on whether AMD is able to produce enough cards to satisfy the demand and keep the prices constant. A representative of the company told me that "[AMD] believes that we are well positioned to meet demand and, in addition to selling on AMD.com for customers in the US UU and Canada. [We] they are also working with e-tailers and AIB partners to support global sales of this exciting new product. "In addition, it is expected that the continuous supply for the Radeon VII will arrive weekly to meet the demand." During the time of publication, the Radeon VII is available on the AMD website (limited to one per customer), but it is sold out at most online retailers.

In general, the Radeon VII is certainly the best card that AMD has released in a long time and is capable of modern games in 4K resolutions. But if I were buying a new GPU today, I would have a hard time choosing the Radeon VII on the most capable RTX 2080 for the same price.

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