Today is the release of the AMD Radeon VII. We have summarized all information, benchmarks and game results for you.
AMD Radeon VII: from the server for the consumer
Today AMD has started the sale of the Radeon VII. The graphics card is an attempt to become a competitor for the Turing generation of Nvidia until real competition in the form of Navi is on the agenda in the middle of the year. Until then, AMD doesn’t have much left to do but make the best of the situation. That’s why the Vega architecture has to serve once more. The company updated these once again at the end of 2018. The chip called Vega 20 no longer comes with 14nm structure width, but is the first 7nm graphics card. This is first used in the Radeon Instinct MI60 and Radeon Instinct MI50. AMD then also cut the Radeon VII from the ribs of the latter. The end customers thus receive, so to speak, a server graphics card with a normal cooler and display connections – with all the advantages and disadvantages.
3,840 shaders and 16 GB HBM2
The Radeon VII has inherited all the hardware that the Radeon Instinct MI50 comes with. A slightly trimmed Vega 20 chip is used. This contains 60 compute units and thus 3,840 shader units, 240 texture units and 64 raster operators. The base clock is 1,450 MHz, the boost clock 1,800 MHz. However, the main focus and a major distinguishing feature of the RTX 2080, against which the Radeon VII is competing, is the memory. 16 gigabytes of HBM2 memory is used here, which is connected via a 1 TB/s interface. This should be especially please content creators who and others who can use these amount of memory.
However, a few other factors are likely to have a more negative impact. So the Radeon VII will consume a lot of energy. The MI50 has a TDP of 300 watts on the data sheet. Although there is also a large cooler with three axial fans, the graphics card might get hot anyway. Something AMD didn’t take over from the MI50 is the connection to the motherboard. While the server graphics card uses PCIe 4.0, only PCIe 3.0 is used for the Radeon VII. This is probably because the company does not want to poach in its own segment.
The benchmarks for the launch
Let’s now come to the benchmarks of the Radeon VII. AMD promotes the graphics card not only with its outstanding compute capabilities but also with a gaming performance on the level of the RTX 2080. Since we unfortunately didn’t receive a Radeon VII before the launch, we use the very detailed benchmarks of our colleagues from ComputerBase.de.
In the gaming benchmarks, ComputerBase found out that the Radeon VII has a tough time compared to Nvidia’s competitors. On UHD resolution, the graphics card is 72 percent compared to the RTX 2080 Ti and thus 3 percent behind the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition and 9 percent behind the RTX 2080 Founders Edition. Only with overclocking does it beat the GTX 1080 Ti by 5 percent and is only 1 percent behind the RTX 2080. Only in one game it is superior to the RTX 2080 without overclocking, namely Far Cry 5 (5 percent). In overclocked mode, the games are Call of Duty: WWII (3 percent), Destiny 2 (on par), Elex (8 percent), Far Cry 5 (13 percent), Jurassic World (7 percent), Middle-earth: Shadows of War (4 percent), Monster Hunter World (2 percent) and Star Wars: Battlefront 2 (7 percent).
On WQHD things look similar or worse. The GTX 1080 Ti has a 5 percent overall advantage over the standard-clocked Radeon VII, and the RTX 2080 even has a 13 percent advantage. On Full HD the gradient rises again. Here the Radeon VII is on a par with the RTX 2070, 9 percent faster is the GTX 1080 Ti and 15 percent faster is the RTX 2080. The distance to the RX Vega 64 also shrinks considerably. The Radeon VII is in WQHD only 22 percent, in Full HD even only 14 percent ahead of the graphics card, while in UHD it was still 28 percent, with overclocking even 40 percent ahead.
Power consumption, temperature, volume
The power consumption of the Radeon VII is quite a delicate topic because of the high TDP of 300 watts. Without load, however, the consumption of 12 watts is okay and is below the RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition. For YouTube videos, only the GTX 1080 FE with 17 watts is superior to the Radeon VII with 18 watts consumption. The next card, the RTX 2060 Founders Edition, consumes considerably more power at 23 watts. In games, however, things look different. Here, the Radeon VII consumes an average of 277 watts and thus as much as the RTX 2080 Ti. In overclocked mode the consumption is even highest with 309 watts, closely followed by the normally clocked RX Vega 64 with 303 watts. It is also exciting, however, that undervolting brings a clear advantage with the Radeon VII. While the undervolted graphics card performs as well as the standard clocked version, the consumption is significantly lower. This is reflected in the performance per watt rating. Here it beats the RTX 2080 by just under 1 percent and surpasses itself by 34 percent.
With the new cooler of the Radeon VII, the subject of noise level is also important. Due to the high TDP it has a lot of work to do and is disturbingly loud under load. Here, the fans rotate to a good 2,900 revolutions per minute. The graphics card thus reaches 51 decibels, which corresponds to the value of the RX Vega 64. The Founders Edition of the RTX 2080, on the other hand, only reached a good 39 decibels when playing, which is significantly quieter. The undervolted version of the Radeon VII can keep up here with 42 decibels much better. In the Windows desktop, however, the graphics card is generally quiet. Only 28.5 decibels can be measured here, which is below the competitor’s values of 29 decibels for the Pascal Founders Edition and 31 decibels for the Turing Founders Edition (RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti).
But the loud cooler is apparently necessary in many games. While in the Windows desktop the temperature is still at 30 degrees Celsius and thus at the peak value, the Radeon VII doesn’t do so well in gaming. In Kingdom Come: Deliverance it reaches 78 degrees Celsius and thus 3 degrees Celsius more than the RTX 2080. The undervoltage doesn’t seem to help here because the value here is 80 degrees Celsius. On the other hand, overclocking at the same voltage doesn’t matter, as the value with the overclocked Radeon VII is 77 degrees Celsius. Only the GTX 1080 FE with 82, the GTX 1080 Ti FE with 84 and the RX Vega 64 with 85 degrees Celsius are getting hotter.
Overclocking: hardly possible without good cooling
The testers at Computerbase also have overclock, of course. However, this turned out to be more difficult than expected. This makes the Radeon VII much warmer than expected. With the AMD tool WattMan some parameters of the graphics card can be changed. While with the RX Vega 64 the power limit could be increased up to 50 percent, with the Radeon VII this was no longer possible. A maximum of 20 percent was possible here, but the programme does not allow any more. The problem is rather the high temperature. With the standard voltage of 1.055 Volt, 1.926 MHz clock rate can be achieved. In games, however, this only means a clock rate of a good 1.880 MHz. Moreover, more voltage is not possible with the standard cooler, as the temperature rose significantly. This is where only water coolers might help.
Conclusion: not faster than the RTX 2080, but 16 gigabytes HBM2
As a conclusion to the Radeon VII it can be said that it is probably a quite special card. With 16 gigabytes of HBM2 memory, the next few years in the gaming sector are not a problem. For render workloads and other specialties, the high bandwidth and high memory are likely to be an additional big plus. However, you hardly get it full during gaming, and here the disadvantages of the Radeon VII also show up. Compared to the RX Vega 64, the performance has increased significantly, but the graphics card can’t really approach the RTX 2080 without overclocking. Besides, the price is a little steep. The currently cheapest Radeon VII costs $699 US, in Europe we start at 729 euros. However, you get a good custom version of the RTX 2080 without any problems for this amount of money. So all in all the Radeon VII leaves us with a somewhat mixed taste.