In order to get the most out of the new Radeon VII, der8auer does some tricks. He’ s working on the graphics card with dry ice and liquid metal.
Radeon VII: What else can you get out of it?
At CES 2019 AMD surprisingly presented a new graphics card. The Radeon VII is a kind of temporary bridge, until AMD hits the market with Navi. In 2020, the absolute high-end will once again be a topic for the company. At the moment AMD have to leave this sector to the competition called Nvidia. The Turing portfolio led by the RTX 2080 Ti is simply too strong to compete with. However, with the Radeon VII, AMD is taking a very special path. This is actually just a Radeon Instinct MI50 with display connections. On the one hand, this has the advantage that 16 gigabytes of HBM2 memory are also installed, but on the other hand it increases the price and also factors such as power consumption. Also the gaming performance is not yet the real thing.
When it comes to overclocking, the Radeon VII is therefore difficult to judge. The power target can only be increased by a good 20 percent, which makes overclocking difficult. The cooler is also not really designed for the high waste heat of the Vega 20 chip. Without extreme actions, you can’t really get much out of the Radeon VII. The extreme overclocker Roman Hartung, also known as der8auer, shows in two videos what good cooling and liquid metal can do.
Driver problems prevent overclocking
Hartung has encountered several problems which he himself still regards as teething troubles of the Radeon VII. In his first attempt he manually overclocked the graphics card with the original cooler mounted. He found that the pre-launch driver does not allow any program to access the graphics card. Not even AMD’s own WattMan tool recognized the Radeon VII. Only in the driver der8auer could overclock, but not really successful. With 50 MHz overclocking, the benchmark result dropped from 7,700 points to a good 4,000 points.
After consultation with other testers and AMD itself it was clear: the driver is still a problem, but should work. There is a heat problem with the Radeon VII that prevents overclocking. To solve this problem, Roman Hartung simply attached a liquid nitrogen container to the graphics card and filled it with dry ice. Even without further measures, the benchmark result rose by a good 150 points, as the boost cycle was kept significantly better. Manual overclocking did not work even at the low temperatures of -25 degrees Celsius. The reason for this is also the junction temperature, which was partly read at 65,000 degrees Celsius during the tests. Thereupon der8auer still tried to work with the auto overclocking feature in the WattMan tool. As a result of the cooling and automatic overclocking, the clock rate rose to over 2,000 MHz, where previously only 1,780 MHz was possible. Manually the whole thing didn’t work again, which indicates a bad driver. Hartung has reached a maximum of 2,100 MHz.
Liquid metal instead of graphite pad brings only little
In another video Roman Hartung worked with liquid metal. The Radeon VII has a graphite pad between the cooler and the GPU chip instead of heat conducting paste. This should transfer the heat somewhat better than a heat conducting paste. However, this is nothing compared to liquid metal. Therefore der8auer removed the pad from the Vega 20 chip and the cooler and applied liquid metal. However, the problem was that the pad is relatively thick. To bridge the gap, der8auer applied significantly more liquid metal than usual and refitted the original cooler.
The Radeon VII with liquid metal already achieved 100 points more in the SuperPosition benchmark without any further optimization. The minimum clock rate was also slightly higher at 1.733 MHz, while the fan speed decreased. The junction temperature has also dropped slightly from 106 to 101 degrees Celsius, but the maximum temperature has remained the same at 73 degrees Celsius. This shows that the original graphite pad does its job well, so it makes little sense to equip the Radeon VII with liquid metal.