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AMD takes aim at Nvidia with high-end Vega graphics cards

How will they stack up?

AMD Radeon Vega art AMD
Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

AMD finally unveiled its Radeon RX Vega line of GPUs at the SIGGRAPH conference yesterday, looking to get back in the ring with Nvidia when it comes to the market for enthusiast consumer gaming computers.

The Vega family will debut with three different Vega graphics cards, all of which are scheduled to launch Aug. 14. The base model is the Radeon RX Vega 56, with 56 compute units, which will go for a suggested retail price of $399. Next up is the Radeon RX Vega 64, which bumps up the compute units to 64 for an additional $100.

Both of those are air-cooled cards. AMD is also releasing a more powerful version of the RX Vega 64 that uses liquid cooling, but it will only be available in a bundle called a Radeon Pack. All three cards feature 8 GB of video memory.

The Radeon Packs represent an attempt by AMD to convince customers to pair the next-generation capabilities of the Vega cards with hardware and software to show off that power. Each of the three cards will be sold in a Radeon Pack, which bumps up the price by $100 and includes copies of two major Bethesda Softworks-published games from 2017: Prey, which was released in May, and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, which launches at the end of October.

  • the Radeon Red Pack comes with a Radeon RX Vega 56 for $499
  • the Radeon Black Pack comes with a Radeon RX Vega 64 for $599
  • the Radeon Aqua Pack comes with a liquid-cooled Radeon RX Vega 64 for $699

Radeon Pack buyers will also be entitled to a $100 discount on a package of select AMD Ryzen 7 processors and compatible motherboards, and a $200 discount on the purchase of a Samsung CF791 monitor. That 34-inch display, which features a 21:9 “ultrawide” aspect ratio and a 3440x1440 resolution, retails for $949.99.

AMD Radeon RX Vega circuit board
The circuit board for an AMD Radeon RX Vega GPU.

When AMD announced Vega back at CES 2017 in January, it said the GPUs would deliver “more than 200% of the throughput-per-clock over previous Radeon architectures” in processing geometry. That’s compared to the R9 Fury X, the company’s previous top-line card, which debuted in the summer of 2015.

The R9 Fury X was the first GPU with AMD’s high-bandwidth memory, and the company is touting its second-generation HBM2 as “doubling the bandwidth-per-pin” over its predecessor. AMD says the technology offers 60 percent more memory bandwidth than GDDR5 RAM, which is found in all of Nvidia’s modern video cards save for the highest-end GPUs (the GTX 1080, 1080 Ti, Titan X and Titan Xp use GDDR5X memory).

That said, it seems like AMD is being cagey about the RX Vega cards’ performance, even when it comes to the company’s own benchmarks. The RX Vega 56 and RX Vega 64 are priced in the same ballpark as Nvidia’s GTX 1070 ($379) and GTX 1080 ($499), respectively, and from the limited information we have at this point, it appears that the latter card is designed to match the GTX 1080’s performance.

AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 performance comparison AMD via AnandTech

As you can see in the slide from AMD above, the company is highlighting the range of minimum frame rates (or “guaranteed experiences”) in comparing the RX Vega 64 to the previous high-end AMD card, the R9 Fury X, and Nvidia’s GTX 980 Ti and GTX 1080. For gaming at 1440p ultrawide resolution — across Ashes of the Singularity, Battlefield 1, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Doom, Forza Motorsport, Gears of War, Hitman, Sniper Elite 4 and Warhammer — AMD’s benchmarks indicate that the RX Vega 64 offers a higher frame rate floor (53 frames per second versus 45 fps) than the GTX 1080’s and a ceiling that’s just 2 fps lower.

We’ll have to wait two more weeks to evaluate the real-world performance of the RX Vega line. And Nvidia does, of course, have its own next-generation Volta architecture waiting in the wings, likely for an early 2018 debut.

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