Due to limited availability of Vega GPU/HBM2 packages and modest overclocking headroom, Gigabyte isn’t using the Aorus brand for its flagship this time around. Instead, the company is playing it safe with a Gaming OC model. But that’s not a bad thing (particularly when AMD leaves so much room for improvement with its reference design).
Unlike Sapphire, Gigabyte didn’t attempt the impossible with these cards, and instead focused on a rational solution to the overclocking problem. Detailed analysis of both Gigabyte cards is still to come, but we can already spoilt the fact that both cards do their jobs exactly like you’d expect. That is to say they work well, as long as you focus on stable usability, not extreme benchmarks.
Unboxing, Optics, And Haptics
Both of Gigabyte’s cards are like floating elves compared to the Sapphire RX Vega 64 Nitro Plus. Weighing in at just over 1kg, they’re an astonishing 600g lighter than Sapphire’s monstrous offering. That’s less than 63%! As for a workhorse vs. feasibility study, well, we’ll see about that.
Gigabyte’s cards are also much more svelte than Sapphire’s. These are relatively short cards with installation lengths of just 27.8cm from the external surface of the slot bracket to the end of the radiator cover. With a height of 13cm from the top edge of the mainboard slot to the top of the radiator cover, as well as a thickness of 4.7cm from the board to the front of the radiator cover, the result is a rather compact card.
The two counter-rotating fans, each with a rotor blade diameter of 9.5cm, sit in a 10cm-diameter opening. With their special shape, a total of 11 rotor blades per fan helps manage airflow, turbulence, and static pressure. This should prove useful when it comes to cooling the card.
The backplate dispenses with the Aorus logo, which was still present on the pre-production model. The copper insert, which is located above the back of the package, separates the active backplate used for cooling from this area and also cools, at least a little bit. In the subsequent product tests we will go into more detail about the idea behind this very special solution.
After all, at least 5 mm should still be planned for the rear back plate, which can cause problems with some motherboards if the heat sink is too tight at the slot or the CPU cooler turns out to be extremely large.
You can already clearly see on the underside of the card that Gigabyte has sharpened the shape of the vertical slats a little bit. The oblique position and the waveform are designed to use the airflow for more efficient cooling. We’ll look into this very carefully at a later stage.
The top side of the page also clearly shows that Gigabyte's financial planner has deliberately set the red pencil. No RGB effects and no other LED gimmicks, but a somewhat jagged plastic desert of injection moulding and printed orange colour accents. The white Gigabyte logo is also only printed. In addition, two 8-pin sockets for external power supply are sufficient for both models.
The closed end of the card does not show much other than the end of the two 8mm and three 6mm heatpipes and the connection cable of the fans. On the printed circuit board, other possible jacks were provided (e. g. RGB output) which were omitted during the development process.
The slot bracket is of great interest in that it has six display outputs, rather than the reference card’s five. Three HDMI 2.0 connectors and three DisplayPort 1.4 interfaces are available to the user. This means that the card is also suitable for connecting up to six monitors in AMD's Eyefinity mode.
Teardown And First Impressions
Of course, we have also completely dismantled the cards and analyzed everything up to the circuit layout and the components used. First of all, we show the cooling system, in which the backplate was actively integrated into the concept. The flat heatpipe connects some of the voltage transformers on the back of the board to the cooler parts of the backplate and also leads over the areas behind a part of the coils. In addition, thermal conduction pads connect the copper plate and other areas of the board to the backplate.
The Direct Heat Touch (DHT) cooler is interesting in that the heatpipes lie directly on the GPU; there’s no extra heat sink. That could lead to some problems, but it doesn’t have to. We’ll see in our tests whether or not this works. At least now we know how they managed to keep the card’s weight at 1kg and save on its costs.
The printed circuit board is Gigabyte’s own design, not AMD’s reference, and we can see where some cost-saving decisions were made. For example, the space where Gigabyte normally uses an 8-bit Holtek microprocessor for RGB effects is free and unused, as is the spot for external LED connections. We’ll analyze the component assembly and circuit layout in our full review.
Another interesting solution is to banish some of the voltage transformers, in this case the low-side VRM from the row on the top, to the back of the board.
We can also see this clearly on the back. It also makes sense now that Gigabyte uses an extra heatpipe in the backplate. Naturally, we’ll use our thermal imaging technology to analyze how well this concept works out.
Market And Availability
Now for the bad news: Our sources tell us that AIB partners have received only a few chips—in the mid-four-digit range—from AMD for Vega 64 cards. This general shortage is currently preventing mass production of Gigabyte’s cards, because it’s not possible to constantly start and stop a production line, or even have it “paused” for a long period of time. Costs and the associated labor would simply be too high.