AMD Radeon Vega Frontier Edition 16GB Review

Board Layout & Components

Board Layout

The lack of memory modules outside of the package opened up some possibilities for AMD to get creative with the Frontier Edition PCB. Now, the voltage regulators are found where you'd expect to find GDDR5, and we're looking at a classic 6+1-phase design for power delivery to the GPU and HBM2.

A pair of eight-pin auxiliary power connectors have one coil each; they help smooth out certain voltage peaks. Interestingly, though, there are no large capacitors to be seen.

On the back of the board, we spy a densely-packed area under the GPU/memory, a PWM controller, and several other surface-mounted components.

GPU Power Supply

At the center of it all is International Rectifier's IR35217, a poorly-documented dual-output multi-phase controller able to provide six phases for the GPU and two others. A closer look reveals 12 regulator circuits though, not just six. This is a result of doubling, allowing the load from each phase to be distributed between two regulator circuits.

We suspect that AMD won’t go to all of this trouble for the lower-end XL version. The space for the doubled circuits will either be empty or the board layout will be simplified.

Six IR3598 interleaved MOSFET drivers on the back of the board are responsible for the doubling. These are the parts we pointed out earlier. The following video was taken at idle and shows how the PWM controller switches the load back and forth between the circuits. This keeps efficiency high by using only one phase, but also avoids overloading a single circuit over prolonged periods of time.

AMD Radeon Vega Frontier Edition - Idle - Phase Doublers

The actual voltage conversion for each of the 12 regulator circuits is handled by an IRF6811 on the high side and an IRF6894 on the low side, which also contains the necessary Schottky diode. Both are International Rectifier HEXFETs that we've seen AMD use before.

For the coils, AMD went with encapsulated ferrite core chokes that are soldered in the front. At 190nH, their inductivity is a bit lower than the 220nH we often see.

Memory Power Supply

The memory's one phase is supplied by the IR35217 as well. One phase is plenty, since on-package HBM2 needs a lot less power. A CHL815 gate driver is found on the back of the board. For the voltage converters, AMD went with ON Semiconductor's NTMFD4C85N, a dual N-channel MOSFET that supplies the high and low sides.

It’s interesting that AMD went with flat SMD capacitors instead of can caps. The somewhat lower capacity is compensated for by simply running two of them in parallel on the back of the board. It does make sense to spread the hot-spots and make the thermal solution's job a little easier. Waste heat is kept to a minimum, as is the cost associated with cooling.

At 220nH, the coils are a bit larger this time around. The ones corresponding to the "partial voltage" converters, which operate at a much lower frequency, are even larger at 820nH. They don’t have to deal with the same amounts of power, though.

Other Voltage Converters

Creating the VDDCI isn’t a very difficult task. But it's an important one since this regulates the transition between the internal GPU and memory signal levels. It’s essentially the I/O bus voltage between the GPU and the memory. As such, two constant sources of 1.8V and 0.8V are supplied.

Underneath the GPU, there’s an Anpec APL5620 low drop-out linear regulator, which provides the very low voltage for the phase locked loop (PLL) area.

ON Semiconductor's MC74HC238A demultiplexer drives the LED bar that shows the power supply’s load. It’s a fun gimmick, but does get annoying in a dark room at night due to its brightness.

MORE: Best Graphics Cards

MORE: Desktop GPU Performance Hierarchy Table

MORE: All Graphics Content

Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
42 comments
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
  • Ne0Wolf7
    Too bad its been so well optimized for Creo, I hate that one... Anyways, is it possible to include Autodesk Inventor in the suite? I want a card that can be used as a hybrid like this (of course I'll have to wait for it to come down in price) but its hard to decide I want something if my main software is not included in the benchmarks. Either way, I'm exited and this is a good review
    3
  • cknobman
    Not sure what to think here (in regards to hopes for the fx versions).

    I cannot expect to see a huge % boost in games just on a driver update. Maybe 10% tops?

    What bothers me the most is the heat/power and throttling concerns.
    I dont think those will change with a fx version of the card.

    So it would appear that 80-90% of the time Vega 64 will be running closer to 1200mhz, which is a major bummer and why it wont surpass a 1080.

    Almost wish there had been a review of the watercooled version as well to see if it was able to maintain higher avg mhz.
    1
  • cats_Paw
    Dont know much about workstation so my comment does not take that into consideration.
    It seems like it eats a lot of power for a very similar performance to a 1080 in gaming but at the same time its faster than Titan Xp in some workstations?

    Doesn't that suggest driver/optimization issues?
    3
  • Yarvolino
    Ho comes that Vega and 1080Ti specs are pretty much the same, even greater numbers for Vega, and the result is that Vega is 40% slower and it drains +50% of power ?

    Considering Vega also costs much more, I label it as an april fool
    -5
  • LORD_ORION
    Wow, what a horrible review.
    2 games, 1 resolution... and just where does this card fit in the vega lineup? You didn't even list the details of the other vega cards in a handy chart for comparison.

    *starts looking for reviews on other sites*
    -12
  • demonsoldier
    So there has been a few people tackling this and i found that lowering certain things about the card undervolting by 110mv has found to fix the clock speed issue keeping at a stable 1600 mhz with better cooling and it out performs the 1080 at that point. Can you guys do a second attempt at this with undervolts to see if that helps anything? AMD cards have been this way everytime they come out needing to have power draw issues fixed later on.
    0
  • sparkyman215
    Anonymous said:
    Wow, what a horrible review.
    2 games, 1 resolution... and just where does this card fit in the vega lineup? You didn't even list the details of the other vega cards in a handy chart for comparison.

    *starts looking for reviews on other sites*


    wh-what? Toms stated like four times that this *is not a gaming card* and shouldn't be treated as one. They simply included the gaming benchmarks to be inclusive. Also, there's not really a point in showing benchmarks under 4k for such high end cards, because at that point (like 1080p) it's a CPU bottleneck - the GPU has nothing much to do. Considering listing other Vega cards, those are in a different class and not relevant, however it would be nice to have the details of the other cards, I guess.
    8
  • nyannyan
    Looks like a great choice for workstations.
    1
  • yeeeeman
    Even though AMD says with each ocassion that this graphics card is not indicative of RX Vega's performance I would say that they are trying to avoid early dissapointment. The matter of the fact is that whatever feature they have disabled right now on Vega FE, it won't bring too much performance on RX Vega. Lets face it, if they were using half of CUs on Vega FE, then I would expect huge gains from RX Vega, but as it stands, RX Vega wil be ~ GTX 1080, one year later, + 100W and hot like a stove.
    I really wonder how could they make a new GPU on a big better process (28nm vs 14nm) and still get more power consumption compared to Fury X. What is more surprising is that they have the same number of CUs, approx same performance with Fury X, a lot more transistors, a lot more frequency and still the improvement is minimal.
    They are either hiding some huge block which doesn't do anything in graphics scenarios which consumes a lot of power just idling or they are rubbish at power optimization or maybe the HBM2 consumes a lot of power, don't know.
    Everything on this card is strange, starting with performance, specs, power consumption, everything...
    0
  • Pompompaihn
    Seems like a very nice card if you're a home office person and need your system to do double duty. Good enough for high end gaming and comparable to expensive NVIDIA pro cards.
    0
  • redgarl
    A workstation card... not a gaming card... however, you can use it to play games... and the drivers are not release for Vega yet... just cmon.

    Why even bothering rating the gaming benchmarks? Typical Toms... first line of these page should be "Take these with a grain of salt!"
    -3
  • Ne0Wolf7
    Anonymous said:
    Wow, what a horrible review.
    2 games, 1 resolution... and just where does this card fit in the vega lineup? You didn't even list the details of the other vega cards in a handy chart for comparison.

    *starts looking for reviews on other sites*


    Not everybody uses their computers to play video games. This is a workstation card with workstation drivers for doing work with your computer.
    1
  • Ncogneto
    The water cooled version of this card is able to maintain it's boost frequency, thus putting it right on par with the gtx 1080, and that is before the gaming version is even out the door with its enabled additional hardware, and better optimized drive. When third party partners get ahold of it and add there own optimizations and cooling solutions we should see a card that is very much as good or not better than the GTX 1080/1080ti and a substantial savings. Not sure what all the fuss is about.
    0
  • derekullo
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Wow, what a horrible review.
    2 games, 1 resolution... and just where does this card fit in the vega lineup? You didn't even list the details of the other vega cards in a handy chart for comparison.

    *starts looking for reviews on other sites*


    wh-what? Toms stated like four times that this *is not a gaming card* and shouldn't be treated as one. They simply included the gaming benchmarks to be inclusive. Also, there's not really a point in showing benchmarks under 4k for such high end cards, because at that point (like 1080p) it's a CPU bottleneck - the GPU has nothing much to do. Considering listing other Vega cards, those are in a different class and not relevant, however it would be nice to have the details of the other cards, I guess.


    Just let him switch sites.
    He obviously doesn't even read the articles as it is.
    2
  • COLGeek
    I actually have one of these (installed since 5 July). It is clearly optimized for 4k. It also handles everything I throw at it with ease. Performance is actually stronger in "pro mode" vice "game mode". I suspect future driver improvements will only make it better.

    This is a pro level device and not intended for most users. Keep all this in mind when comparing it to other products.
    2
  • caustin582
    If you're someone who is in the market for a P6000, this card is a gift from heaven. About 1/5 the price with comparable workstation performance. Truly a game changer.

    On the other hand, the gaming performance is frighteningly bad. Yes, this card wasn't intended for gaming, but the numbers here have major implications for AMD's upcoming RX Vega cards. Gaming-oriented drivers are only going to take the Vega GPU so far. Unless there's something AMD disabled on Vega FE that is *severely* holding it down, the future looks pretty grim for RX, considering how those cards are all going to have reduced specs compared to FE.
    1
  • drwho1
    16GB sounds like a lot, I mainly game, is it 8GB enough?
    0
  • dusty13
    Anonymous said:
    Not sure what to think here (in regards to hopes for the fx versions).

    I cannot expect to see a huge % boost in games just on a driver update. Maybe 10% tops?

    What bothers me the most is the heat/power and throttling concerns.
    I dont think those will change with a fx version of the card.

    So it would appear that 80-90% of the time Vega 64 will be running closer to 1200mhz, which is a major bummer and why it wont surpass a 1080.

    Almost wish there had been a review of the watercooled version as well to see if it was able to maintain higher avg mhz.


    give it two months. do not forget that this is in fact a new arch. it would not be the first time amd / ati pushed out gains way north of 25% with drivers on a new architecture. certain features are not even active yet in drivers (dsbr - a rasterizer) and that alone will give you some gains (in certain games very substantial ones it looks like) but more than that it shows how "raw" those drivers still are at this point.

    the focus seemes to (logically) have been totally on the pro part of vega not the gaming one up to now.

    i for one am going to go for the 56 ncu version of vega. since that will likely not be out before october anyway we should have a somewhat better picture of actual performance by then with drivers having matured at least a bit.
    0
  • bit_user
    Nice review, but it really needs some deep learning benchmarks.
    0
  • Ne0Wolf7
    Anonymous said:
    16GB sounds like a lot, I mainly game, is it 8GB enough?


    16 GB is a lot, that's the amount of my whole system. 8 is fine for gaming.
    If you want help choosing a card, make a thread, you'll get more help that way
    1