AMD Radeon Vega Frontier Edition 16GB Review

AMD’s goal with its Radeon Vega Frontier Edition seems clear: try to do everything well. Nvidia has to segment its portfolio carefully; it doesn't want to cannibalize sales of the Quadro P6000 with Titan Xp. But AMD doesn't have that problem. Radeon RX Vega 64 isn't here yet, so pros and gamers alike are putting the Frontier Edition board through its paces.

The company even encourages this by allowing the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition card to use AMD's Radeon Pro certified drivers, without which many workstation-class applications won't even start. The same can’t be said for Nvidia’s Titan Xp. No matter if you’re a prosumer who dabbles in high-end hardware for work and play, or a scientist eager to access lots of floating-point compute performance, this card is supposed to be a jack-of-all-trades.

Because we're still waiting for the Vega card meant to address gamers, we're not going to focus on that market exclusively (although we do have gaming benchmarks to show as well). Instead, you'll see us mix it up with workstation-class comparisons and high-end desktop cards. Included in the mix is Nvidia's Quadro P6000, which is around three times more expensive than AMD's Frontier Edition board.

Look, Feel & Connectors

AMD's Radeon Vega FE weighs in at a solid 1050g. Its length, from the slot bracket's edge to the end of the cooler, is 26.8cm. Its height, from the bottom of the PCIe slot to the cooler's top, is 10.5cm. A depth of 3.5cm makes this a true dual-slot card, with the backplate needing another 0.4cm of clearance on the other side.

Both the card’s cover and backplate are made of blue anodized aluminum that has a high-quality feel to it. All of the screws are painted black. A Radeon logo printed on the cover and the logo cube provide the only splashes of dissimilar color. This follows the theme of AMD's other Pro WX cards, though Vega FE's blue is noticeably darker and more saturated.

The card's top sports a pair of eight-pin auxiliary power connectors, as well as the aforementioned Radeon logo cube that lights up yellow. It's made from acrylic and recessed into the card’s cover.

The Radeon Vega FE's end is closed. It sports mounting holes, which are fairly standard for workstation-oriented graphics cards. Around front, the matte black anodized slot cover hosts three DisplayPort connectors and one HDMI 2.0 output. The omission of DVI connectivity makes sense from an airflow perspective; the slot cover also serves as the card's exhaust vent and needs to be as free-flowing as possible.

Model Radeon Vega FE
Radeon R9 Fury X Titan Xp Quadro P6000
GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
GPUVega 10
Fiji XTGP102 (450-A1)GP102 (350-K1-A1)
GPU Size
486mm²596mm²471mm² 471mm² 
Transistors12.5 billion
8.9 Billion
12 Billion12 Billion
GPU Clock Frequency (Base/Boost)
1382 MHz
1600 MHz
Unknown
1050 MHz
1480 MHz
1582 MHz
1506 MHz
1645 MHz
1480 MHz
1582 MHz
Shaders/SIMD4096/644096/64
3840/303584/28
Texture Units/ROPS
256/64256/64240/96224/88
Pixel Fillrate
88.4 GPixel/s
67.2 GPixel/s
151.9 GPixel/s
144.6 GPixel/s141.7 GPixel/s
Texture Fillrate
353.8 GTexel/s
268.8 GTexel/s379.7 GTexel/s361.4 GTexel/s354.1 GTexel/s
Memory Bus
2048-bit
4096-bit
384-bit
352-bit
Memory Type
HBM2HBMGDDR5XGDDR5X
Memory Bandwidth
483.8 GB/s512.0 GB/s547.6 GB/s432.0 GB/s
484.0 GB/s
Memory Data Rate
1.89 Gb/s1.0 Gb/s11.4 Gb/s9 Gb/s11.0 Gb/s
Memory Size
16GB
4GB
12GB
24GB
11GB
DX12 Feature Level12_112_012_112_1
Aux. Power Connectors
2× 8-pin2× 8-pin6 + 8-pin8-pin
6 + 8-pin
TDP
300W275W<250W
<225W
<250W

Test System & Methodology

We introduced our new test system and methodology in How We Test Graphics Cards. If you'd like more detail about our general approach, check that piece out. Note that, in order to avoid any potential CPU bottlenecks when testing AMD's powerful graphics card, we've upgraded our CPU and its cooling solution in the meantime.

The hardware used in our lab includes:

Test Equipment & Environment
System
- Intel Core i7-6900K @4.3 GHz
- MSI X99S XPower Gaming Titanium
- Corsair Vengeance DDR4-3200
- 1x 1TB Toshiba OCZ RD400 (M.2, System)
- 2x 960GB Toshiba OCZ TR150 (Storage, Images)
- be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11, 850W Power Supply Unit (PSU)
Cooling
- Alphacool Eisblock XPX
- Alphacool Eiszeit 2000 Chiller
- 2x Be Quiet! Silent Wings 3 PWM (Closed Case Simulation)
- Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut (Used when Switching Coolers)
PC Case
- Lian Li PC-T70 with Extension Kit and Mods
- Configurations: Open Benchtable, Closed Case
Monitor- Eizo EV3237-BK

Power Consumption Measurement
- Contact-free DC Measurement at PCIe Slot (Using a Riser Card)
- Contact-free DC Measurement at External Auxiliary Power Supply Cable
- Direct Voltage Measurement at Power Supply
- 2x Rohde & Schwarz HMO 3054, 500MHz Digital Multi-Channel Oscilloscope with Storage Function
- 4x Rohde & Schwarz HZO50 Current Probe (1mA - 30A, 100kHz, DC)
- 4x Rohde & Schwarz HZ355 (10:1 Probes, 500MHz)
- 1x Rohde & Schwarz HMC 8012 Digital Multimeter with Storage Function

Thermal Measurement
- 1x Optris PI640 80Hz Infrared Camera + PI Connect
- Real-Time Infrared Monitoring and Recording

Noise Measurement
- NTI Audio M2211 (with Calibration File, Low Cut at 50Hz)
- Steinberg UR12 (with Phantom Power for Microphones)
- Creative X7, Smaart v.7
- Custom-Made Proprietary Measurement Chamber, 3.5 x 1.8 x 2.2m (L x D x H)
- Perpendicular to Center of Noise Source(s), Measurement Distance of 50cm
- Noise Level in dB(A) (Slow), Real-time Frequency Analyzer (RTA)
- Graphical Frequency Spectrum of Noise
Drivers
- Radeon: 17.20.1035
- Quadro: R381 U2 (382.05)
Operating System
- Windows 10 Pro (Creators Update, All Updates)

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  • 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