Update, 8/4/17, 11:16am PT: Editor's Note: Whether or not Vega is a mining "beast" or not, we should point out that it's clear AMD is concerned about miners gobbling up Vega cards once they go on sale. From our original Vega coverage earlier this week:
Recognizing that the Polaris-based cards in its product stack are being gobbled up by cryptocurrency miners and largely unavailable to gamers, AMD came up with the concept of Radeon Packs. These packs promise discounts when PC builders buy certain components at the same time as their new graphics card.
Scott Herkelman, AMD's gaming business unit VP & GM had this to say more specifically about mining optimizations during a presentation last weekend:
These guys who do this professionally, let's just say they are hackers more than you'd think . . . Since ours [GPUs] are based on OpenCL, they can go in there and manipulate and do things that are outside of our bounds. . . . That can really increase the hash rate.
There are public numbers [hash rate]. . . And there are private hash rate numbers that we see and just kind of go whoa. . . It's kind of crazy what you would see from crypto-currency guys that do this for a living. They hire tons of software folks . . . And they hack into the firmware.
We would never disable anything in our GPU that would hurt anything anywhere, especially for gaming. It's a very delicate balance as you look at hindering anything, especially in compute . . . You would have to hinder something in compute, which would then hinder your game performance, or other alternatives for other industries that might be using our gaming cards to solve other things . . .
Original article, 8/3/17, 3:30pm PT:
AMD’s Vega 64 and Vega 56 graphics cards are slated for release on August 14, and the rumors of their potential performance are gaining attention. The most recent tease suggests that Vega could be a powerhouse at mining Ethereum, which could be true, but don’t get fooled by the hype.
Earlier today, Overclock3D.net and Videocardz.com released reports that suggest that AMD’s upcoming Vega cards would offer incredible Ethereum mining performance, the likes of which no single GPU could ever dream of pulling off before Vega. Overclock3D.net reported that Vega cards would offer 70-100 MH/s of Ethereum mining performance, whereas Videocardz.com reported that its source said 60 MH/s.
Those figures are mighty impressive, but you probably shouldn’t hold your breath for those results. To put those numbers into perspective, a GTX 1070, which is currently one of the most powerful Ethereum mining options available, can usually mine between 27MH/s and 32MH/s. AMD’s Fury lineup offers comparable performance to Nvidia’s GTX 1070. A 100MH/s mining machine would typically require three to four GPUs. We expect the Vega cards to perform well, but not as well as the rumors suggest.
It should also be noted that Overclock3D.net’s source is an employee from Overclockers UK known as Gibbo, who posted “Seems the hash rate on VEGA is 70-100 per card, which is insanely good,” without himself offering any form of source for the information.
Videocardz.com’s prediction is somewhat tempered compared to Overclock3D.net’s report, and what it suggests is somewhat more plausible. Even so, we would still suggest you wait for proper tests before you believe the hype. AMD recently started shipping the Vega Frontier Edition, and at least one crypto-mining-centric website took one for a spin to see how well it would perform: 1stminingrig recorded 38.5 MH/s with its Vega Frontier Edition card. We would expect the gaming-focused Vega cards to offer somewhat less mining performance than the $1,000 workstation card, but 30+ MH/s wouldn’t be a surprise.
Apparently, the latest version of Radeon Software Crimson ReLive doubles the hash rate performance of Vega-based GPUs. If that assertion proves true, it could push the Ethereum mining performance of Vega chips into the 70+ MH/s range.
The idea that a driver could double the performance of a GPU isn’t unprecedented--Nvidia just released a driver this week that tripled the compute performance of Titan Xp cards. It’s also not unfathomable that AMD’s next-generation GPUs would offer significant gains over previous generations. Since the genesis of GPU-based crypto mining, AMD GPUs have always offered higher performance generation over generation than Nvidia.
The Vega lineup, especially, has the potential to shake up the cryptomining scene. The algorithms that GPUs crunch through to uncover cryptocoins are much more memory-intensive than they are GPU-intensive. Many cryptominers tune their cards to boost the memory clock as high as possible and undervolt the GPU to keep the power draw as low as possible. The faster the memory, the better the performance. And Vega GPUs are equipped with 16GB of HBM2 memory that offers nearly 500 GB/s of memory bandwidth.
There’s no reason that Vega wouldn’t offer better mining performance than previous generation GPUs, but it’s a little too early to believe that these cards would offer such a dramatic performance jump. Vega launch day is less than two weeks away, so it won’t be long before we know the truth.
We’ve reached out to AMD for comment, but we don’t expect the company to confirm or deny the performance claims ahead of the review embargo.