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AMD Radeon Vega Frontier Edition 16GB Review

Summary & Conclusion

There’s a classic 1955 film noir called The Big Bluff. What made the movie so good was that it was hard to tell who’d end up dead and who’d end up in whose arms. AMD similarly seems to have mastered the art of keeping enthusiasts on the edges of their seats as well. After a year of teasing us with tales of the Vega architecture, it's just days away from releasing three desktop-oriented gaming cards and a driver that'll enable the much-discussed Draw Stream Binning Rasterizer. If the impact of that software falls flat, this could be much ado about very little.

Rather than speculate about the imminent future, let's take stock of where we are now with Radeon Vega Frontier Edition. Unfortunately, the present state of affairs is decidedly mundane.

First the good news. AMD isn’t trying to sell its Frontier Edition card as a gaming product. Everyone has to make up their own mind about what this product is supposed to do. What we can say, though, is that it works in multiple contexts, including gaming. Setting aside popular workstation benchmarks that have been rendered meaningless by years of driver optimizations, we find that Radeon Vega FE does well in full installations of several professional applications. It also offers good API support and solid color depth to boot. OpenGL overlays are supported, which is more than can be said for Nvidia's Titan Xp, which is limited to DirectX.

We were surprised by AMD's performance in the prosumer space. Radeon Vega Frontier Edition competes with graphics cards with a similar feature set, but are much more expensive. That's as long as the Radeon Pro drivers play along, of course. AMD might not say so, but the Radeon Vega FE is a true WX-caliber piece of hardware, and not just an option for tinkerers. What pegs this as a gaming/workstation hybrid is really just its hybrid driver. The gaming element is present in the inclusion of game profiles and WattMan. Flip the Radeon Pro switch, though, and professional applications play right along.

Although gaming does work, it's not quite all of the way there yet. Again, we're not going to speculate about what the future might hold. Nobody knows for sure how Radeon RX Vega 64 will compare, or how the desktop-oriented flagship's drivers might differ. We'd like to be pleasantly surprised of course, but as of right now, AMD's Radeon Vega FE falls short in gaming against the much cheaper GeForce GTX 1080.

Conclusion

It’s hard to reach a conclusion. We just can’t speak to what might or might not be right around the corner. Either way, a fast workstation graphics card that can also be used for gaming does have a certain charm. The Radeon Vega FE’s price point helps a lot as well. We wouldn’t recommend it for the well-off gamer, but those who find themselves in the prosumer space may want to consider it as an alternative to pricier pro boards.

If your workstation-class application works well with AMD's Radeon Vega FE, then this card becomes a steal for the performance you get. That's full driver support in high-end titles for a fraction of the competition's asking price.


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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
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • 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
    Reply
  • 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*
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • sparkyman215
    20013128 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.
    Reply
  • nyannyan
    Looks like a great choice for workstations.
    Reply
  • 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...
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply