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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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