AMD Radeon VII 16GB Review: A Surprise Attack on GeForce RTX 2080

Fan Speed and Noise

AMD does not implement a semi-passive mode, which we're fine with. At idle, the three axial fans spin between 800 and 820 RPM, operating quietly. We did, however, measure some variation in their rotational speed using a laser tachometer, despite receiving the same PWM signal. At higher speeds, they give off a slight oscillating noise since their differences fall into an audible frequency.

That floating noise isn't the worst of Radeon VII's acoustic issues, though. A peek at the fan curve makes it clear how aggressive AMD is being with Vega 20's performance. In less than three seconds, the card goes from its idle fan speed straight up to its maximum. As you can imagine, this makes for a jarring experience compared to competing solutions that ramp up slowly in response to load. In both our U.S. and German labs, test notes indicate initial alarm that something was malfunctioning.

As mentioned on the first page, we approached AMD about our findings and were told that this behavior is intended. Although Radeon VII exhibits similar maximum-load acoustic performance as the reference Radeon RX Vega 64, that quick ramp from idle to 2,900 RPM explains why the new card seems so much louder. Again, the proposed solution is a manual adjustment in WattMan. Unfortunately, any attempt to relax Radeon VII's ability to cool itself off is going to cost you sustainable clock rates, negatively affecting performance.

AMD maintains that enthusiasts care more about their frame rates than noise, and we'd tend to agree. In this case, however, Nvidia's GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition card doesn't require the same sort of trade-off. Bear in mind that Nvidia's reference design does cost $100 more than Radeon VII. How do the two cards size up? Let's have a look at the measured values for both products, side by side.


AMD Radeon VII

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 FE

Maximum Fan Speed, Open Test Bench

2,927 RPM (Gaming workload)

1,907 RPM (Gaming workload)

Average Fan Speed, Open Test Bench

2,911 RPM (Warmed up)

1,887 RPM  (Warmed up)

Maximum Fan Speed, Closed Case

2,949 RPM (Gaming workload)

1,959 RPM (Gaming workload)

Average Fan Speed, Closed Case

2,927 RPM (Warmed up)

1,942 RPM (Warmed up)

Peak Noise Measurements (Gaming workload)

49.2 dB(A), Closed case

39.6 dB(A), Closed case

Idle Noise Measurements

32.1 dB(A)

31.3 dB(A)

Spectrum Analysis

The 49.2 dB(A) result is based on the 2,947 RPM fan speed observed in a closed case. We applied our gaming load with Radeon VII on an open test bench in our measurement chamber and fixed the card's fans to 2,950 RPM, replicating the same conditions.

With GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition subjected to similar methodology, AMD's flagship ended up a full 10 dB(A) higher. What AMD asks of its cooler in order to match Nvidia's performance is not acceptable at the same price point.

Under load, Radeon VII is simply too loud. You can tune it for quieter operation if you want. But if you ran Nvidia's GeForce RTX 2080 at the same fan speeds that AMD is using, its TU104 GPU would achieve higher GPU Boost frequencies, improving its relative position. A more fair comparison would involve benchmarking both cards at the same noise levels. After all, Radeon VII is tuned for performance, ignoring power and noise, while GeForce RTX 2080 offers a better balance between all three variables.

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  • cknobman
    I have to say (as an AMD fan) that I am a little disappointed with this card, especially given the price point.
  • velocityg4
    This might be an attack on the RTX 2080 if the price was closer to that of an RTX 2070. Looking at the results in the article. It only approaches RTX 2080 performance in games which tend to favor AMD cards. Yet even in those it barely surpases the RTX 2080. While the RTX 2080 soundly beats it in nVidia optimized titles. I'd say it would be an RTX 2075 if such a thing existed.

    Don't get me wrong. It is still a better card than an RTX 2070. But it's performance doesn't justify RTX 2080 pricing. Based on current pricing on PCParticker of the 2070 and 2080. $600 USD would be a price better suited for it.

    Compute is a different matter. Depending on your specific work requirements. You can get some great bang for your buck.

    Still it would be nice if AMD could blow out the pricing in the GPU segment as it does in the CPU segment. Although their strategy may be more of an attack on the compute segment. Given the large amount of memory and FP64 performance.

    134065 said:
    Under the hood, AMD’s Vega 20 graphics processor looks a lot like the Vega 10 powering Radeon RX Vega 64. But a shift from 14nm manufacturing at GlobalFoundries to TSMC’s 7nm node makes it possible for AMD to operate Vega 20 at much higher clock rates than its processor.


    Did you mean predecessor?
  • richardvday
    they cant lower the price without losing money on each card that memory cost so much its half of the BOM
  • King_V
    2558094 said:
    they cant lower the price without losing money on each card that memory cost so much its half of the BOM


    I know this has been mentioned, but do we have any hard data where we know this for certain?

    I remember asking someone before, and they posted a link, but even that seemed to be a he-said-she-said kind of thing.


    I do have to agree, though, overall, with a vague disappointment. Given its performance, value-wise, it seems this is worthwhile only if you really want at least two of the games in the bundle.


    I hadn't thought about what AMD's motivation was, but the thought that even AMD was caught a little by surprise at Nvidia's somewhat arrogant pricing for the RTX 2070/2080/2080Ti, and "smelled blood" as it were, is somewhat plausible.
  • redgarl
    Something is wrong with your Tomb Raider bench, techspot results are giving the RVII the victory.
  • timtiminhouston
    I am an AMD fan but AMD needs to stop letting sales gurus dictate everything. The fact is AMD is WAY behind Nvidia at this point, and there is absolutely no way they should have disabled anything from the datacenter card to make up for not having Tensor OR Ray Tracing; they should have only had less memory. I understand reviewers trying not to savage the card, but let's be honest, if I won this card I would probably sell it unopened. I am all about GPGPU, and in the HD7970 at least I had massive compute compared to the competition (125k Pyrit hashes/sec), even though Nvidia was still better in most games. Not only is this card not better in gaming, it is way behind in GPGPU technology. I look forward to buying a used RTX card in a year or two to see what else the Tensor cores can be used for on Linux, but not so much this card. If I saw it for $300 on Craigslist I might be tempted, but GPU and memory prices are still way over inflated due to the cryptoscam boom. Luckily it looks like they are running short of suckers. This is a hard pass, and no way I can recommend it. A used GTX 1070 or Vega 56 for 200 is far better bang for buck. Hold your money for a year or so.
  • edjetorsy
    I am not impressed by this AMD graphical card at almost the same price for a RTX2080 more performance and lower power consumption.
    The Ryzen CPU however I am interested in, the 2700X is a good deal and waiting for the Ryzen 3e generation to appear and see what this baby can do compare to Intel high end . But no I own a GTX1070 il think I pass this whole RTX and Radeon VII generation, there is not so much to gain for the price at this time.
  • shapoor12
    can't understand the 331mm2 die size on readon vii while rtx 2080 have 545mm2 , amd could smash Nvidia by making bigger cards. why u doing this to yourself AMD? WHY?WHY?
  • Olle P
    At least it's the first 7nm consumer-marketed GPU to the market.
    The price cut from ~$5,000 (vanilla MI50) to $700 doesn't hurt.
    Some undervolting and -clocking should do wonders to noise and heat.

    Time to sit back and wait for Navi...
  • Fulgurant
    "Nvidia’s Turing-based cards proved this by serving up solid performance, but simultaneously turning many gamers off with steep prices. It was only when the company worked its way down to GeForce RTX 2060 and had to compete against Radeon RX Vega 56/64 that it got serious about telling a more compelling value story."

    I don't see how the 2060 is a compelling value story. Sure, it's more cost-efficient than its high-end cousins, but the 2060 offers very little in the way of a performance increase to people who were in the same price bracket previously (1070 owners), and it offers an enormous price and power premium to people who own 1060s.

    Spent ~$370 almost 3 years ago for an Nvidia card? Well now you can plop down roughly the same money for about a 15% performance increase and a 2 GB loss of VRAM. That tech-journalists actually tout this as great progress mystifies me.

    Unfortunately this newest release from AMD doesn't look like it presages significant price pressure to bring Nvidia back down to earth. Things might get better as AMD drives towards down towards the midrange segment, but who knows? Here's hoping.
  • Brian_R170
    Worlds first 7nm gaming GPU... that consumes 66% more power than the competitor's slightly-higher-performing 12nm GPU. Is it a reflection of AMD's architecture, TSMC's process, or a little of both?
  • justin.m.beauvais
    It is at least a very pretty card. Most gaming cards are bland or overly gamer styled, but this one I'd put in a case with a window. This would be amazing in a white/silver with red LEDs themed build. Also, the performance isn't bad for the price, but they should have marketed it as an RTX 2070 killer and dialed it back just a bit for power consumption relief. Even toned down a bit it would handily defeat the 2070. So... the price is disappointing, but the performance isn't... but look at those frame times and the max/mins... this thing is going to be buttery smooth to game on, well not as smooth as a 2080 Ti. Tom's is right about one thing, 1440p with a 144 hz monitor is where this card belongs (and in my white/silver, red lighting system). AMD needs to adjust their marketing... this is an experience card, not a performance one. They could market it as a smooth gaming performance card. People would pay for a smooth gaming experience... look how much they shell out for GSync.
  • timtiminhouston
    And that is the crux of the problem: there is no way I could recommend this with an honest face. It should be better, but here we are again where a card with half sized transistors from AMD is comparing poorly to a card that should on paper be inferior. When I saw the Rx 480 performance numbers I thought the same thing: it was comparable to a 28nm GTX 970 with half the memory from a Watt/perf perspective, which made no sense to me. AMD needs to fix something. I still have my HD7970 in my son's' computer, I sure miss that AMD. HD 7970/7950 were game changers. This card feels more like the HD 3xxx series.

    1696401 said:
    Worlds first 7nm gaming GPU... that consumes 66% more power than the competitor's slightly-higher-performing 12nm GPU. Is it a reflection of AMD's architecture, TSMC's process, or a little of both?
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    It's sad that both the 2080 and the VII are still close to a 1080ti, which launched back in 2017.
  • jessealanwallace
    I have to agree with everyone here.
    I have always been an AMD fanboy, in fact I run an r9 290x right now and had a 5850 before that. I have considered the 1080(non TI), but in my case i use a 3x 1080 eyefinity setup for racing/flight sim and just one 1080p freesync for FPS games.
    I just dont see an amazing upgrade out there for me at something along the same price i spent last time. ($400)

    I guess the inner cheapo in my means I am never, ever, going to spend more than around that price for a video card.

    And the next time i do shell out that amount of money for a graphics card, i want at least a %35 increase in the games i play before its worth it.
  • jessealanwallace
    I forgot to mention something.

    If AMD was really hoping to change the game, this thing should have been $100-$150 cheaper, OR draw a lot less power and make a lot less noise.

    As it stands.... meh
  • Rushnerd
    The value proposition with the Vram is great for a very small userbase, but It's unbelievable to me this isn't an 8Gb card that costs at LEAST $100 less than the 2080. Zero competition here.
  • AgentLozen
    Thanks for the Radeon VII review. I enjoyed reading it!

    The review mentions once or twice that Radeon VII is late to the party and its performance isn't stellar. A day late and a dollar short. I have to give AMD props for launching within a half a year of the 2080 compared to Vega 64 which launched 15 months later. My opinion of Vega 64 might have better a little better if it wasn't launched so far out.

    Judging Radeon VII by its power consumption and thermal performance, it looks like its Vega 64 on steroids. This card pushes its power delivery and cooling systems to their absolute limits and beyond. I'm really happy that it competes closely with the RTX 2080 but I was hoping for some additional head room over Vega 64.

    It feels like AMD didn't know who it wanted to market to despite claiming that this a high end gaming graphics card. Gamers don't need 16GB of HBM2. Gamers don't need improved FP64 performance. I like these features but it puts the focus all over the place. Radeon VII has its hand in several different pies but doesn't excel at any of those pies (remind me to rework that statement later).

    Several people have mentioned this so far and I want to reiterate:
    AMD could have reduced the clock speed of Radeon VII and cut its HBM2 reserves in half and marketed this as a RTX 2070 killer. We would have seen easier to manage thermals and a lower price. This Radeon VI (see what I did there?) would have been more appealing to a wider audience.

    Shapoor12 said:
    can't understand the 331mm2 die size on readon vii while rtx 2080 have 545mm2 , amd could smash Nvidia by making bigger cards. why u doing this to yourself AMD? WHY?WHY


    The performance : power consumption ratio of Radeon VII is MAXED out right now.
    AMD can't extract anything else from this design despite the smaller foot print.

    Quote:
    Worlds first 7nm gaming GPU... that consumes 66% more power than the competitor's slightly-higher-performing 12nm GPU. Is it a reflection of AMD's architecture, TSMC's process, or a little of both?


    That's a difficult call to make. The difference is compounded by Radeon VII being very inefficient and Turing being very well optimized. Radeon VII is built on the GCN architecture. Its antiquated despite all of the tweaks its received over the years. That's why AMD's Navi architecture is so important: it breaks away from GCN and represents a clean (and hopefully more efficient) slate.

    No matter how much a gunsmith tweaks a muzzle loading musket design, it will never be as good as a semi automatic rifle.
  • elbert
    I see AMD's card a bit different than most of the others here. For the marvel that is the first consumer 7nm GPU AMD has bitten the bullet that should give them a big advantage in a few months. The card is cut down and if AMD came with the full GPU in a VII+ water cooled it would probably surpass the 2080FE. The current card does have more video memory that should give it bit longer useful life. I would like to see how they perform in Adobe premiere as some tests have it even beating the 2080ti.
  • JQB45
    @SHAPOOR12 - die size isn't as important as the number of transistors. Because AMD is using a smaller process (7nm) they most likely didn't need 545mm2 because nearly/just as many transistors fit properly in a 331mm2.


    Also the larger die size chips cost more to make.