Hot Vega: Gigabyte Radeon RX Vega 56 Gaming OC 8G Review

A few weeks back, we published our Sapphire Radeon RX Vega 64 Nitro+ Review, introducing the first third-party Vega-based card to land in our labs. Compared to that board, Gigabyte's Radeon RX Vega 56 Gaming OC 8G is more understated, featuring easier-to-manage weight and dimensions. It's almost like this card was designed to be ordinary-looking, so as not to generate demand that Gigabyte wouldn't be able to satisfy. Nevertheless, this is a good example of a bread-and-butter solution that covers all of the bases and still offers a different approach than AMD's reference implementation.

Specifications

Market & Availability

According to our sources, AMD's board partners have only received a few thousand Vega 10 GPUs, and most of those are destined for RX Vega 64 cards. Thus, a general shortage of packages is preventing anyone from mass-producing notable quantities of either model. It's simply not possible to start and stop a production line over and over again. It costs too much time and money.

We were lucky to get our hands on a sample of Gigabyte's Radeon RX Vega 56 Gaming OC 8G, since we heard that fewer than 100 made their way into Germany. Buying a card of our own was the only way to get one into into the German lab. Here in the U.S., this is a mythical creature. Nobody has it for sale, and the only references online come from Gigabyte's site or product announcement news stories.

Unboxing, Look & Feel

Weighing just over 1kg, Gigabyte's card is an astonishing 600 grams lighter than Sapphire's Radeon RX Vega 64 Nitro+. This implementation is also considerably more compact, yielding a length of just 27.8cm, a height measurement of 13cm, and 4.7cm of width.

Two counter-rotating fans, each with a diameter of 9.5cm, are positioned inside 10cm openings. According to Gigabyte, its unique fan blade design splits airflow and guides it through curves on the fan surface, improving flow compared to traditional fans. Naturally, we'll test the efficacy of those claims shortly.

The backplate doesn't feature an Aorus logo, which was present on a pre-production model we briefly had our hands on. A copper insert placed on the back of the package is thermally isolated from this plate. Both components do play a role in cooling, though. Not pictured is a heat pipe that snakes around under the backplate, though we'll cover that in more depth, too.

Plan for an extra 5mm of clearance (at least) behind the Radeon RX Vega 56 Gaming OC 8G. This may cause problems on some motherboards, particularly if the heat sink/back plate intrude on an occupied expansion slot or large CPU cooler.

A peek in from the bottom shows that Gigabyte optimized the shape of its vertically-oriented fins. The slight tilt and wave shape are meant to create more efficient airflow, and thus improve cooling.

Up top, it's apparent that Gigabyte paid close attention to cost. There are no RGB lighting effects or other gimmicks. Instead, you get simple injection-molded plastic and printed orange-colored highlights. The white Gigabyte logo is simply printed on. And similar to AMD's reference design, Gigabyte only requires a pair of eight-pin auxiliary power connectors.

The closed back side doesn't reveal much. We catch a mere glimpse of two 8mm and three 6mm heat pipes, along with the fans' cable. On the board itself, we see solder pads for additional components (RGB output, perhaps?) that were obviously abandoned at some point during development.

The I/O bracket is interesting because it features six connectors, rather than the reference design's five. Three HDMI 2.0 ports and three DisplayPort 1.4 outputs are available simultaneously, allowing you to connect six monitors in an Eyefinity array.

In accordance with AMD's guidelines for clock rates, Gigabyte increased the Radeon RX Vega 56 Gaming OC 8G's base and Boost frequencies significantly. The company also upped its card's power limit by 55W.

In comparison to the relevant reference cards, the specs read as follows (the GeForce GTX 1070 is deliberately not used for comparison, since in many cases it's dramatically outperformed by an overclocked Radeon RX Vega 56):

Model Radeon RX Vega 64
Gigabyte RX Vega 56 Gaming OC
Radeon RX Vega 56 Reference
GeForce GTX 1070 Ti
GeForce GTX 1080
GPUVega 10Vega 10Vega 10GP104
GP104
Die Size
486 mm²486 mm²486 mm²314 mm²314 mm² 
Transistors12.5 billion
12.5 billion
12.5 billion
7.2 billion
7.2 billion
Base/Boost Clock Rate
1247/1546 MHz
1275/1590 MHz
1156/1471 MHz
1607/1683 MHz
1607/1733 MHz
Shaders/SIMDs4096/643584/56
3584/562432/19
2560/20
Texture Units/ROPS
256/64224/64
224/64152/64
160/64
Pixel Fill Rate
79.8 GPix/s
81.6 GPix/s
74 GPix/s
102.8 GPix/s
102.8 GPix/s
Texture Fill Rate
319.2 GT/s
285.6 GT/s
258.9 GT/s
244 GT/s
257.1 GT/s
Memory Interface
2048-bit2048-bit2048-bit
256-bit
256-bit
Memory Type
HBM2HBM2HBM2GDDR5
GDDR5X
Memory Bandwidth
484 GB/s410 GB/s410 GB/s256 GB/s
320 GB/s
Memory Speed
1.89 Gb/s1.6 Gb/s
1.6 Gb/s8 Gb/s
10 Gb/s
Memory Size
8GB
8GB
8GB
8GB
8GB
DX12 Feature Level
12_1
12_1
12_112_1
12_1
PCIe Power Connectors
2x 8-Pin2x 8-Pin
2x 8-Pin1x 8-Pin
1x 8-Pin
TDP
295W
265W
210W180W
180W

Test System & Measurement Methods

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. We've upgraded the CPU and the cooling system since then to make sure that nothing's holding back graphics cards as fast as this one.

The hardware used in our lab includes:

Test System
HardwareIntel Core i7-6900K @ 4.3 GHz
MSI X99S XPower Gaming Titanium
Corsair Vengeance DDR4-3200
1x 1TB Toshiba OCZ RD400 (M.2, System SSD)
2x 960GB Toshiba OCZ TR150 (Storage, Images)
be quiet Dark Power Pro 11, 850W PSU
Windows 10 Pro (All Updates)
Cooling
Alphacool Eisblock XPX
5x 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
MonitorEizo 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
2 x Rohde & Schwarz HMO 3054, 500 MHz Digital Multi-Channel Oscilloscope with Storage Function
4 x Rohde & Schwarz HZO50 Current Probe (1mA - 30A, 100 kHz, DC)
4 x Rohde & Schwarz HZ355 (10:1 Probes, 500 MHz)
1 x Rohde & Schwarz HMC 8012 Digital Multimeter with Storage Function
Thermal Measurement
1 x Optris PI640 80 Hz 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

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  • marcelo_vidal
    With the pricey from those gpus :) I will get an 2400g and play 720P. maybe with a little tweaking I can boost to 1920x1080
  • Sakkura
    This thing about board partners only getting a few thousand Vega 10 GPUs goes back many months now. Has AMD just not been making any more? What the heck is going on?

    Seems like Gigabyte did a really nice job making an affordable yet effective cooling solution for Vega 56, it's really a shame it goes to waste because there just aren't any chips available.
  • P1nky
    I think you forgot to add the overclocking and undervolting content.
  • FormatC
    Read the review. And you will find the answer ;)
  • CaptainTom
    To those complaining about the low supply (and resulting high prices) of AIB cards:

    It's because the reference cards are still selling very well (at least for their supply). If vendors can sell the $500 Vega 64 for $600 and sell out, why would they bother wasting time on any other model?
  • g-unit1111
    Anonymous said:
    To those complaining about the low supply (and resulting high prices) of AIB cards:

    It's because the reference cards are still selling very well (at least for their supply). If vendors can sell the $500 Vega 64 for $600 and sell out, why would they bother wasting time on any other model?


    That's because miners are the ones buying the cards as fast as they come in stock. It's us gamers and enthusiasts that are waiting for the high performance models. Bad thing is, we don't matter to the bottom line. All they see and want is our precious money, and they don't care what model they sell to us.
  • aelazadne
    Because, the Vendor's making money doesn't equal AMD making money. AMD is losing market share in the GPU scene. With Vega unable to keep up with demand AMD is losing customers who would have bought Radeon's but instead go with Nvidia due to availability. The lack of Availability stemming from August and the fact that even now in early 2018 the Vegas are over priced and hard to find ruins customer confidence. In fact, this situation is so bad that the only people benefitting are the people gouging both Nvidia cards and Radeon cars because at this point there is NO COMPETITION.

    Also, just because you are gouging doesn't mean you are making money. AMD has to make money and they need to sell these things in a certain volume. In their contracts with Vendors, they will require their vendors to sell a certain amount of vegas in order to order more. Due to scarcity the only companies making money are Retailers. AMD is going to have to address this issue otherwise their investors will begin to come after them for bungling so bad that their market share dropped so bag. Literally, the intel screw up plus Ryzen being good has been a godsend for AMD, they do not need a declining GPU market share sparking a debate with investors over whether AMD should get out and play the Intel game.
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    ...

    I really appreciate the thorough review.

    The super-imposed heatpipes vs. GPU picture was a very nice touch. For any of you who missed it, check out page 6 (Cooling & Noise) about 1/3 or 1/2 of the way down.
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    It's because the reference cards are still selling very well (at least for their supply). If vendors can sell the $500 Vega 64 for $600 and sell out, why would they bother wasting time on any other model?

    I think you're too cynical. It's an ASIC supply problem. The AIB partners would probably spend the time if they could get enough GPUs to sell custom boards in enough volume to offset the overhead of doing the extra design work.

    The only real way out of this is for AMD to design a more cost-effective chip with the graphics units removed. That will divert miners' interest away from their graphics products.
  • bit_user
    Almost as surprising to me as how much more oomph they got out of Vega 56 is how well the stock Vega 64 is holding up against stock GTX 1080. Is it just me, or did AMD really gain some ground since launch?
  • aelazadne
    You know I was saying the same thing? I really want a Vega 56, especially because their is a nice freesync monitor that I want. Also, I am surprised that neither AMD nor Nvidia have made cryptocurrencies specific cards. They would make a ton of money and they would free up their gaming lines. They could make mining specific cards and make those people pay through the nose.
  • Blytz
    Need to try overclocking the ram and flashing a 64 bios onto it for more headroom in the overclock and the ram overclock.

    Makes a BIG difference.
  • FormatC
    OC'ing a Vega (on the right way) isn't so easy. It's simple to flash a Vega64 LC BIOS, but with exception of an explosion of your power consumption you get only a few percent more gaming performance. Undervolting, to break the power limitation, is the better way. You can keep the performance and save a lot of ressources. But exactly this thing is very difficult to realize. WattMan alone isn't able to realize such projects. And with a new driver this game starts again and again.

    I tried it so often with now more than 10 cards - each card is so different and I was not able to found a global setting for all cards to write a recommendation. It makes no sense for me to write about an undervolting sensation for one card, if the next card was a potatoe chip. I have here both extreme, good and bad chips. And if you see this big bandwidth, you can understand me, why I dislike such OC or UV parts in a review.

    Spoiler:
    I'm just testing the Gigabyte RX Vega64 Gaming OC and it is interesting to see, that Gigabyte is very well knowing the limitations of their cooling solution. The power draw is very similar and I really like this bigger card. But it is nothing for a big OC. If you need significant more performance (f.e. in Ultra-HD), Vega is the wrong horse. But for WQHD and Freesync it is a very good offer.

    I've played Wolfenstein 2 with a water cooled Vega64 (full-cover water block) in Ultra-HD and was satisified - but to finish now Witcher 3 for a 100% savegame (story), it was totally unusable. I also tried to OC this Vega64 and got stable 1,7 GHz - but this was also not enough for a good immersion. The advantage of an open loop cooling system and quick connectors is, that I can change the cards within five minutes. The 1080 Ti was is this case the significant better solution. This is, what I meant above with the horse. It differs from case to case :)
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    I am surprised that neither AMD nor Nvidia have made cryptocurrencies specific cards. They would make a ton of money and they would free up their gaming lines.

    Remember, the latest round of GPU-based cryptomining only blew up in about June 2017. It takes much longer than that to design a chip like these and get it to market. On top of that, they were probably uncertain about how long the crypto craze would last. So, it would still be a while before such chips might hit the market.

    Anonymous said:
    They could make mining specific cards and make those people pay through the nose.

    AMD's official line is that there's not much they can do to cripple gaming cards for crypto purposes that wouldn't also compromise gaming performance. That means the only way to divert cryptocurrency miners from their gaming products is to make a chip with better price/performance at crypto. They could accomplish that simply by stripping off the graphics-specific units from their GPUs, which would shrink the die and make it cheaper (i.e. more cost-effective). As long as they could make enough of them (a big "if", I know), they would continue to be more attractive to miners than their graphics chips.
  • Ravnholt
    So from a noise perspective, this is a better card than the Sapphire Nitro?
  • Ravnholt
    So noise wise, this is a better card than the Sapphire Nitro?
  • FormatC
    I was suprised - but yes. First time, that I saw such a quiet Gigabyte card out of the box.
    But don't forget - each MHz more needs a significant higher power consumption.
    Sapphire made an excellent cooler - to cool down al this waste of energy. Hearable waste, only to be 1-2 FPS faster... :D
  • Blytz
    Guess I struck silicon lottery to a degree then (especially in light of the boost from the flash)
    Granted my 56 overclock gpu limited to around 1600 (1610-1630 was seen in 3d mark)
    But I got a perfectly stable ram oc from 800 to 1100 day in day out, under the 56 bios it was limited to 950 (960 on a good day)

    edit - I just realised I was too retarded to quote your post formatc (my bad)
  • FormatC
    The problem of all this custom 56 is/was:
    AMD sent now to the AIB a new source BIOS kernel for the custom designs. It gave me 50 MHz more clock speed for free with the same power consumption and also an OC to 1050 MHz mem clock without flashing to Vega64. Gigabyte also improved today their BIOS to get a tick more fan speed to keep the fan speed stable now. They followed 1:1 my suggestions and it is in average not noisier than before.
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    AMD sent now to the AIB a new source BIOS kernel for the custom designs. It gave me 50 MHz more clock speed for free with the same power consumption and also an OC to 1050 MHz mem clock without flashing to Vega64.

    So, are you going to update the benchmarks?

    Anonymous said:
    Gigabyte also improved today their BIOS to get a tick more fan speed to keep the fan speed stable now. They followed 1:1 my suggestions and it is in average not noisier than before.

    Nice!