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AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 8GB Review

Conclusion

Radeon RX Vega 56 is a close derivative of Vega 64, so its behaviors largely carry over from AMD’s flagship. The company does cut this card’s board power rating by almost 30% through a combination of disabling eight Compute Units, dialing down the GPU’s frequency, and down-clocking its precious HBM2. But it’s ultimately still much more power-hungry, and consequently hotter and louder, than its primary competition, GeForce GTX 1070.

Performance-wise, Radeon RX Vega 56 fares well against the 1070. Even when we compare it to EVGA’s overclocked GeForce GTX 1070 SC Gaming 8GB (there are no Founders Edition cards left to buy), Vega 56 consistently matches or beats it. In the handful of scenarios where AMD is slower, the loss amounts to single-digit percentages. But whereas Vega 64 made a case for 4K gaming at dialed-back detail settings, it’s safer to think of Vega 56 as a solid solution for 2560x1440 displays at maximum quality in the latest games.

Our VR benchmarks are less conclusive. GeForce GTX 1070 is definitely faster than Vega 56 in Chronos and DiRT Rally. It’s technically quicker in Robo Recall as well, though the GeForce also suffers more dropped frames in that game. Serious Sam narrowly favors Vega 56 over GTX 1070, and Arizona Sunshine runs well on both cards.

There’s no way to be delicate about our environmental measurements, though. Despite a much lower board power than Vega 64, Radeon RX Vega 56 (using its default Balanced power profile) consumes ~220W in our typical gaming workload. You can overclock for nominal performance gains, but power consumption rises much faster, thrashing efficiency. Alternatively, you can drop Vega 56’s power limit, cut consumption dramatically, and retain most of the card’s performance. This just wasn’t an option for AMD’s shipping configuration—the company knew it had to beat GeForce GTX 1070 in the benchmarks, and it sacrificed the FPS/watt sweet-spot we calculated for a victory in the discipline gamers care about most: speed.

Beyond the tangibles—performance, power, heat, noise, and efficiency—it’s much more difficult to say whether Radeon RX Vega 56 should be your next graphics card. Weeks after its official debut, Vega 64 remains relatively rare. Those cards we do find in stock sell for ~$700—roughly 40% higher than AMD’s purported launch price and well beyond what any gamer should consider paying.

The company won’t comment on shipping quantities, but again, we know AMD would rather sell its expensive GPUs as Vega 64s than 56es. And given a relatively mature manufacturing platform, the company should yield more completely intact Vega 10 processors. At the same time, Radeon RX Vega 56 appears to be better suited for Ethereum mining than AMD's flagship. Then there’s the lower price tag bound to attract enthusiasts on a tighter budget. Taken together, those variables reasonably suggest less immediate availability and greater demand. That’s not a good prognosis for the likelihood of Vega 56 at a $400 price point.

Fortunately for AMD, GeForce GTX 1070 is a much better cryptocurrency mining card than GTX 1080. So, while gamers can still snag 1080s for as little as $510, 1070s are more elusive. The GeForce GTX 1070 SC Gaming 8GB we used for comparison is out of stock on EVGA’s website (it normally sells for $460). Lower-clocked models are available as low as $430; they’re just not as fast.

In the end, Radeon RX Vega 56’s appeal is a matter of relative comparisons. The preceding 23 pages painted a pretty clear picture of Vega 56’s position against Vega 64, several GeForce cards, and prior-generation Radeons from several different angles. The last one—value—is subject to change on any given day. At $400, we’re willing to overlook higher power consumption and, to a certain extent, more noise than a $460, or even a $430 GeForce GTX 1070, particularly when the Vega 56 is as fast or faster. But if at some point in the future you end up with both cards in your shopping cart and are unsure which way to go, Vega 56 generally wins when it also costs less.

There are still several Vega-specific features that could make this card faster or more capable in the future: Rapid Packed Math, primitive shaders, the Draw Stream Binning Rasterizers, and the HBCC. This is also a youthful product, and there are many examples of AMD’s driver team extracting more performance from new hardware over the course of months. Our Doom, The Division, and Warhammer benchmarks should be evidence of Vega’s potential. But until we see some of those forward-looking features exposed for gamers to enjoy, Vega 56’s success will largely depend on its price relative to GeForce GTX 1070.


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  • kjurden
    What a crock! I didn't realize that Tom's hardware pandered to the iNvidiot's. AMD VEGA GPU's have rightfully taken the performance crown!
    Reply
  • rwinches
    Just when on sale Newegg and Amazon $399... Gone!
    Reply
  • Martell1977
    Vega 56 vs GTX 1070, Vega goes 6-2-2 = Winner Vega!

    Good job AMD, hopefully next gen you can make more headway in power efficiency. But this is a good card, even beats the factory OC 1070.
    Reply
  • Wisecracker
    Thanks for the hard work and in-depth review -- any word on Vega Nano?

    Some 'Other Guys' (Namer Gexus?) were experimenting on under-volting and clock-boosting with interesting results. It's not like you guys don't have enough to do, already, but an Under-Volt-Off Smack Down between AMD and nVidia might be fun for readers ...

    Reply
  • pavel.mateja
    No undervolting tests?
    https://translate.google.de/translate?sl=de&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=de&ie=UTF-8&u=https://www.hardwareluxx.de/index.php/artikel/hardware/grafikkarten/44084-amd-radeon-rx-vega-56-und-vega-64-im-undervolting-test.html&edit-text=
    Reply
  • thomas.moore.ii
    Yawn....... It's 4am here at the party.....you just now showing up Vega?
    Reply
  • 10tacle
    20112576 said:
    What a crock! I didn't realize that Tom's hardware pandered to the iNvidiot's. AMD VEGA GPU's have rightfully taken the performance crown!

    Yeah Tom's Hardware does objective reviewing. If there are faults with something, they will call them out like the inferior VR performance over the 1070. This is not the National Inquirer of tech review sites like WCCTF. There are more things to consider than raw FPS performance and that's what we expect to see in an honest objective review.

    Guru3D's conclusion with caveats:

    "For PC gaming I can certainly recommend Radeon RX Vega 56. It is a proper and good performance level that it offers, priced right. It's a bit above average wattage compared to the competitions product in the same performance bracket. However much more decent compared to Vega 64."
    Tom's conclusion with caveats:

    "Even when we compare it to EVGA’s overclocked GeForce GTX 1070 SC Gaming 8GB (there are no Founders Edition cards left to buy), Vega 56 consistently matches or beats it. But until we see some of those forward-looking features exposed for gamers to enjoy, Vega 56’s success will largely depend on its price relative to GeForce GTX 1070."
    ^^And that's the truth. If prices of the AIB cards coming are closer to the GTX 1080, then it can't be considered a better value. This is not AMD's fault of course, but that's just the reality of the situation. You can't sugar coat it, you can't hide it, and you can't spin it. Real money is real money. We've already seen this with the RX 64 prices getting close to GTX 1080 Ti territory.

    With that said, I am glad to see Nvidia get direct competition from AMD again in the high end segment since Fury even though it's a year and four months late to the party. In this case, the reference RX 56 even bests an AIB Strix GTX 1070 variant in most non-VR games. That's promising for what's going to come with their AIB variants. The question now is what's looming on the horizon in an Nvidia response with Volta. We'll find out in the coming months.
    Reply
  • shrapnel_indie
    We've seen what they can do in a factory blower configuration. Are board manufacturers allowed to take 64 and 56 and do their own designs and cooling solutions, where they can potentially coax more out of it (power usage aside)? Or are they stuck with this configuration as Fury X and Fury Nano were stuck?
    Reply
  • 10tacle
    No, there will be card vendors like ASUS, Gigabyte, and MSI who will have their own cooling. Here's a review of an ASUS RX 64 Strix Gaming:

    http://hexus.net/tech/reviews/graphics/109078-asus-radeon-rx-vega-64-strix-gaming/
    Reply
  • pepar0
    20112412 said:
    Radeon RX Vega 56 should be hitting store shelves with 3584 Stream processors and 8GB of HBM2. Should you scramble to snag yours or shop for something else?

    AMD?rel=ugc]http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-rx-vega-56,5202.html]AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 8GB Review : Read more
    Will any gamers buy this card ... will any gamers GET to buy this card? Hot, hungry, noisy and expensive due to the crypto currency mining craze was not what this happy R290 owner had in mind.
    Reply