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.
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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