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

AMD is first to market with a 7nm gaming GPU. The company complements its Vega 20 processor with 16GB of HBM2 on a 4,096-bit bus, packing it all into a 300W Radeon VII graphics card. Should those numbers impress you? Yeah, actually, they should.

How We Tested and Gaming at 2560 x 1440

How We Tested Radeon VII

AMD's latest and greatest is positioned primarily as a high-end gaming card, though the company also extols the virtues of its 16GB HBM2 for content creation workloads. To test Radeon VII across our gaming suite, we dropped it into our graphics workstation with an MSI Z170 Gaming M7 motherboard and an Intel Core i7-7700K CPU at 4.2 GHz. The processor is complemented by G.Skill’s F4-3000C15Q-16GRR memory kit. Crucial’s MX200 SSD remains, joined by a 1.6TB Intel DC P3700 loaded down with games.

As far as competition goes, the Radeon VII is meant to usurp GeForce RTX 2080. We also include Nvidia's GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, GeForce RTX 2070, GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, GeForce GTX 1080, GeForce GTX 1070 Ti, GeForce GTX 1070, and Titan V. The competition from AMD comes from Radeon RX Vega 64 and Radeon RX Vega 56. All cards are either Founders Edition or reference models.

Our benchmark selection now includes Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation, Battlefield V, Destiny 2, Far Cry 5, Grand Theft Auto V, Metro: Last Light Redux, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, and The Witcher 3.

We also ran a handful of benchmarks using Radeon VII in a more general-purpose role. For those tests, we set up a Core i7-8700K (6C/12T) CPU on an MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC motherboard. All four of its memory slots were populated with 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX modules at DDR4-2400, giving us 64GB total. Then, we loaded Windows 10 Professional onto a 1.2TB Intel SSD 750-series drive. Incidentally, this is the same system running our Powenetics software for power consumption measurement. On that machine, Radeon VII is compared to Titan RTX, Titan V, Titan Xp, GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, GeForce RTX 2080, and Radeon RX Vega 64.

The testing methodology we're using comes from PresentMon: Performance In DirectX, OpenGL, And Vulkan. In short, these games are evaluated using a combination of OCAT and our own in-house GUI for PresentMon, with logging via GPU-Z.

Performance Results: Gaming at 2560 x 1440

In challenging Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080, AMD’s Radeon VII finds itself offering plenty of performance for smooth frame rates at 2560 x 1440 with quality settings cranked all the way up across our benchmark suite (oftentimes with anti-aliasing added).

If we take the geometric mean of each game’s average frame rate, Radeon VII is 26% faster than Radeon RX Vega 64. That’s a truly impressive gain, given that we’re comparing the same architecture (with six of Radeon VII’s Compute Units disabled, even).

However, the same equation puts Radeon VII at just over 92% of GeForce RTX 2080’s average frame rate in these 11 games. It’s obviously possible to reshuffle the deck using different titles that might be better-optimized for AMD’s GCN architecture. But even parity between the two boards would be less than stellar from a card launching months later at the same price point, particularly when AMD’s biggest selling point—16GB of HBM2—isn’t as big of a factor at QHD.

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation (DX12)

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Battlefield V (DX12)

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Destiny 2 (DX11)

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Far Cry 5 (DX11)

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Forza Motorsport 7 (DX12)

Forza Motorsport 7, a regular component of our benchmark suite, is conspicuously missing from today's review. One of the game's recent patches changed its frame time behavior, making some of our older results incompatible with newer data. More than likely, we'll replace FM7 with another race sim in the near future.

Grand Theft Auto V (DX11)

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Metro: Last Light Redux (DX11)

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Rise of the Tomb Raider (DX12)

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Tom Clancy’s The Division (DX12)

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Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon (DX11)

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The Witcher 3 (DX11)

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Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (Vulkan)

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Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.