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By Jessica Brown On 10 Sep, 2017 At 09:12 PM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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For quite some time, “wait for Vega” was the rallying cry of many AMD fans. After the R9 300 series of cards (with the 390X and the Fury cards offering quite a punch) in 2015, AMD backed off of the high-end market for a while. In 2016 they released their Polaris architecture under the RX 400 product line with the RX 480 capping things off for a very reasonable $250 USD. Having had a 290/X and a 390/X in the previous generations, many fans were wondering what AMD had in store for the unannounced RX 490 card. Was this the mysterious, high-end Vega architecture that would replace the year-old R9 Fury cards? As the months wore on, AMD remained mum on the topic and by the end of 2016 it became pretty clear that Vega would not be released as part of the 400 series of products. April of this year saw the release of the RX 500 cards (a modest refresh of the Polaris architecture), but once again there was no RX 590 offering in sight. Soon, though, AMD made it clear that Vega would be released as its own product category.

As far back as mid-2016, fans were saying that Vega would be the card to finally put NVIDIA in its place. Rumors were running wild about supposed specs for this next-generation card. It was clear that the card would make use of the next-generation High Bandwidth Memory 2 interface, but how much memory would be present and at what speed the GPU would be clocked to were all pure speculation at best. The Polaris cards, while great for the money, were designed to appeal to mainstream PC gamers wanting to play at a solid 1080p or dip into 1440p a bit, but these GPUs were not meant to trade blows with the higher-end Pascal cards. Even the RX 580, which was marginally better than the R9 390X (though, to be fair, coming out almost two years later), would only compete with a GTX 1060. “Don’t worry,” fans said, “Vega will stomp the 1080. Vega will be a Titan-killer!” The problem was, though, that when Vega was finally on the horizon this year, its performance claims were pitting it against cards that were nearly a year old, taking some of the wind out of their sails. Even though NVIDIA did refresh Pascal a bit this year with a faster GTX 1080 (featuring 11Gbps GDDR5X), Vega’s performance claims would pit it against the architecture from the previous production cycle.

But now that Vega has actually been released, how does it hold up against its main competition?

Honestly, things aren’t looking that great for Vega. As the release of the consumer RX Vega cards was getting close, performance showcases showed that Vega would trade blows with the GTX 1080. Knowing that more than one flavor of Vega would be released, it was unclear which version this was that was being shown. Some held out hope that it was more of a mid-tier Vega, with the “full Vega” being able to go toe-to-toe with the GTX 1080 Ti, but ultimately this turned out not to be the case. As it stands, the “full Vega” (referred to as RX Vega 64) was designed to compete with the GTX 1080, while the more cut down RX Vega 56 was designed as a GTX 1070 competitor. On paper, things actually looked pretty good. RX Vega 64 promised an MSRP of just $499 USD, meaning it would compete with a card that was $50 to $100 more than it, giving gamers some strong performance for their money (which has always been one of AMD’s goals). In the case of Vega 56, it would mean a $399 alternative to the GTX 1070 (which is a monster in the 1080p, 1440p, and VR markets) with a faster HBM2 memory interface as opposed to GDDR5. Unfortunately, though, on paper is where everything ends.

Ultimately, RX Vega 64 does trade blows quite nicely with the GTX 1080, overall across several benchmarks, even though the RX Vega 64 has many individual games where it can be a GTX 1080, it also has a few where it comes in a good bit slower. Overall, it seems like the GTX 1080 is around 10% faster on average than the RX Vega. “But hey, that’s not too bad – GTX 1080 performance for less money!” This statement may seem like a valid response, but once you factor in the next two things, it’s really not. First, there’s the obviously higher power-draw of the RX Vega 64 versus the GTX 1080. Vega 64 has a TDP of 295W while the GTX 1080 comes in at just 180W. That’s a pretty significant difference, especially when you consider the fact that it’ll draw a lot more power than that if you attempt to overclock it. To drive this fact home, PC Gamer concluded that you could run two GTX 1080 cards in SLI and draw less power than RX Vega 64 under heavy loads.

Then there’s the unavoidable fact that you can’t find Vega at anywhere close to its promised retail price. Vega production was exceptionally limited (something we knew would happen given the limited stock of HBM2 modules) and what few cards could be purchased at launch were immediately snapped up by cryptocurrency miners and after-market resellers. On NewEgg, it’s possible to snag an RX Vega 64 as part of the “Radeon Black Pack” that comes with a few extra goodies (intended to cut down on purchase from miners who didn’t care about gaming), but even this costs a minimum of $679.99 as opposed to the $599 MSRP suggested by Radeon.

Ultimately, it comes down to the question of whether or not you need to upgrade your GPU right now. If you already have a GTX 1070 or 1080 (or beyond), you’re good to go: no reason to think about upgrades right now. If you’re dealing with older architecture (a GTX 900 series card, or an older AMD model) it may be a different story. Also, if you own an RX 480 and want to jump into the realm of higher resolutions, you may find yourself shopping around for a new card.

At the end of the day, though, if you have nearly $700 to spend on a graphics card, RX Vega 64 doesn’t really offer a compelling reason to purchase it. You can get a GTX 1080 card for around $549 and not only will it draw much less power than the Vega 64, it’ll also outperform it around 10% of the time. If you are truly willing to spend $700 and think that you can stretch your budget a bit more, you may want to consider getting a GTX 1080 Ti – Vega 64 can’t even touch the performance of the Ti, and the Ti still consumes less power than the Vega!

Still, as disappointing as Vega is in many ways, it’s kind of par for the course for AMD lately. The R9 290/X and 390/X were rather power-hungry cards, yet they had the advantage at least of being priced competitively with NVIDIA cards while offering some very solid performance. In this way, Vega feels like a bit of a step in the wrong direction even despite some of its more advanced technology that’s powering it.

On the plus side, though, AMD has shaken up the CPU market with its Ryzen processors and in that case, if nothing else, it should make pricing more competitive for those wanting to pick up a new CPU in the near future!

By Jessica Brown On 10 Sep, 2017 At 08:44 PM | Categorized As Featured, PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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The GeForce GTX 10 Series is still going strong, even 16 months after its release. In May of 2016, NVIDIA released the first cards of its newest consumer GPU line built around its Pascal microarchitecture. Pascal was a pretty solid leap for the company, making use of a 16nm fabrication process, lower power consumption, improved memory performance, and exceptionally-high clock speeds. The high end GTX 1080 and Titan X (Pascal) cards also made use of a new memory format known as GDDR5X, which allowed for a faster memory interface compared to “regular” GDDR5 while being comparable to, yet cheaper than, High Bandwidth Memory (featured in AMD’s R9 Fury cards and now HBM2 in the Vega cards). This year, NVIDIA rounded off the top-end of the Pascal product line with the ultra-enthusiast GTX 1080 Ti and the new Titan Xp, the fastest consumer GPUs ever produced to date.

While some people suggested that there would be an intermediate refresh of the Pascal cards under a new numbering system prior to the release of the next major architecture, this turned out not to be the case. NVIDIA did, however, refresh their GTX 1080 cards with newer 2017 models that featured faster GDDR5X, clocked in at 11 Gbps.

The bottom line is, though, that with the newly refreshed GTX 1080 cards and the flagship GTX 1080 Ti and Titan Xp (both of which also feature 11 Gbps GDDR5X), NVIDIA has had no reason to push out an intermediate line of cards. Pascal still remains the best choice when it comes to raw power and energy efficiency and AMD’s lackluster release of their new RX Vega cards only served to reinforce this fact. The RX Vega 64 (AMD’s current top offering in the gaming space) manages to trade blows with the GTX 1080 quite well, but overall falls about 10% short of the GTX 1080 in terms of overall performance. Additionally, Vega 64 has a TDP of 295 watts, which is considerably more than the 180 watts of the GTX 1080. Round that all off with a higher asking price since Vega can only be bought from after-market sellers now and the picture for AMD in the enthusiast space looks pretty grim.

While rumors suggested at one point that NVIDIA’s newest architecture, referred to as Volta, might make a late-2017 debut, NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang has said that gamers shouldn’t expect to see Volta-based GTX cards this year. It’s possible that rumors of a late-2017 NVIDIA launch were based on the assumption that RX Vega would offer a strong enough competition to force NVIDIA’s hand. Ultimately, this just wasn’t the case. Pascal is still going strong and does incredibly well in the high-end space.

No release date for Volta gaming cards has been announced yet, but if I had to guess I’d say we might see them sometime around March of 2018 (given that the GTX 1080 Ti, the penultimate GTX 10 Series card, made its debut in March of 2017). These new cards might be called the GTX 20 Series (e.g. GTX 2080), to show more of a major generational improvement rather than a smaller, incremental one which might be implied if they kept with the current numbering scheme and called them the GTX 11 Series (e.g. GTX 1180). Ultimately, that’s up to the marketing team, so there’s really no reason to speculate on that.

At any rate, if you’re looking to pick up a new GPU, don’t play the waiting game or you’ll always be waiting for the next big thing. NVIDIA has some great offerings on the high end starting with the GTX 1070, but if you’re wanting something a bit more mainstream, AMD’s RX 580 and 570 offer plenty of performance for your money in the 1080p to 1440p space!

By Jessica Brown On 12 Jun, 2017 At 02:01 AM | Categorized As ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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The Radeon Vega GPU has been a rather mythical thing until the past couple of months, but we are finally approaching the new architecture’s release…Well, sort of.

The Vega graphics processor will be making its first public release on June 27 with the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition, a powerful professional-grade workstation GPU featuring 16 GB of HBM2. However, as noted, this card is aimed at professionals, game designers, and scientists and is not aimed at PC gamers. Enthusiast gamers will need to wait a little longer for the gaming-grade RX Vega card.

However, it appears that the RX Vega cards will not all be releasing at the same time. Right now, we know that the first RX Vega cards will be released around the time of SIGGRAPH 2017 (July 3 to August 3). Yet, it appears that this will be the release for the most powerful of the gaming grade cards, but those operating on more of a budget will have to wait later…Much later.

According to some sources, the “high end” (non-enthusiast) and mainstream cuts of the Vega architecture most likely won’t be available until early-2018. Until then, Radeon fans that aren’t wanting to push to the bleeding edge will want to check out the RX 500 series of cards that launched back in April.

Time will tell what AMD’s official Vega plans will be, but thankfully SIGGRAPH isn’t that far away now and we should have more concrete answers by then!

By Jessica Brown On 31 May, 2017 At 08:03 PM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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AMD will be bringing its new Ryzen Threadripper CPUs to the masses sometime this summer in multiple flavors. These will most certainly be ultra-enthusiast grade processors, geared towards those that push their systems to the absolute limit and need the most threads that they can possibly get. Yet, despite the ambiguous “Summer 2017” release window, we don’t have all the details on these new chips just yet.

What we do know, though, is that Threadripper (sometimes referred to as “Ryzen 9”) will feature a 16-core/32-thread behemoth on the top end, bringing with it a massive 64 PCIE 3.0 lanes with it. Sources say that this top-tier chip will clock to 5.0 GHz and beyond. While not officially confirmed just yet, rumors suggest that 10, 12, and 14-core variants will also be released within this new line of processors.

Threadripper will offer quad-channel memory support and will require a new motherboard socket (referred to as TR4).

These new processors will trade blows with Intel’s upcoming Core i9 series of processors, and while prices have not been announced just yet, based on AMD’s history I’d imagine that the Ryzen chips will offer better price-per-performance ratios.

Hopefully we will get more answers soon!

By Jessica Brown On 31 May, 2017 At 08:12 PM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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AMD has revealed that its upcoming enthusiast graphics cards will be here within the next two months. The “professional” grade Radeon Vega Frontier Edition is due to release on June 27 while the enthusiast gaming RX Vega cards are set to release during SIGGRAPH 2017, which runs from July 30 to August 3.

Whether or not it’ll be too late for AMD to successfully compete with NVIDIA within the enthusiast space remains to be seen, but the longer AMD holds out on releasing its newest cards the more tempted PC gamers might be to hold on a bit longer and see what NVIDIA has to offer with its next-gen Volta line of GPUs.

Regardless, we’ll keep you updated as we find out more about these new graphics cards!

By Jessica Brown On 26 May, 2017 At 11:28 AM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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Recently, AMD announced that the professional version of their upcoming “Vega” family of GPUs, the “Radeon Vega Frontier Edition,” was going to launch in June while the consumer cards would follow sometime in Q3 2017. However, at the J. P. Morgan Global Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference on May 22, AMD President Lisa Su announced that the gamer cards would be releasing right after Vega FE.

Vega FE, she said, is set to release in the second half of June and we can expect the RX Vega cards to release this July.

While details have yet to be completely confirmed, we know that there will be three flavors of this new enthusiast architecture:

  • RX Vega Core ($399): Competes with the GTX 1070
  • RX Vega Eclipse ($499): Competes with the GTX 1080
  • RX Vega Nova ($599): Competes with the GTX 1080 Ti

How well these cards will compete with their competition from NVIDIA remains to be seen, but these will be the first enthusiast grade cards released since the R9 Fury (Fiji) GPUs in 2015. There are rumors that AMD is working on “Vega 2.0” which will be aimed to compete with the NVIDIA Volta GPUs in 2018, but nothing is official on that front yet.

By Jessica Brown On 26 May, 2017 At 12:22 AM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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For a while now we’ve known that AMD’s new flagship GPU, powered by the 14nm Vega architecture, was set to release sometime in the first half of 2017. Tech analysts had suspected a formal announcement at Computex (May 30 – June 3), followed by a release sometime in June, but as it turns out that’s only partially correct.

Last week at a Financial Analyst Day live-stream, AMD revealed its upcoming “Radeon Vega Frontier Edition,” the first formal presentation of a card in the Vega family. However, one thing was quickly made clear: The Vega FE cards are geared at professionals and scientists, featuring a whopping 16GB of HBM2 and a premium price to suit. Vega FE is set to release in June, meeting AMD’s “1H 2017” deadline, but consumer Vega is still a bit off yet.

On May 31, AMD is holding a press conference where they will finally reveal some real details about the upcoming enthusiast RX Vega gaming cards, but unfortunately those will not be coming in June. No release window has been announced just yet, but I’d expect them to start arriving later in Q3 2017.

So what do we know about the gaming-level Vega cards?

Well, we know that the “RX Vega” models will be optimized for gaming performance (a key difference between them and the professional-grade Vega FE) and will come in three tiers: Core, Eclipse, and Nova. Nova, which will be the top-tier of the RX Vega line, could possibly have similarities to the Vega FE, although whether or not it will have 16GB HBM2 will remain to be seen.

With Computex 2017 just around the corner, though, we should know more real soon!

 

By Jessica Brown On 14 May, 2017 At 05:20 PM | Categorized As ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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For quite some time now, PC gaming enthusiasts have been talking about AMD’s “Vega” line of GPUs. Last year, there was speculation at several tech sites that Vega would make its first appearance as the theoretical RX 490 graphics card. However, as time went on it became quite apparent that AMD had no plans to release a 490 graphics card, capping off the RX 400 series with the RX 480 card. The 400 series was powered by the company’s 14nm Polaris line of graphics cards, offering great performance per dollar for the mainstream market (where the majority of the money is to be made, honestly).

This April, Radeon refreshed its Polaris line of cards and released the RX 500 series, offering around a 10% boost in performance versus the previous iteration. Again, Vega was excluded from this numbering. However, AMD has stated that the upcoming Vega GPU will simply be called the “RX Vega,” releasing as its own product line. This is a bit of a different move from the enthusiast Fury cards from 2015, which were branded as being in the top-tier of the R9 300 series of cards.

So far, there has been a lot of speculation about the upcoming graphics architecture accompanied by quite a few benchmark leaks. Presumably, Vega will be released with at least a couple variants, all of which will make use of the new High Bandwidth Memory 2 format, a successor to the original HBM that was found in the Fury cards. The cards should come in a 4GB and 8GB variant with a 16GB dual, liquid-cooled GPU having been teased.

Early leaked benchmarks have suggested that at least one of the models tested performs at just around the level of NVIDIA’s GTX 1070. The problem with leaked scores like this is that we have no idea which Vega model was being tested. Also, from experience we know that engineering samples and pre-released versions of a card very well may not represent the performance seen in the final consumer versions.

However, the RX 580 is generally seen as a competitor for the GTX 1060, so it makes sense for a “low end” version of Vega to compete with their rival’s 1070 card. Higher versions of Vega will most likely go head-to-head with the GTX 1080 and possibly the GTX 1080 Ti (although many believe that the highest variation of Vega will actually come in somewhere between the 1080 and the 1080 Ti). Yet, it all comes down to price. Even if the best Vega card can only trade blows with the GTX 1080, if it comes in at a more affordable price it may very well steal a bit of the market place from the graphics giant.

There is one problem, though: TweakTown has suggested that there may only be 16,000 total Vega cards across all variants available when it first releases due to limited quantities of HBM2. If this is true, it keeps NVIDIA even safer in the enthusiast field of GPUs for a good bit longer.

Regardless, we should know more after the AMD press event at Computex on May 31. Stay tuned!