When AMD announced its upcoming RX Vega product family, most of the focus was on its upper-end SKUs amid speculation of how well they’d compete against the GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti. Less discussed was how the more modest Vega 56 might compare with Nvidia’s GTX 1070. Now, early leaks from Tweaktown suggest this match-up might actually be the more potent of the two.
A quick refresher: Vega 56 has an 1156MHz base clock, 1471MHz boost, 64 ROPS, 224 texture units, 3584 shader cores, and 8GB of HBM2 on a 2048-bit memory bus. The TDP is also fairly low, at 210W, at least in comparison to the other Vega 64 parts (the air-cooled Vega 64 has a TDP of 295W, while the water-cooled card has a 345W TDP). Granted, this is still well above the 150W rating on the GTX 1070, but AMD has historically been much more willing to push thermal envelopes than Nvidia is. The Vega 56’s overall stats suggest that the card’s sweet spot is closer to its own clocks, as opposed to the Vega 64’s more ambitious targets.
Given that AMD is bringing Vega 56 in at $ 400, it was safe to bet that it would be capable of outpacing the GTX 1070, with its MSRP of ~$ 340. Preliminary results leaked to TweakTown put the Vega 56 at 20-30 percent faster than the GTX 1070, which basically means it’ll justify its price tag given the price difference between itself and its Nvidia competitors.
All of this assumes that cards are available at launch for their stated prices, which is very nearly the same as saying it assumes Santa Claus will be sitting down to dinner with the Easter Bunny this evening. Cryptocurrency mining has made GPUs hard to find again and increased market volatility, even though it hasn’t done beans for AMD’s earnings or overall market position. AMD doesn’t earn increased revenue when GPU OEMs raise their prices, and these price spikes tend to harm the company’s market share if they hit Radeon cards more heavily than their Nvidia counterparts.
Improved competition in the $ 300 to $ 500 brackets are still important to AMD’s overall market position, even if the company isn’t trying to take on the GTX 1080 Ti. In the past, AMD has profitably pursued a strategy of competing against the midrange and mass market of Nvidia cards with well-placed SKUs of its own that took Nvidia on in specific market segments without trying to tackle the entire space at once. AMD’s upcoming Raven Ridge APUs are expected to use a Vega-derived GPU as well, which means we’ll get to see what the architecture brings to the table in multiple product families in the upcoming future (its Radeon Instinct MI25 accelerators are reportedly already shipping to critical early partners, although those have a different set of capabilities and outputs from the mainstream GPU families).
It’s going to be interesting to see how Vega and HBM2 stand up to Nvidia given that Team Green has gone 15 months without any significant competition on the board. Even if Vega isn’t a knockout blow, it’ll definitionally compete better than the current complete lack of any competition whatsoever. With AMD’s revenue up and the company’s overall future looking better than it has in years, RX Vega should set the stage for follow-up cards and refreshes that improve on whatever AMD launches next week. What’s less clear is whether those future cards will be based on HBM2 or GDDR6, but we’ll let that question wait for a later time.