Everything you need to know about AMD’s highly anticipated Vega video cards

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Here is everything you need to know about the latest AMD Radeon Vega news, including product releases and reviews

After for what seemed like forever, AMD finally revealed its latest high-end graphics cards based on the new “Vega” graphics processor architecture. The portfolio spans two markets using two brands: Radeon RX Vega for the high-end desktop market, and Radeon Pro for the professional workstation market. Here we will keep you updated on the latest AMD Radeon Vega news, such as what cards are available, and if they’re a better option than Nvidia’s competing products.

So what exactly is Vega?

Vega is the latest graphics chip design from AMD. It follows 2016’s “Polaris” design used in the low-cost Radeon RX 400 and 500 Series cards for the mainstream market. But unlike Polaris, Vega targets the high-end and enthusiast realm along with the processional workstation market. Vega provides better overall compute performance than Polaris and AMD’s previous “Fiji” design used in its high-end Radeon R9 graphics cards for PC gaming, which were launched in 2015.

According to AMD, Vega includes a next-generation pixel engine for efficient, higher shader performance. It also has a re-designed geometry engine to handle the increasingly complex nature of architecture and landscapes found in games.

Vega also introduces a new memory controller that supports on-board and system-installed SSDs, dedicated high-bandwidth cache, and HBM2 memory. These advancements make the current Vega hardware promising, and should serve as a good foundation for future iterations.

Vega for PC gamers

AMD’s Radeon RX Vega-branded add-in cards for desktop targets PC gamers, and uses High Bandwidth Memory 2, which stacks up to eight DRAM dies vertically in a single memory package rather than spread them out horizontally. This enables more memory capacity in a smaller space while consuming less power. According to AMD, the second generation is capable of up to two giga-transfers per second (2GT/s), and up to 256GB per second in bandwidth.

The on-board memory is managed by AMD’s new High-Bandwidth Cache Controller (HBCC). It consists of algorithms that are designed to handle huge sets of data, and enables developers to program memory management into their games and software that don’t affect the overall performance. It helps eliminate the bottleneck that causes a graphics chip to pause for milliseconds to load resources, textures, and so on, which in turn causes frame drops.

Technically, there are only two Radeon RX Vega cards hitting store shelves, but a third water-cooled model will be sold exclusively through a special bundle. Here’s the two available on their own.

Compute
Units
Stream
Processors
Base
Speed
Boost
Speed
Memory
Size
Price Available?
Radeon RX
Vega 64
64 4,096 1,247MHz
(air)
——
1,406MHz (liquid)
1,546MHz
(air)
——
1,677MHz (liquid)
8GB
HBM2
$499 August 14
Radeon RX
Vega 56
56 3,584 1,156MHz 1,471MHz 8GB
HBM2
$399 August 14

AMD is not offering the liquid-cooled version of the RX Vega 64 outside the $699 Radeon Aqua Pack. That bundle includes the liquid-cooled card, a $200 discount off Samsung’s 34-inch WQHD curved FreeSync-based monitor (C34F791), and a $100 discount off a Ryzen 7 CPU/motherboard combo (Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI only). The bundles include copies of Prey and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus as well.

Here are the current processor and motherboard requirements for the Radeon Red (RX Vega 56), Radeon Black (RX Vega 64 air-cooled), and Radeon Aqua packs.

Processors Motherboards
Ryzen 7 1700X
Ryzen 7 1800X
Asus ROG Crosshair VI Extreme X370
Gigabyte GA-AX370—Gaming K7
MSI X370 Xpower Gaming Titanium

Of course, customers can purchase the air-cooled Radeon RX 64 and install a water block on the card to get those higher speeds. According to AMD, third-party models will be released in the fourth quarter of 2017 that will likely have designs based on water cooling.

Vega for professionals

Unlike the high-end Radeon RX Vega models designed for the PC gaming market, AMD appears to be more inclined to use the term “cache” with its professional Radeon Pro-branded add-in cards. The memory is still based on HDM2 technology, but the specifications refer to it as High Bandwidth Cache (HBC). Yet thanks to the on-board HBCC and Vega’s support for using SSD storage as on-board memory, AMD actually crammed a 2TB NVMe PCI Express 3.0 SSD onto the Radeon Pro SSG model. The company calls this solid state graphics (SSG).

“The Radeon Pro SSG physically co-locates high performance NVMe’s alongside the high-performance Vega-based GPU to create an optimized path for transferring and processing large data sets,” the company states.

What’s really interesting about AMD’s two new Vega-based Radeon Pro cards is the inclusion of a dedicated security processor inside the graphics chip. This processor creates a secure environment for running “intellectual property-sensitive” tasks while everything else runs outside the secure bubble. This processor also performs boot and firmware validations every time the PC is turned on or restarted, and works in conjunction with Microsoft’s Device Guard malware defense service.

The two cards are complemented by AMD’s new “Radeon Pro Software Crimson ReLive Edition for Vega-based Radeon Professional Graphics” software. The name is admittedly long, but so is the list of features the driver suite brings to AMD’s processional Vega-based cards. These include the integration of Radeon ProRender into Maxon Cinema 4D Release 19, updated ProRender plugins, support for switching between three drivers without the required reboot, and more.

Compute
Units
Stream
Processors
Base
Speed
Boost
Speed
Memory
Size
Price Available?
Frontier
Edition
64 4,096 1,382MHz 1,600MHz 16GB HBC
(HBM2)
$999 Yes
Radeon Pro
WX 9100
64 4,096 TBD 1,500MHz 16GB HBC
(HBM2)
$2,199 September 13
Radeon Pro
SSG
64 4,096 TBD 1,500MHz 16GB HBC
(HBM2),
2TB NVMe SSG
$6,999 September 13

Should you buy a Vega-based card?

Right now, making a decision regarding what Vega-based card you should buy is just too early given that they won’t hit stores until August 14. Even more, outlets like Digital Trends need time to benchmark the cards and compare the results against Nvidia’s competing products. Right now, AMD appears to be addressing a portion of the high-end mainstream market currently ruled by Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, GeForce GTX 1080, and GeForce GTX 1070.

What’s interesting to note is that AMD’s Radeon RX Vega 64 includes 4,096 stream processors with a base speed of 1,247MHz for the air-cooled version, and 1,406MHz for the liquid-cooled model at a starting price of $499. Meanwhile, Nvidia’s GTX 1080 Ti consists of 3,854 CUDA cores with a base speed of 1,480MHz for $699. A good chunk of the AMD versus Nvidia comparison will be how AMD’s 8GB of HBM2 memory and Vega’s new memory controller play apart in Vega’s overall performance.

But that’s just for the high-end mainstream side of AMD’s business. On the professional end, AMD appears to be competing with Nvidia’s new Quadro GP100 graphics card for workstations, and possibly the Quadro P4000 add-in card as well. We won’t be able to see how AMD fares in the workstation market until the end of August or in the beginning of September.

That all said, we’ll keep you updated on the latest AMD Radeon Vega news as the information rolls out, so keep checking back here.