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AMD RX Vega 64 & Vega 56 Performance Review

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  • Author: SKYMTL
  • Date: August 14, 2017
  • Product Name: RX Vega 64 / RX Vega 56
  • Warranty: 3 years

Temperatures

Testing the temperatures for these cards hasn’t been easy since AMD’s Vega series isn’t compatible with our most-used logging tools quite yet. As a result we needed to use a combination of HWInfo and AMD’s own Wattman. Expect additional Vega thermal and power testing as time moves on.

At first glance it may look like Vega actually runs quite cool since its temperatures seem to be well within normal boundaries. Unfortunately that’s a fallacy since AMD needed to run the GPU fan at extremely high speeds to achieve numbers like this. The result is blast furnace-like heat being exhausted out of the backplate. To give you an idea of how extreme this is, the temperature in my 15’x15’ lab increased nearly 10 degrees Celsius after 30 minutes of continual testing. I’d call this a feature in the winter but in the summer a room can become excessively hot due to this. The Vega 10 core is a monster and taming it with an air cooler seems to be a challenge.

Acoustical Testing

What you see below are the baseline idle dB(A) results attained for a relatively quiet open-case system (specs are in the Methodology section) sans GPU along with the attained results for each individual card in idle and load scenarios. The meter we use has been calibrated and is placed at seated ear-level exactly 18” away from the GPU’s fan. For the load scenarios, Tomb Raider is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 15 minutes. 

I alluded to high fan speeds but this chart should put things into a bit better context. Remember, decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale so an increase of just 5 decibels could actually “sound” up to three times as loud. In this case the Vega cards approach ridiculous levels of noise but thankfully neither card was accompanies by any coil whine. This is all fan noise you are seeing.

Simply put, the RX Vega 64 is excessively loud and when that’s combined with the heat being thrown out the back of its I/O shield, I can’t recommend buying this card. Well, you could buy it but make sure your room is well ventilated and you have very good noise cancelling headphones.

The RX Vega 56 is another matter altogether. While still loud, it is relatively tame when compared against its big brother. As a matter of fact, I have to credit AMD’s design team for effectively managing this thing’s heat in such a way that it’s infinitely easier to live with.

System Power Consumption

For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we used 15 minutes of Unigine Valley running on a loop while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 15 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption.

Power consumption typically takes a back seat for enthusiasts but when the deltas between competing solutions are this large, attention needs to be given to the culprit. Despite claims of efficiency improvements, AMD’s architecture seems to be falling further afield from an NVIDIA design that’s almost two years old already. It isn’t even a fair competition anymore. This ends up dragging Vega’s performance per watt ratio through the mud.

Typically us press folks have been more than willing to give AMD a pass on their lack of competitive power consumption numbers but I can’t find myself making excuses anymore. In a time of rising utility costs – in the last five years alone electricity prices in Ontario have more than doubled on average – I simply don’t understand why potential buyers need to accept higher power bills just to justify buying a piece of technology that competes rather than excels at its job.

Maybe I’m approaching this from the wrong perspective and editorializing too much but at this point the whole “game with headphones and hope you have great air conditioning” argument doesn’t fly anymore. Vega is power hungry, hot and noisy. There’s no escaping that and AMD needs to find a way out of this rut soon or NVIDIA will soon become even more dominant than they already are. If you somehow disagree with this standpoint, by all means leave a comment in our forums.

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