The RTX graphics cards from Nvidia can be found everywhere, whether on desktops or laptops. Aside from Ray controversy, they're powerful cards. But now AMD has an answer.
The AMD Radeon VII is a true successor to the Vega 64 in several ways. It is based on the second generation 7 nm Vega architecture and is the first high-end graphics card that AMD has released since its Vega predecessor. There is no question that it is more powerful than this card, but how can it compete with the main competition?
We swapped the AMD Radeon VII for the Nvidia RTX 2080 to find out.
Riley Young / Digital Trends
The Radeon VII from AMD is a successor Vega architecture, but its design differs significantly from that of its predecessor. The 7 nm process downsizes the GPU itself and enables the entire chip to shrink from 495 mm² on the Vega 64 to 331 mm² on the Radeon VII. It is equipped with four stacks of a second-generation high-bandwidth memory (HBM2) and runs at a much higher frequency than the first generation Vega cards.
The Nvidia RTX 2080 is based on the new Turing architecture from Nvidia and is coupled with the GDDR6 memory, which runs at a higher speed than the Pascal graphics cards of the 10 series. Turing cards improve performance over their last generation counterparts by increasing the number of CUDA cores and the memory speed. The clock rates remain largely the same in stock, although automatic overclocking of the 20 series improves performance.
Nvidia and AMD use different designs when manufacturing graphics cards, so the specifications are not necessarily directly comparable, but here they are anyway:
|AMD Radeon VII||Nvidia RTX 2080|
|The size||331 mm²||545 mm²|
|Number of transistors||13.2 billion||13.6 billion|
|Processor cores||3,840 stream processors||2,944 CUDA cores|
|Basic clock||1,400 MHz||1.515 MHz|
|Boost clock||1,750 MHz||1.710 MHz|
|memory||16 GB HBM2||8 GB GDDR6|
|Memory interface||4,096 bit||256 bit|
|Memory bandwidth||1,000 GB / s||448 GB / s|
|Price||$ 700||$ 700|
To see how these cards behave directly, we have adapted them to our gaming test bench, which runs an AMD Threadipper 1950X (in game mode) and 32 GB of memory. In any case, we ran the latest drivers that were available at that time. However, please note that the Radeon VII drivers are still technically pre-release versions.
In 3DMark Fire Strike, the results were impressive for both cards, but significantly more for the Radeon VII. AMD's new card was expected to perform better than Nvidia's GPUs at higher resolutions. In the basic fire strike test, however, it not only beat the RTX 2080, but also a comparatively good performance compared to the RTX 2080 Ti, a much more expensive GPU.
We saw similar results in gaming benchmarks at 1080P, with the Radeon VII in Battlefield V delivering frame rates of well over 100 FPS in both medium and ultra settings, and not only outperforming the RTX 2080 but also the 2080 Ti. The always exhausting Deus Ex: Mankind Divided turned out to be more challenging, but the Radeon VII still prevailed before the 2080 and 2080 Ti with an average of 90 FPS in height and 86 FPS in ultra settings.
At 1440p, the 2080 Ti takes its rightful place at the top, but the Radeon VII has an even bigger lead over the 2080 and makes its predecessor, the Vega 64, look very similar to the last generation card.
If we increase the resolution to 4K, all cards will have difficulty maintaining more than 60 FPS in Battlefield V. Only the 2080 Ti makes it in Deus: Ex with medium settings, but the Radeon VII always stays before the 2080.
As powerful as Nvidia's RTX graphics cards are, Nvidia spent much of the kick-off event talking about new features rather than performance. Ray tracing and deep learning super sampling (DLSS) – made possible with integrated RT or tensor cores – were great news. While they weren't supported by many games in early 2020, the numbers continue to grow. In some cases, they can have a dramatic impact on games.
Ray tracing makes certain games look nicer, albeit at a high cost, and DLSS shows signs that games look better and run faster.
Although AMD has working ray tracing functions in the form of Radeon rays that use the Vulkan API, this is not currently a technology implemented in games, and AMD has not made it feasible with the Radeon VII. DLSS is also not available, although AMD has suggested that the general processing units on its cards are capable of something similar. In addition, it may even be implemented with Microsoft's open DirectML standard in the future.
Both cards immediately support different frame synchronization technologies. Nvidia's RTX 2080 supports tailor-made G-Sync, which is only available on compatible monitors. AMD's Radeon VII supports FreeSync and FreeSync 2, which are only available on compatible monitors, although they tend to be cheaper and larger than their G-Sync counterparts.
Both cards support the full range of gaming APIs, including DirectX11, DirectX12, OpenGL and Vulkan.
Nvidia's RTX 2080 also supports SLI over NVLink for multiple GPUs. AMD has announced that it will not offer its traditional Crossfire multi-GPU technology with the Radeon VII. However, both Vulkan and DirectX12 support multiple graphics cards as an open standard called MGPU. So if games (such as Strange Brigade) are supported, two Radeon VII cards can run simultaneously with this technology.
Compatibility & price
Riley Young / Digital Trends
Nvidia's RTX 2080 was launched with a Founders Edition for $ 800. However, cheaper third-party alternatives have been released since then. Nowadays, these range in price from $ 700 to around $ 900, depending on the cooling options and aftermarket features. These can often be found with one or two free games.
The AMD Radeon VII was launched at a price of $ 700. Now that it has ended, it is difficult to find something that is almost reasonable anywhere. AMD originally offered three free games – Resident Evil 2, The Division 2, and Devil May Cry 5 – as part of its Raise the Game promotion, but that's over.
When it comes to compatibility, you want a motherboard that supports PCI-Express 3.0 x16 to get the most out of both cards. If your system has a PCI Express 2.0 x16 or PCI Express 3.0 x8 slot instead, both cards should continue to work, but there may be a small performance degradation due to bottlenecks.
The power requirement for these cards is quite high, but the Nvidia GPU is not quite as demanding. It requires around 250 watts of power and cooling potential during operation, while the Radeon VII has an output of 300 watts. You want at least a 600-watt power supply if you are using the RTX 2080 or a 700-watt power supply for the Radeon VII.
AMD is increasing its game
It's been a long time since AMD was right to compete with Nvidia at the top end of the graphics card market. The Radeon VII isn't strong enough to be a direct competitor to the RTX 2080 Ti, especially at higher resolutions, but it's not far from that. Priced at $ 700, the RTX 2080 cost competitive enough for Nvidia to increase its game in 2019 to stay ahead. We will come back to that shortly.
Our tests are not exhaustive, but it does suggest that the Radeon VII will be a more powerful card than the RTX 2080 in a number of games and at most in resolutions and detail settings. It may be a bit more power hungry, but the newly shrunk GPU and the enormous amount of high-speed memory make it one of the most exciting graphics cards currently available.
Although AMD didn't make it official, reports in August 2019 claimed that the Radeon VII had already reached the end of its life. AMD's “Big Navi” GPU, based on the 7nm process node and its RDNA 2 architecture, is likely to take its place when it arrives later this year. Currently, the current Radeon VII inventory is minimal at best and is now mainly displayed in desktop configurations for workstation computers.
Nvidia strikes back
Nvidia was not happy with its RTX 20 series family and the cool new features for PC games and launched its RTX 20 series SUPER cards in July 2019. The company said these cards would increase performance by up to 25% over non-cards. SUPER cards thanks to improvements in the Turing architecture. The new family includes the RTX 2060 SUPER, the RTX 2070 SUPER and the RTX 2080 SUPER.
But Nvidia's attack doesn't stop there. Nvidia has just launched its next-generation ampere GPU architecture, though the first implementations will be in chips for servers and workstations along with the DGX A100 for A.I.-based workloads. Nvidia's RTX 30 series, based on consumer GPUs, is expected to be available later this year.
Nevertheless, we are excited to see how the RTX 3080 and the Radeon VII successor will fare in terms of performance and pricing.