Radeon 7: AMD launches the challenge to RTX 2080

Radeon 7: AMD launches the challenge to RTX 2080

At what historical moment did 4K gaming become feasible without too many compromises in the graphics settings? In our opinion, it all started with the arrival of the Titan X Pascal, in August 2016, followed by two other high-level products: the GTX 1080Ti and the Titan Xp. Nvidia has reached new heights in terms of performance thanks to its GP102 processor. AMD did not have a ready answer and the RTX cards raised the standard further. Two and a half years after the debut of the GP102 processor, however, AMD is about to launch a truly competitive new Radeon that, despite lacking the latest innovations in video game graphics, is proving to be very fast and equipped with a more unique than rare feature : 16GB of ultra-fast HBM2 memory.

Before our tests we were really skeptical about the possibility that the Radeon 7 could offer the power needed to justify its high price. After all, the Vega 20 processor used by this GPU is the same one mounted in the RX Vega 64. The architecture is very similar and the chip has the same 64 computational units, 4096 shaders. In fact, the Radeon 7 uses very similar components to the previous cards, with 60 active CUs for a total of 3840 shaders. The performance improvement is due to two main elements: first of all, the computing power has increased thanks to the transition to the 7nm process which allows AMD to increase the chip clock speed. Secondly, the memory interface is twice as wide, with a 4096-bit bus (!) Offering a large increase in bandwidth.

The memory specifications seem impressive but the increase in computing power seems a bit disappointing and gives us the impression that the 30% increase compared to Radeon RX Vega 64 that we had estimated could be overly optimistic. However, the measured performances are unquestionable and there is no doubt that AMD offered a product perfectly in line with the promises. In the next few pages you will see that, generally, Radeon 7 is in direct competition with RTX 2080 and with the old Pascal GP102 products, including the popular GTX 1080Ti.

Radeon 7

AMD has set a price of around $700 for the Radeon 7, which means that, in terms of gaming performance, the quality / price ratio hasn’t changed much compared to the arrival of GTX 1080Ti two years ago. On the same price range, Nvidia offers the RTX 2080 which provides similar rasterization performance but we feel we can reward the efforts of the green team that has attempted to redefine video game graphics with ray tracing via hardware and machine learning. After all, Radeon 7 is still Vega, a technology that came late to the market and does not include the latest in graphics. Essentially, therefore, AMD is asking us to put aside the advantages offered by the RTX features in exchange for twice the framebuffer memory provided by Radeon 7.

In the picture below, you can see the card that AMD sent us for the review. This is the reference model for Radeon 7, equipped with a high-quality all-metal casing (including the back plate), an excellent heat sink and three fans. The third-party cards could be different but the reference model of AMD presents the usual input and output equipment, composed of three DisplayPorts and a single HDMI 2.0 output. It’s a fairly flat design card compared to other third-party GPUs on the market but the Radeon logo in bright red is really nice. We are facing a clear step forward compared to the previous reference models of AMD but we must point out that the noise produced by the fan of our model is significantly higher than the RTX 2080 and even 2080 Ti by Nvidia. This is a bit of an enigmatic fact if we take into account the fact that the GPU itself has never been overheated and to the touch it has always been rather lukewarm, contrary to what we had seen with Vega. Finally, the energy consumption that we could measure was around 370W.

  GPU cores Clock Frequency TFLOPs Memory Bandwidth
Radeon 7 3840 1800MHz 14.2 16GB HBM2 1024GB / s
Vega 64 4096 1546MHz 12.7 8GB HBM2 484GB / s
RTX 2080 FE 2944 1800MHz 10.6 8GB GDDR6 448GB / s
GTX 1080 Ti 3584 1582MHz 11.3 11GB GDDR5X 484GB / s

So let’s move on to the most important question: will Radeon 7’s impressive 16GB of HBM2 memory deliver tangible benefits? The AMD review guide points out that, using the appropriate tools, it is possible to notice that many titles have exceeded the 8GB memory threshold (the maximum limit of the competitor RTX 2080) on several occasions. However, there is not much evidence that this is a limiting factor for RTX 2080. The truth is that many games dynamically adjust the way VRAM is managed, depending on how much is available. Call of Duty, for example, has used VRAM as a cache for many years but higher memory usage does not necessarily translate into an improved experience.

Radeon 7

The review guide, however, presents us with an interesting scenario. The latter, in fact, points out that the use of Far Cry 5 resolution dynamic scaling technology leads to the use of VRAM to exceed 8GB and states that, in those situations, the RTX 2080 may exhibit stuttering phenomena, unlike the Radeon 7. Our tests, in fact, have found that the use of DRS at 60fps can almost double the consumption of VRAM at 4K resolution (!). At the same time, however, both Radeon 7 and RTX 2080 kept the 60fps stable throughout the test area specified by AMD. Ultimately, therefore, finding cases in which the 16GB are really necessary is really difficult and, as a result, one could object that, at least at present,

However, this does not mean that 16 GB of memory is not useful. Radeon 7 is essentially a more gaming-oriented version of a professional-grade GPU and, from our point of view of people working with video editing every day, it could be really useful, since we found ourselves several times in reach the limits of the VRAM of our current GPU: a 12GB Nvidia Titan X Pascal. To be honest, the entire DF team has abandoned the 6 / 8GB cards for some time because they were too limiting in terms of memory.

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Mounting different 4K streams together on a timeline with different transitions does not cause too many problems during editing but may result in a sudden crash when exporting. As you can see in the video embedded on this same page, we created a simple Adobe Premiere project using six clips and three transitions. All this would surely have caused a crash on the Titan but Radeon 7 manages to handle everything without difficulty. This is a phenomenon that is certainly not due to the drivers or to the computing power but exclusively to the memory of the GPU. For content creators in 4K, Radeon 7 may still appear expensive but, at the same time, it would make it easier to work on more complex projects.

But we’re talking about a gaming GPU, aren’t we? So let’s get straight to our detailed performance analysis through 10 stocks, old and new.

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