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AMD Radeon RX Vega56 8GB Review

Rating: 8.5.

Aiming to strengthen granularity between its market positions that currently pit RX 580 against GTX 1060 in the mid-range and RX Vega64 against GTX 1080 in the high-end, AMD will be releasing the RX Vega56 to compete with Nvidia's highly-popular GTX 1070. Operating as a cut-down version of the Vega 10 GPU, RX Vega56 runs at lower clock speeds than Vega64 and features fewer GPU cores. But in cutting down the GPU and reducing clock speeds, AMD has managed to shave 85W from the rated TDP and has sliced $100 off the MSRP, making RX Vega56 a $399 offering.

Is this the Vega we have all been waiting for?

Before the mining boom drove prices crazy, and prior to Vega's release, the graphics card market was fairly simple. RX 580 competes with GTX 1060 and for anything higher-performance from the current generation crop, you buy Nvidia. However, AMD's launch of the Radeon RX Vega64 has changed that as Team Green now has realistic competition for its high-end GTX 1080 offering. However, the GTX 1070 that has proved such great value to 1440P gamers went largely under the radar against the far more expensive (and higher performance) Vega64 Air option.

That's where Radeon RX Vega56 comes in. AMD is pitting RX Vega56 directly against the GTX 1070 and thinks that the cut-down Vega 10 card with its 8GB of HBM2 memory can prove itself against the cut-down GP104 chip from Nvidia. GTX 1070 is a tough, power-efficient competitor that has ruled supreme in the mid-to-high-end market for more than a year. AMD's tasks is tough but the specs and comparable price points should make for an interesting battle.

GPU AMD RX Vega64 Liquid
AMD RX Vega64 Air
AMD RX Vega56 Nvidia GTX 1070 Nvidia GTX 1080 Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti
GPU Name Vega 10 Vega 10 Vega 10 GP104 GP104 GP102
GPU Cores 4096 4096 3584 1920 2560 3584
Base Clock 1406MHz 1247MHz 1156MHz 1506 MHz 1607 MHz 1480 MHz
GPU Boost Clock 1677MHz (Avg) 1750MHz (Max) 1546MHz (Avg) 1630MHz (Max) 1471MHz (Avg) 1590MHz (Max) 1683 MHz 1733 MHz 1582 MHz
Total Video Memory 8GB HBM2 8GB HBM2 8GB HBM2 8GB GDDR5 8GB GDDR5X 11GB GDDR5X
Texture Units 256 256 256 120 160 224
Texture fill rate 429.3 GT/s 395.8 GT/s 330.0 GT/s 180.7 GT/s 257.1 GT/s 331.5 GT/s
Memory Bit Rate
1.89 Gbps effective 1.89 Gbps effective 1.60 Gbps effective 8 Gbps effective 10 Gbps effective 11 Gbps effective
Memory Bandwidth 484 GB/s 484 GB/s 410 GB/s 256.3 GB/s 320 GB/s 484 GB/s
Bus Width 2048-bit 2048-bit 2048-bit 256-bit 256-bit 352-bit
ROPs 64 64 64 64 64 88
Manufacturing Process 14nm 14nm 14nm 16nm 16nm 16nm
TDP 345 W 295 W 210 W 150 W 180 W 250 W
Power Connector(s) 2x 8-pin 2x 8-pin 2x 8-pin 1x 8-pin 1x 8-pin 1x 6-pin + 1×8-pin
Launch MSRP $699 (Radeon Aqua Pack) $499 $399 $449 (FE) $699 (FE) $699
UK Starting Price (Aug 2017)
£639 Suggested (Radeon Aqua Pack)

£670+ Current

£450 Suggested

£550+ Current

Estimated Approx. £360 Approx. £350-380 (limited stock) Approx. £490 Approx. £670

As far as brute force goes, AMD's Vega56 looks to be a more powerful offering than GTX 1070. You get more GPU cores and 8GB of HBM2 memory with significantly higher bandwidth (though note the reduction compared to RX Vega64). However, the lofty core speeds available via the TSMC 16nm process used for Nvidia's GTX 1070 serve to level out the playing field.

We do not yet have confirmed RX Vega56 retail pricing for the UK market as the card is not due to ship until the end of August. However, if the RX Vega64 launch is anything to go by, that MSRP of $399 will be effectively unobtainable in one way or another. In real terms, this should translate into around £360-380. However, the supposedly-£450 RX Vega64 Air quickly shot up by over £100/$100 to £550+/$599+.

We can only analyse the RX Vega56 based on its MSRP of $399 as we have no information suggesting it will be priced differently. Nvidia is not free from criticism in this department, either, as you should consider yourself lucky to get a GTX 1070 at its current MSRP of £329 (there's supposedly a solitary AIB partner SKU coming at that price in a few weeks but we will have to wait and see).

As was the case with RX Vega64, Vega56 features two BIOS modes and software alterations for its power profiles. It is notable how sharp the decrease in power for Vega56 is compared to Vega64. You get a 25% power reduction compared to Vega64 Air in Vega56's ‘Balanced' and ‘Turbo' modes. This speaks volumes for just how far AMD has to push the silicon's clock speed past its optimal efficiency range for Vega64 to hit its performance target.

We suggest that buyers of RX Vega56 cards have a play around with the power profiles to see which ones best fit their performance, noise, and power draw needs. Our testing will be conducted using the ‘Turbo' mode so that we can see the card's all-out performance capability, albeit at the expense of power draw, noise output, and temperature levels.

For more information we encourage you to read our Radeon RX Vega64 Air review HERE, as well as our additional Vega coverage HERE and HERE.

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