Radeon VII Fixes AMD GPU Clock Speed Problems, CES 2019

What a Huge Surprise!

AMD ended up being my last appointment for CES 2019. Even though I wasn’t slated for my visit till Thursday evening, I was fortunate enough to join in at a press event the night before. Due to the crazy CES schedule I had, that was the first time I heard anything about Radeon VII. At first, I wasn’t impressed. My initial though was that it would be another workstation graphics card. After talking to the AMD reps though, I realized they sneaked a high end gaming graphics card release into CES without even a leak! I was shocked, dazed, and excited all at the same time.

https://www.amd.com/en/products/graphics/radeon-vii

The Radeon VII Specs

Let’s highlight some specs here and see what this card has. First, we have the first 7nm GPU made for gaming. That’s pretty cool, but we want to see numbers related to performance. On the memory side, we have a whopping 16GB of HBM2. Unconfirmed estimates put the memory clock at 2000Mbps. We have 3840 shaders and 1024GB/s memory bandwidth. These are solid numbers for gaming performance. The final two specs are interesting though. On the TDP side, estimates are coming in at 300W. That’s par for course for AMD. On the GPU boost clock side, we have an oddly high speed of 1800MHz. Now it’s getting interesting.

A Specs Comparison

Let’s go back to the power rating. Even though performance per watt is improving, the total power usage is staying the same. Even the R9 290X from ages ago was rated at 290W. While the Radeon VII is doing more for the same rating, energy efficiency is an area that can see greater improvement down the road. However, we need to look at that boost clock speed. Going back to the 290X, that card was struggling to push past 1300MHz. Both Vega 64 and the latest R9 590 were just getting to ~1600MHz. Seeing Radeon VII hit a clock of 1800MHz from the first announcement is pretty awesome. It will be interesting to see if the clock speeds have a decent amount of headroom for overclocking after reviews come out.

Why the Radeon VII is Great News

Seeing AMD find a way to make Vega 20 push the GPU that fast is surprising and great news. While I don’t think I was the only one, I remember feeling a bit deflated after the Vega 10 launch. My initial impression was that the architecture was a failure, unable to be redeemed in the future. When Mr. Koduri left Radeon, it worsened my fears that the GPU market would loose all competition for a very long time. The Radeon VII not only brings back competitive hope, but it also gives us a taste for what Navi will be capable of. I wouldn’t expect anything major, but the next architectural jump should bring even better efficiency and performance. The competitive world of the GPU wars appears to be born again.

Excellent Design Quality

Finally, I got the chance to get my hands on the Radeon VII at CES. Holy cats! That card felt so ridiculously solid, I felt like I could chuck it into a wall and it would come away unscathed. Of course, I didn’t try that. I did gloat over it a ton and if you can get over my wireless audio interference, you can check it out in my video coverage. The solid aluminum shroud is a huge step up for a factory level graphics card, and the tiny detail of painting the mounting bracket black just made my day. AMD did an amazing job with the release, and I imagine the next Ryzen series is going to do great as well.

That pretty well wraps up our CES coverage. Remind me to never fill my calendar up quite that much again. I’m not sure I can handle A.) all that walking or B.) all that excitement. CES may be over, but Hardware Hounds will keep bringing news and reviews as they come. Catch ya’ later!

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