AMD Radeon Vega RX 64 review: finally some competition for the GTX 1080

Asus Vega RX 64

Just as the Radeon Vega RX 56 targets Nvidia’s GTX 1070, the Vega RX 64 is AMD’s precision strike on the mighty GTX 1080. About damn time, too – by focusing solely on the mid-range and entry-level RX 400 and RX 500 series, AMD has given Nvidia free reign of the premium market for about two years. Time for some competition, methinks.

The model I’m testing is Asus’ ROG Strix version, or to use its full title for the only time in this review, the Asus ROG Strix RX Vega 64 OC Edition. The poetically-named ARSRV64OCE builds on AMD’s tech – which includes 8GB of High Bandwidth Memory 2 (HBM2), which stacks its memory modules units on top of each other, supposedly speeding up how long it takes to talk to your CPU – with a nifty three-fan air cooler and, as the name suggests, overclocked cores. It’s only a little bump, mind, upping the base clock from 1247MHz to 1298MHz and the boost clock from 1549MHz to 1590MHz. As to whether all that makes the RX 64 as capable as the GTX 1080 at 1440p and, perhaps most importantly, 4K, the answer is: yes! Pretty much!

It unsurprisingly tore through Doom with barely any visible difference between maxed-out 1080p and 1440p (fair warning, I’ll be saying that a lot), and 4K looked really rather lovely as well. You could tell that the framerate had taken a knock, but not nearly to the extent that it looks unsatisfactory.

Hitman also produced no issues to speak of, other than the fact that – and I’ll admit I have no idea why this could be – it seemed to be slightly more stable during big crowd scenes at 1440p than at 1080p. 4K also held up well, with no need to turn down any settings unless you want to get the most frames out of a 144Hz monitor.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War was also spared any big dips at the lower resolutions; we’re sure there was a difference in smoothness between 1080p and 1440p, but you’d need a frame rate counter to see it. 4K, conversely, was where we first saw the RX 64 under some real strain, hesitating ever-so-slightly during the more bombastic action moments. It always remained playable, to be sure, but it’ll be a matter of taste whether to suck up these drops in exchange for the best quality settings or to lower them for better consistency.

Asus Vega RX 64 rear

Rise of the Tomb Raider got a bit dicey at 4K, too, particularly when there’s an abundance of particle effects or foliage onscreen. It probably is worth disabling some of the more opulent options here, though at 1080p and 1440p, the RX 64 seemed much more comfortable with everything on full.

Total War: Warhammer II looked about as good as you can expect from this game at 1080p with a single GPU, both on the campaign and battle maps. Switching to 1440p made Asus’ fans pipe up, but the game itself still looked grand, occupying the sweet spot between shininess and smoothness. 4K performance, sadly, wasn’t up to snuff – on the battle map, it’s jittery when you’re both up-close on units and high about the field, and the campaign map fares even worse. There are some high points on the latter, though, so playable 4K isn’t out of reach – you’ll just need to sacrifice some fidelity for it.

Again, Wolfenstein II: The New Order made the fans go into wind tunnel mode, but it was worth it: the RX 64 makes it fantastically smooth at both 1080p and 1440p, with do drops, stutters or lurches at all. I expected it to stumble at 4K, but impressively, it never did. In fact, to my eyes it runs almost as sleek as it does at 1440p, at least during any indoor corridor shooty bits (which, to be fair, make up a fair chunk of the game).

Asus Vega RX 64

The Witcher III isn’t quite so spectacular on the RX 64, but it’s still a pretty picture at 1080p and 1440p. Transitions between tight, highly detailed areas and massive expanses are handled particularly well. 4K takes the sheen off a tiny bit – I preferred it running with High presets instead of Ultra – but it’s a small price to pay (not counting the hundreds of pounds you’ve just spent on the card, I guess) to get the Witcher’s world looking this nice.

Rounding things out, we can add Assassin’s Creed Origins to the list of games that look really bloody good on this card. Even next-tier-down cards like the GTX 1070Ti can stumble at 1440p and above, but here, all the resolutions up to and including 4K handle ultra-high settings with ease.

Props also to Asus, who’ve done a characteristically good job with their hardware additions. IP5X dust resistance was a pleasant surprise – I can’t say I’ve ever lost a graphics card to an onslaught of that super-fine, heat-treated muck you only get inside PCs, but as someone who doesn’t have a cleanout as often as he should, it’s some extra peace of mind at the very least.

Asus Vega RX 64 ports

Another nice touch is that this has two HDMI ports instead of one; this could be very handy if you own or desire a VR headset and you already have a monitor hooked up via HDMI, as virtual reality gear typically also uses this connector. With an extra, you’re less likely to be short on ports.

Here’s the problem, however: this particular card has vanished from online retailers (I’m told it’s been on Scan in the not-so-distant past), and I’m still waiting on Asus to confirm when it’ll be back up, and at what price. In fact, most partner-customised RX 64s aren’t even out yet, if they’re even in the works at all. Asus and XFX are the only ones who’ve shown theirs off at the moment.

This just leaves cards that are, for all intents and purposes, the reference design, with its boxy, loud blower-style cooler. Prices start at around £480-500, same as the GTX 1080 – that is, overclocked, better-cooled partner versions of the GTX 1080. With very little separating the two in performance, our advice would be to either wait until customised RX 64s are more… existent, or go ahead with the GTX 1080.

47 Comments

  1. Siimon says:

    “here, all the resolutions up to and including 4K handle ultra-high settings with ease.”

    So you’re saying this card does does AC:Origins 4k Ultra with ease, despite the fact that the 1080 Ti doesn’t pull off more than ~45fps avg? I’m confused.

  2. someoneelse84 says:

    I don’t understand this article! HELP.

  3. Sakkura says:

    The IP 5X dust resistance refers specifically to the fans – their bearings will be less liable to seize up because of dust getting into their working fluid.

    It’s nice, but don’t expect to leave the thing choking on cat hair and dust bunnies for 5 years without needing a cleanup. The cooling fins will still clog up.

  4. Hunchback says:

    Would have been nice to have some actual numbers, no?
    It’s just that “it runs well on 4k” can be quite different, depending on who’s writing or reading it…

    • brucethemoose says:

      That’d be like assigning a score to game reviews, no?

      I prefer a more… refined method myself, yeah, but a subjective, numberless review totally fits RPS.

      In that case, testing less mainstream games might fit RPS better, but not many can stress a RX Vega or 1080.

      • ScubaMonster says:

        Hardware is different because benchmark numbers aren’t subjective and let you directly compare products to see how they stack up. The only subjective part would be what frame rate the reader finds acceptable. Without knowing any numbers, it’s pretty hard to tell if your idea of “good enough” is going to match that of the reviewer.

        That being said, there’s tons of hardware sites that will provide you with that information so RPS doesn’t really need to offer an in depth analysis. I do think providing some basic FPS numbers would be a big help though. Just saying the frame rate took a dip but was still satisfactory doesn’t really tell you a whole lot.

        • brucethemoose says:

          It’s my opinion that basic FPS numbers can be deceptive, as a game can hitch/stutter like crazy and still give a good average, among other things.

          So IMHO, you either go all out, like some hardware sites already do, or you give a subjective “X looks better than Y, to my eyes, under these specific circumstances”

          However, I will say that RPS didn’t even do that… We don’t know if the reviewer even used adaptive sync, VSync, or fast sync on either card, for example, and that makes a big difference with perceived performance.

          • Unclepauly says:

            At first I thought you were trolling. Now I have to concede that you have a point. One internet point. To the Moose. Good day(begrudgingly)

          • brucethemoose says:

            How dare you accuse me of such a thing!

            Proceeds to crawl back under bridge, out of sunlight

      • Fade2Gray says:

        They really should have just gone all the way and removed all the numbers. Instead of the The Rx Vega 64 it should have been “RX Vega (the extra fancy one)” and GTX 1080 should have been “GTX Wallet Buster.” The resolutions should have been “Normal”, “Normal+”, and “LEET Gamer.”

    • wackazoa says:

      I go to Digital Foundry if I want numbers. I read RPS for the articles…… I swear.

      • brucethemoose says:

        TechReport has the best methodology I’ve seen.

        Not only did they invent the frame time/99th percentile “smoothness” graphs, but instead of running preset benchmarks or watching a static scene, they run through a repeatable area that’s actually in-game multiple times (which they post as a video), and average the results.

      • sagredo1632 says:

        Actually, completely believable, since RPS doesn’t link to images at better than the tiny embedded resolutions provided *grump*.

      • Premium User Badge

        Don Reba says:

        I read RPS for the articles…… I swear.

        I admit, I skip right to the sexy comments.

  5. brucethemoose says:

    Just as the Radeon Vega RX 56 targets Nvidia’s GTX 1070, the Vega RX 64 is AMD’s precision strike on the mighty GTX 1080

    Performance wise, yeah.

    Unfortunately, Vega costs more to produce than a 1080 TI, much less a 1080, which is why all these cards seem so pricey.

  6. TheButler83 says:

    Not quite sure I understand the point of a hardware review with no actual numbers. I know that’s not RPS way for games but for £500 quid of high end hardware it’s pretty essential.

    • Kamikaze-X says:

      totally agree. this article lacks insight into power draw, heat output and PSU requirements too, which should be a consideration.

  7. Valu says:

    Holy Moly! Why did asus sent you a sample? Tweaktown as a “real” review for those who are interested. An Hardware review without benchmark? Best job in the world…

  8. Hohumm4sh3d says:

    Bet it runs so fekkin hot you can heat your whole house in it.

  9. Asurmen says:

    I want this card so bad. Been waiting months and months for it. Damn that DVI port on my monitor.

    You say it could be found on Scan, but this card has literally not been released anywhere.

    Also, the Vega did recently beat a 1080 Ti on by large margins on a single game at all resolutions other than 4k.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      You do know that there are DVI -> HDMI cables, right? For a tenner, your monitor’s suddenly perfectly modern.

      • Asurmen says:

        Sorry, not when I have an overclockable monitor.

      • po says:

        No it isn’t, and certainly not for a tenner. If you’d actually done your research you’d know that to get the maximum possible resolution of DVI you need an active, dual-link DVI to HDMI converter instead of just a cable, which costs more like £90.

        I have 2 of them, so I can hook up my perfectly serviceable 28″, 2560×1440 DVI monitors to a GTX1080.

        I have also got a home-made device which takes the power from a motherboard USB socket, runs it up to a pair of switches on my desk, and then back down to the USB power inputs of the two DVI to HDMI converters, because I got sick of crawling under my desk every time I turned my computer on, to unplug them and plug them back in several times, to get them to sync properly, and not give either a blinking screen, or a double image (and then again whenever something changes the resolution of just one monitor).

        I’ve used several brands of converter, and they all have some issue (Apple, Dr. Bott, finally Dell, which at least doesn’t have the constant image artifacts of the others).

  10. FriendlyFire says:

    Worth mentioning as well that if you live in a country with fairly high power costs, Vega is substantially worse than Pascal. For more or less even performance, Vega will consume a lot more power and has next to no overclocking room.

    I would only recommend Vega 64 if you find it for like $50 (or your regional equivalent) cheaper than a 1080 or if you’re just a diehard AMD fan. The Vega 56 is an easier sell but still a little tough to justify versus Nvidia’s offerings.

    • Asurmen says:

      Only up to the point of the cost difference. Also, you can substantially downclock Vegas for hardly any performance loss.

  11. saillc says:

    What a weird hardware review. Basically it says “Hey, this card runs these three games in 1080p and 1440p great! I wont give you any numbers, and 4k is pretty good too, and it gets realllly hot with this game, but it’s cool because it competes with the 1080!”.

    No numbers, comparisons, heat output, sound output, power consumption……anything????

  12. zauberkraut says:

    Umm, RPS – could you stick to game reviews? There are plenty of sites offering serious hardware reviews with tests and this article was pretty terrible.

    • Caiman says:

      I disagree. There’s nothing worse than those tedious, statistically-challenged (N = 1) reviews comparing minor variations in FPS counts between games run at different resolutions. But if you like them, RPS isn’t going to make them go away. For the rest of us, we just want to know how it feels in real life.

  13. buzzmong says:

    Can you bring back Jeremy Laird for hardware reviews please?

  14. palhanow says:

    So guys… What i have to buy? An 1080, a 1070 Ti or the new Vegas 64? I have a 480 8GB now, and i have to said: i love amd colors on my monitor.

  15. Premium User Badge

    syllopsium says:

    It’s odd – right next to this article is one about going off road in Truck Simulator, something that I’m not aware of anyone else writing about, and a prime reason to keep coming to RPS.

    As opposed to this, which is covered elsewhere, and better in each instance. Yes, the numbers are needed, as are details such as noise, heat, power consumption etc..

  16. po says:

    So basically it’s taken AMD 2 years to get to the point where they could match the performance of a GTX 1080, within an acceptable TDP.

    Meanwhile Nvidia has had 2 years to improve their technology, and only has to take whatever their current reference design is, and get it out to manufacturing.

    • Asurmen says:

      The 1080 only came out last year to be fair, but what do you expect? AMD has less money than Nvidia, which means less research and less SKUs, and also has to compete in CPU arena.

      There is however an aspect that AMD like future proofing their cards. There’s tech in the Vega that can be used, hence why it beat an 1080 Ti in a game that did. With the new X Box using a Vega, the Intel announcement and Bethesda working with AND, we could see that tech used for once.

  17. silvershine says:

    That first picture with the card balancing on its side has made me feel ten kinds of anxious

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