03
Dec
2017

Vega 56 Introduction

I’ve finally upgraded the last piece in Flammenwerfer – my 2017 build using AMDs Ryzen. The GTX 960 served me very well, but alas, it had no place in an 8-core, 16 thread system. I opted to go for Vega 56 – this article will go into the details why I went with Vega 56 and my first impressions, and later on I will delve into the performance metrics.

The main problem with RX Vega 56 (and the 64) at the moment is the pricing. As of writing this article, prices seem to range from £450-550 (which is ridiculous). I was very lucky to spot a Powercolor RX Vega 56 for £380 – which is getting very close to MSRP levels. Since then, prices have gone back up – so I am very glad I went for the card when I spotted it.

A very tasty upgrade over the ASUS GTX 960 Strix (pictured above the Vega 56). I personally like the look of Vega 56 – though some have said they find it boring. The RADEON logo on the top side lights up red, with the absolute perfect brightness of red. In my build (pictured at the top), I have gone for a black and red theme, to which this card fits absolutely spot on.

Why Vega then? Why didn’t you get a 1070? My reasons, in no particular order:

  • My LG 29UM68 supports FreeSync
  • The reference cooler matches my build (no aftermarket coolers yet 🙁 )
  • I get to use all of my CableMod custom cables
  • The performance is awesome – more than plenty for my needs
  • New architecture – better support for new APIs (eg, Vulkan)
  • AyyyyMD (I am a bit of an AMD fanboy – supporting the underdog!)

My first initial gripes:

  • I’m fairly positive I’ve heard jet engines quieter than this card under load
  • The drivers are very beta at the time of writing
  • The power draw is a tad high (especially compared to a 1070)

Fortunately, the card is extremely quiet at idle, and the idle power consumption is very good (on par with the 960). The 650W power supply for this system is perfect – with everything maxed out (and I mean maxed, the most I have been able to record at the wall is 550W AC – about 500W DC). Usually whilst gaming I see about 300W.

As for the noise under load, it’s definitely noticeable. It’s more of a “whoosh” rather than a “whine” – although it can get quite loud, its not annoying. Wearing headphones or having the sound turned up in a game quickly removes the noise issue for me. I have, however, discovered the best way to get rid of the noise – and that is to use FreeSync.

From AMDs marketing slides on FreeSync

Holy balls. FreeSync. It’s the future, man. This LG 29UM68 has a variable refresh range from 40 to 75Hz – where essentially the monitor will refresh at the same rate that the GPU can render frames. This gets rid of tearing when V-Sync is disabled, and removes latency when V-Sync is enabled (since the monitor isn’t duplicating frames when the frame rate dips below 60Hz).

The trick, I have found, is to enable FreeSync in the AMD Driver, then use V-Sync enabled in games with the maximum refresh rate set to 75Hz. This then caps the frame rate to 75FPS and allows it to dip below without encountering stuttering and latency issues. Additionally, this means the GPU isn’t cranked out at 100% all the time – resulting in lower power usage, thermal output and fan speeds!

FreeSync is one of those technologies you have to see to believe. It’s a night and day improvement over a standard 60Hz experience. My monitor does 75Hz, which is immediately waaay smoother than 60, but you can find screens quite easily that will do 144Hz. G-Sync offers a similar feature-set to FreeSync, except due to it’s proprietary nature the panels all cost a significant portion more compared to the equivalent FreeSync displays. So you can either spend more on Vega and get a cheaper display, or spend less on an Nvidia card and pay more for the display…. nice.

In the next posts I will talk about the performance and overclocking!

 

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