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Radeon RX Vega GPUs are next to impossible to buy: Is AMD hitting pause or simply prioritizing...

By Steve · 76 replies
Jan 30, 2018
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  1. We recently noticed some information regarding the poor availability of AMD's Radeon RX Vega GPUs that we'd like share with you by way of conjecture. Before we get going, as a reminder, AMD released the Vega 56 and Vega 64 graphics cards back in August, some five months ago. At the time they sold out in seconds and since then supply has been unable to meet demand with miners being mostly to blame for this.

    Despite the poor availability, a good many of you have been asking us to review custom RX Vega graphics cards from one of AMD's partners. This request likely comes at least in part due to my comments openly bashing AMD's reference design, claiming that it's hot, loud and that you simply shouldn't buy it.

    Many custom models have been announced, but getting your hands on any one of them is next to impossible -- I can't even get one, despite AMD saying that it's willing to support me directly. I've heard for months that the cards are coming, until last week when two of AMD's board partners told me that they wouldn't be coming after all.

    This had me confused and after making a few more inquiries it was confirmed by one exclusive partner and one massive partner that the custom cards have been effectively canceled as the companies are no longer receiving Vega 56 and 64 GPUs from AMD, and its reference models weren't being supplied either. No Vega graphics cards were being sold by these partners.

    That didn't seem right to me, so I dug a little more. First I went to check Newegg to see who has RX Vega cards in stock and specifically what models/brands, but I found nothing! Newegg did list some custom Gigabyte models at insane prices with no stock along with a single PowerColor model, also out of stock, as well as a reference model sold by XFX which was likewise unavailable. What was in stock was the 'Vega Frontier Edition' and I'll come back to that shortly.

    Image credit: Legit Reviews

    Every other US retailer I checked also showed zero stock for the Vega 56 and Vega 64. It's the same story for Australian retailers. In fact, PC Case Gear now list just a single Vega 56 model, which is of course out of stock. I also tried the AMD shop on their official website and checked all the links they provide to various retailers -- none of them had stock for either model.

    I also decided to have a look at pre-built systems, though there are almost none that feature RX Vega graphics cards. That said I do know of one, a CybertronPC packing an AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1920X with a reference RX Vega 64 graphics card at Best Buy, who has more than two dozen system to choose from yet only with an RX Vega card inside. And guess what? It's the only PC out of stock.

    There's one exception to the Vega's availability and that's Apple. AMD obviously wouldn't want to upset the apple cart, so you can still buy a horrendously overpriced iMac Pro to get a Vega 56 or Vega 64 graphics card. It's only $8,260 (Aussie) for the Vega 64 version with an eight-core Xeon CPU, 32GB of memory and a 1TB SSD.

    At this point, I realized two things: there didn't appear to be a single Vega 56 or 64 card in stock anywhere in the US or Australia. That's not completely unusual for Vega, but I was intrigued by that detail knowing that AMD's partners told me the company isn't currently taking orders for either GPU.

    What does all of this mean exactly?

    My first thought was that maybe there's a serious issue with production. Could yields really be that bad, though? By now you'd expect yields of the massive 486mm2 die to have begun improving so it seems likely to me that some other cause is to blame.

    At this point, I realized two things: there didn't appear to be a single Vega 56 or 64 card in stock anywhere in the US or Australia. That's not completely unusual for Vega, but I was intrigued by that knowing that AMD's partners told me the company isn't currently taking orders for either GPU.

    Then it occurred to me that while you can't buy a single Vega 56 or 64, there are quite a few Vega Frontier Edition graphics cards in stock. I also recalled seeing Frontier Edition models for sale. On Newegg we can see the air-cooled version selling for $1,500 or $9,000 for half a dozen of them with a six-piece riser kit included.

    I should note that these Frontier Edition graphics cards are being sold via Newegg through a third party seller called 'uShopMall,' so not Newegg itself. At the time of writing, Newegg didn't actually have stock, so the Frontier Edition can still be difficult to track down, especially at a reasonable price.

    By now I began to speculate that AMD hadn't reduced supply of Vega GPUs, but rather it seems that the company has redirected all available supply to its Frontier Edition line. Miners would prefer to buy Vega 64 as it's essentially the same product, packing the same GPU with half as much HBM2 memory with an MSRP of $500. Meanwhile, the Vega Frontier Edition's list price is $1,000.

    Granted, HBM2 memory is expensive. The best estimates put 8GB at around $150, so assuming we can double that for 16GB, that means there's about $150 of additional memory ($300 total) on a Frontier Edition card. AMD is charging at least $500 more than that, so they're pocketing around $350 more on the deal. This is assuming that when selling directly to retailers such as Newegg, AMD isn't increasing the price themselves. I have no evidence of that, just saying it's possible.

    What I do know is that AMD sells its reference design RX Vega cards to partners who then attach their brand before pushing them out to distributors and/or retailers. Generally, this is done to take up the slack before the board partners produce their own custom designed models and at that point AMD is just selling them the GPU.

    Image credit: Gamers Nexus

    With the Frontier Edition, AMD makes those exclusively, or rather it contracts a manufacturer to produce them, which means that AMD sells its Radeon Pro cards directly to distributors and retailers. This way, the company has a bit more flexibility when it comes to pricing and they're of course cutting out the middle man.

    In today's market, every last GPU you can produce is being snapped up practically before you can get it out the factory door, and at alarmingly high prices thanks to price gouging by board partners, distributors, retailers and maybe even AMD themselves. Why would AMD even entertain the idea of selling that product for $400 or $500 when they can get at least $1,000?

    Speaking of price gouging, Newegg merchants are selling the $1,000 Frontier Edition for $1,599, but they also have the Vega 64 listed for $1,400 should it become available. Again, the blame here might not be entirely on retailers, we just don't know what AMD is charging them, even if I tend to believe that AMD is not overcharging.

    As for shipping Frontier Edition models only, or at least focusing the bulk of production away from Vega and toward mining cards, that makes sense for AMD to do and I can honestly understand why they would do it. Again, to be clear I'm only speculating, although the evidence certainly suggests that is the case. Their compute-heavy fifth-generation GCN architecture is highly desired by miners and there's not much AMD can do about that. For now, the goal would be to pump out as many Vega GPUs as possible, slap them on Frontier Edition graphics cards and maximize profit.

    In the short term, the situation sucks for gamers and I'd bet some of you are ready to put the blame on AMD. But as I said, I don't really have a problem with this, if that's indeed what AMD is doing. When retailers start selling Vega 64 graphics cards for over $1,000, AMD doesn't make a single extra dollar from that sale.

    Where they do make many more dollars is when they sell that same GPU on a Frontier Edition card. And if that profit contributes toward developing better gaming graphics cards down the line, then that's great. Let's be honest, on the gaming front, AMD is being bested by Nvidia at almost every price point.

    Image credit: PC World

    Had it not been for this seemingly never-ending mining boom, AMD's GPU division would be in poor shape right now and you'd see loads of Vega 56 and 64 graphics cards on shelves, because just about every gamer who wanted one would have already bought one.

    I've reached out to AMD for a comment on this story and as you'd expect at this point the company is neither confirming nor denying. All it said was that it's working on a formal statement and that it will come out after they announce earnings:

    "We are currently in quiet period in advance of announcing our fourth quarter financial results on January 30th and are unable to comment at this time on certain financial-related items such as GPU demand or market pricing."

    Again, to be clear, I'm in no way bashing AMD and I think they are making the right move here, assuming I'm right. AMD has told me that they are fully committed to gamers and working on devising ways of making GPUs available to them again. Not much different to what competitor Nvidia is also saying.

    Although everything we've discussed so far contradicts this statement, it seems the current neglect is the result of a quick reaction to address a temporary issue, while long term solutions should hopefully look different.

    Bottom line, don't expect custom Vega 56 or 64 graphics cards (or our prompt review of them) anytime soon. It's a real shame and we wish for a future with stronger competition between AMD and Nvidia, much like what we're seeing between AMD and Intel right now.

    Permalink to story.

  2. yRaz

    yRaz Nigerian Prince Posts: 2,937   +2,261

    The problem is that GPU makers ignored a problem 5 years in the making. Now they're blaming it on miners so the gamers don't get made.

    People say it takes years to ramp up GPU production. If anyone remembers, GPU prices started going up do to demand around 4 years ago with AMD card shortages starting about 3 years ago. Two years ago AMD cards became impossible to get so miners moved onto nVidia cards for this purpose.

    So here we are today, we are at a point where both manufacturers are producing GPUs for launching their new cards. They're probably stocking up on GPU's for release to reduce shortages, or atleast have enough to stagger GPU batch releases overtime.

    That being said, I don't blame them for this move. Without proper planning over the last 5 years to ramp up production this is pretty much the only move both manufacturers have. I will get lots of hate for this, but as a miner it just don't make sense to invest in current generation GPU's with next gen right around the corner. Electricity is expense when running multiple GPU's together so the KWhr:hashrate ratio is VERY important. just one of my cards costs me $30 a month running 24/7 now multiply that by 8. 8 GPU's running at once is twice what the rest of my house hold electricity costs are combined
    Jimster480 and SoundFX09 like this.
  3. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,661   +321

    It's not just an AMD problem. The only GeForce 1070 that's in stock at Newegg costs $920.

    This article tells the angle of the card makers. The short of it is, the shortage isn't on the chip makers side (AMD, NVIDIA). The OEM's simply don't have incentive to increase production, because they're not making a lot of money on the cards. They make more money from other products, and when a gamer buys a GPU and likes it, they're more likely to buy other products from the same OEM. But miners don't care about brand and don't buy any other high end gaming products.

    That's probably why there are more Frontier Edition cards around, not only because they cost more and miners buy the gaming cards first, but because OEM's prefer to produce cards that do have a good margin.

    Edit: Just saw this at Reddit. No need to say more. (So why will I say it? Probably because I think that people are too lazy to follow links.) That's another card that's hard to get, and here it's available in bulk to miners.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2018
    Puiu likes this.
  4. Kenrick

    Kenrick TS Evangelist Posts: 630   +403

    Consider yourself lucky and desperate if you could buy a RX Vega 56 for 900USD.
  5. Nobina

    Nobina TS Evangelist Posts: 2,007   +1,540

    But if they produced more GPUs this wouldn't be a problem :˄)
    Peter Farkas likes this.
  6. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 4,098   +3,655

    It likely has something to do with board partners selling to anyone who hands them a wad of cash. There's a local listing on craigslist with some guy selling bulk Vega 56 video cards stating he has 10,000 cards. I know this isn't the only case of it either, reports about of the same thing are occurring all over the place. It's crazy profit for the board partners too, they get to completely cut out retailers plus they likely still charge over MSRP to the scalpers and miners.

    I can certainly understand if AMD is only making frontier edition cards, board partners are screwing AMD, Nvidia, and retailers over.
  7. dj2017

    dj2017 TS Maniac Posts: 160   +167

    I wasn't expecting AMD to offer a good supply of Vega64/56 from the first Frontier card benchmarks. For two reasons. First AMD wasn't seem to be making any profits and second, gamers would still prefer an Nvidia card, offering the same/better/or even much better performance at the same price and with lower power consumption. Vega was a card to put AMD closer to the top places of benchmark charts, as Titan was created from Nvidia for the same reason and also to create new higher price points.
    SoundFX09 likes this.
  8. Jon Tseng

    Jon Tseng TS Booster Posts: 59   +40

    Surely crypto, no?
    hahahanoobs likes this.
  9. hahahanoobs

    hahahanoobs TS Evangelist Posts: 2,591   +933

    I don't see Radeon surviving 2018/2019 under AMD.
  10. Mango2Go

    Mango2Go TS Member

    Well, I kind of got a new and original packed Vega Frontier Edition Liquid for 650€...^^ I am lucky (No regrets at all, works absolutly satisfying for gaming)
  11. Mango2Go

    Mango2Go TS Member

    Vega is actually not that far behind, and the high prices aren't issued by AMD, they are issued by the retailers (which might not make any difference to the customers but it should be enough not to blame the GPU for a pricing which isn't caused by a high UVP). Actually Vega got a lot potential if all the features are utilized (like in Wolfenstein 2 for example). If this will happen is an entirely other story. But you shouldn't blame a card wich can perform quite well if noone is trying to let it perform by not using it features. That doesn't nessecarly mean you should choose a Vega over a 1080, that a matter of some different factors, but it means calling out bad performance is not (always) entirely fair.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2018
    TempleOrion likes this.
  12. DanGer3

    DanGer3 TS Rookie

    Good article. Assuming it is true, I am glad. AMD makes the best crypto/block chain part and they should best be able to profit. The thing that should also be pointed out that this product excels in the professional space and offers strong value compared to NV pro parts. Much of the cards could be going to data center as well, which would be even higher profit. That would be great news on the earnings call.
    SoundFX09 likes this.
  13. dj2017

    dj2017 TS Maniac Posts: 160   +167

    It doesn't matter if it far behind, or close to the competition. It's behind and gamers also like to benchmark and show off where they spend $500-$700. So if they are not big fans of AMD, they will go with the Nvidia option. AMD knows that and as a company that tries to make money, it will not start giving away hardware at single digit, or zero, or even negative profit margins. They are not Intel to start throwing billions in an effort to maintain a market share, or get into a new market.

    Vega was meant for professionals. Koduri probably was hoping to get 1.7GHz or more out of it, without first getting in the "extremely bad efficiency" territory. It couldn't be done, so it wasn't the gaming card many where hopping to be. Not being fast enough meant "1080 price range" not "1080 Ti price range". And that was the end of it. The only way to promote it was as a package with a Freesync monitor against an Nvidia card and the much more expensive GSync version of the same monitor.

    As for Vega's technologies. Not going to happen. When you don't feel/want/need to sell cards to gamers, you don't throw money into Vega's specific technologies. At least not as much as you should. And even then, if Vega needs special programming to beat Nvidia GTX 1080 without Gameworks and stuff, that's bad. There where articles a few weeks ago about primitive shaders support getting canceled. Also if you see how badly RX 400 series and Fury cards are getting beaten from RX 500 series cards, it's obvious that AMD is starting to follow Nvidia's manual here." Optimize only for the latest series".

    AMD will sell to miners and professionals because they don;t have to invest more money to do so. They can't sell to gamers and they aren't going to try selling to gamers because it is too expensive(low price for the cards, plenty of dollars to developers to optimize their games for GCN).

    You are NOT going to believe this, but I am FULL AMD. Just prefer to be realistic when expressing an opinion. You have to realize that you own phrase "a Vega over a 1080" shows the problem. There is NO "Ti" in that phrase.
  14. Cycloid Torus

    Cycloid Torus Stone age computing - click on the rock below.. Posts: 4,111   +1,213

    Folks, it IS a Bubble (stretched thin, encompassing a volume of hot air). Be patient. The BURST is coming.
  15. Lionvibez

    Lionvibez TS Evangelist Posts: 1,477   +644

    Not that I'm looking to buy one but I can get the RX Vega 64 for $948 CAD and its in stock.

    America has it worse with the price gouging.
    Charles Olson likes this.
  16. yRaz

    yRaz Nigerian Prince Posts: 2,937   +2,261

    did you read anything I said? I'm saying the problem started with AMD 5 years ago because their architecture is better suited for mining. When they became unobtainable people moved to nVidia thus making those unobtainable. both had about 5 years to see the trend and ignored it so now we have a shortage that they're blaming on miners. They're excuses are aimed at gamers and their shareholders, they refused to make arrangements to ramp up production years ago and now we're here.

    "oh, look, we've been having shortages of our products for years now! let's blame it on the people buying our product! Yeah, it's the consumers fault we haven't made plans to ramp up production over the last 5 years!"

    You're really starting to annoy me with your lack of reading or understanding my posts. You're lucky I have nothing better to do than argue with people on the internet all day while I'm sick
  17. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,661   +321

    There was no significant problem until a few months ago. People have bought pretty much any GPU they wanted for the past 5 years. Perhaps availability wasn't always great, but certainly we never had this inflation of prices or total inability to buy GPU's.

    Nobody plans on widespread insanity, and unfortunately the mining craze hit people hard.

    I read and understand quite well. And I don't know if it's lucky that you don't respond. I do want you to respond to that other post, because if you really can answer those questions satisfactorily, then I might reconsider what I think about mining, but until then I'll continue to think that you're terribly naive, ignoring the facts, and trying not to see all the drawbacks of crypto mining (which are a lot bigger than the benefits).

    Rest and feel well. I'll be waiting for the answers.
    TempleOrion and GreenNova343 like this.
  18. AMDomination

    AMDomination TS Member

    The author's conclusion doesn't account for two facts:

    1) GloFlo is using the same scanners for 12LP as 14nm LPP (NXT:1980Di) - meaning AMD has been "prioritizing" Ryzen+ on 12LP for months to ensure a smooth launch.

    2) Samsung is producing Vega FE - so they're obviously going to be available even when Vega 56/64 lines at GloFlo have transitioned to other products (such as the aforementioned Pinnacle Ridge).

    I have to question whether the author is creating needlessly inflammatory commentary out of pure spite or simply ignorance. Either way it's a disservice to the reader.
    HardReset and Charles Olson like this.
  19. Cycloid Torus

    Cycloid Torus Stone age computing - click on the rock below.. Posts: 4,111   +1,213

    The 'other' question is what happens to this huge pile of aging ultra cards when either [1] the bubble bursts on mining, or [2] the next generation appears, displacing them.

    Thoughts on "good questions" invited. I am thinking here of how Steve might answer, "Is the thermal cycling of a card the main cause of its eventual failure?" and "Does a card which has run 24/7 for a year 'wear out'?"

    @Steve, great article!
    senketsu likes this.
  20. Foobario

    Foobario TS Rookie

    Kudos to AMD for finally cutting the price gougers out of the profits. AMD tech is what makes the cards so desirable, why should the AIB partners make five times the profit of AMD for adding a fan? Miners don't care what cooling solution is attached since these cards are used in an open air environment.

    Ever since this crypto craze started AMD has been prioritizing OEM sales channels with the RX 580 and 570. Vega has been prioritized for Apple, as the author states, and excess production is now going to the Frontier and Instinct line with the AIBs totally shut out for now.

    AMD has shown great restraint compared to Nvidia. If this crypto craze dies like the original Bitcoin craze died when ASICs became available it will be a flood of 1070s and 1060s more so than 580s that drive prices down for all gamers.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2018
    TempleOrion likes this.
  21. HyPeroxya

    HyPeroxya TS Enthusiast Posts: 89   +10

    I have never been in greater need of a Paradigm-shift, I hope the soft toilet paper is in there?
  22. Boilerhog146

    Boilerhog146 TS Evangelist Posts: 620   +217

    Great Article.
    with age creeping up and with the gallbladder gone and hard to manage diabetes,all this is making me so sick that my Paradigm is constantly shifting so much that , I now carry my own soft toilet paper . ;(

    I guess I really got lucky getting my top tier 1080 for 729.00 cdn ,that's 590.00 u.s. right now. it was less when I bought the card, last spring. same card is now close to 1100.00 cdn if you can find one..its the Gigabyte Extreme Gaming Premium Pack Rev2 with the front hdmi panel.

    WOW! JUST WOW! the Aorus version of my GTX 1080 Extreme Gaming is listed currently on newegg by a third party for a whopping 1349.00 cdn ,the regular gigabyte GTX 1080 is 1049.00 ,1070 at over 900.00 ,1060 6 gig at 649.00 ,RETARDED !
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2018
  23. SWKerr

    SWKerr TS Rookie

    This article does seem to make a lot of sense. There has always been speculation that AMD was making very little on Vega 56 and 64 cards due to the high cost of the memory and chip. Because of the skewed demand curve related to mining mining they could direct most output to the most profitable segment of their lineup knowing they would sell every card regardless. It also would help limit the damage to gaming after a crash.

    I have been looking to buy a 1070 or above class card since late December and it does not matter if it is AMD or nVidia. There are no cards to be had. Even Newegg has taken to way over MSRP if they actually get stock. An advertised special Newegg deal today was a combo motherboard\GTX 1060 6GB for $514. This worked out to essentially $385 for a card that should go for maybe $260 and this was a deal. But at least you could get your hands on one and it is less than what other vendors are peddling similar cards for.

    I have a RX580 rig that I had to move to the Den to have space for VR. I had planed to replace my primary gaming rig with a new one but now I have a half complete PC sitting around waiting for Ryzen cpu and a Video card. I suspect it will be summer before it gets completed. I Am actually considering a X Box One X at this point as I have a 4K set and a PC that can barely push 1080p 30fps on some titles.

    Also: as someone that used to do business evaluations for Mergers and Acquisitions I can not fathom the current valuations for Crypto currencies. These are literally impossible to evaluate since they have NO underlying value. A normal currency is tied to a economy. Stocks and bonds are tied directly to tangible assets. Most Crypto currently is really valued on scarcity but no fundamental link to anything of real value. With crazy valuations and likely government regulation a crash is imminent.
  24. AMDomination

    AMDomination TS Member

    This article only makes sense as a passive aggressive swipe at AMD business practices, and is in fact baseless, given what is actually known about 14LPP/12LP production and current product lines.

    It's sad to me that speculation as obviously off the mark as this is on the front page of google when searching "AMD Vega."

    You are mostly right about the ridiculous "value" of crypto currencies - can't wait until that bubble bursts. Ironically perhaps, the most viable crypto isn't even mine-able (XLM) and trades at very low prices due largely to its extremely well thought out inception.
  25. Boilerhog146

    Boilerhog146 TS Evangelist Posts: 620   +217

    Worth a search on newegg Canada website, they have a gigabyte vega 56 and 64 in stock ,they ship from the u.s. the vega 56 is priced currently at $1249.00 and the vega 64 is sitting at $1489.00 cdn.. Hurry.
    Charles Olson likes this.

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