With the release driver on hand for the Radeon VII we decided to go back to the test bench. Steve has spent the last few days doing nothing but benchmarking... after spending the few days before that, doing nothing but benchmarking.
Since our day-one review of the Radeon VII, we were told by AMD driver improvements were coming but there would be no performance improvements, however the numerous stability issues we experience should be solved. And indeed, with the update in place the Radeon VII is now rock solid, which is a massive improvement.
Today we have over 30 games to check out, including the new World of Tanks update as well as Apex Legends. For testing we used our Core i9-9900K test bench clocked at 5 GHz with 32GB of DDR4-3400 memory. We'll cover some of the results individually and then jump into the full performance breakdown with all 33 games.
Since the review covered results for Fortnite, Battlefield V, World of Tanks, Strange Bridge, Monster Hunter: World, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Rainbow Six Siege, Far Cry 5, Forza Horizon 4, Resident Evil 2, ARMA 3 and Hitman 2, we're going to skip over them and instead pick a dozen different games to discuss.
Apex Legends is a fresh new battle royale game that came out of nowhere, but it does seem like people are enjoying this one. It's based on the same engine as Titanfall 2 and like Titanfall 2 it's capped at 144 fps.
The Radeon VII does OK in this one. It's slightly slower than the GTX 1080 Ti, 12% slower than the RTX 2080 and 26% faster than Vega 64. So that's kind of Radeon VII in a nutshell.
The Radeon VII performs quite well in Sniper Elite 4, but who didn't see that coming? This is a well optimised title that plays well on both AMD and Nvidia hardware. The GeForce RTX 2080 was still slightly faster but the margin is small. The Radeon VII also manages to improve on Vega 64 by a 30% margin.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a late 2016 release but it's certainly not the oldest game we test with. For those wondering DirectX 11 works better than DX12 on both AMD and Nvidia GPUs, so that's why we use it.
The Radeon VII was able to match the GTX 1080 Ti, making it a little slower than the RTX 2080 but a good bit faster than the RTX 2070 and Vega 64.
It's not the most well optimized title to be released last year but Just Cause 4 is still a lot of fun. Anyway, performance for the Radeon VII was... okay. The 1% low performance matched that of the GTX 1080 Ti and RTX 2080 which is good, the average frame rate positioned it squarely between the RTX 2080 and 2070, which is... okay.
The Star Wars Battlefront II results are decent, here the Radeon VII provides strong 1% low performance coupled with a slightly lower than expected average frame rate. In the end it was 10% slower than the RTX 2080 for the average frame rate, but 32% faster than Vega 64.
Project Cars 2 has always favored Nvidia hardware. We see this when comparing Vega 56 and the GTX 1070 for example, typically the Vega GPU is faster. As a result Radeon VII was only able to beat the GTX 1080, making it much slower than the RTX 2080 and way slower than the GTX 1080 Ti.
Moving on we have Assassin's Creed Odyssey, a title that never plays nice with AMD hardware comparatively even though it's an AMD sponsored title. Evidently that doesn't mean much as this game prefers Intel CPUs and Nvidia GPUs.
The Radeon VII is a big step forward from Vega 64 offering 28% more performance, though it was only able to match the RTX 2070, which is not great for a $700 flagship AMD GPU.
On previous tests we were using the standalone World of Tanks benchmark, but because that hasn't been updated and the game has received a major overhaul we're switching back to testing with the HD client.
The game engine improvements were mostly focused on better CPU utilization, which is useful for those using low clocked multi-core processors. Before the Radeon VII was 17% slower than the RTX 2080, now it's 16% slower, so the result is the same.
On Vermintide 2 the Radeon VII was slower than both the RTX 2080 and GTX 1080 Ti, though it was a huge step forward from Vega 64, delivering 36% more frames on average.
The Witcher 3 has the Vega 56 card matching the GTX 1070, however the Radeon VII didn't fare as well, where it was 9% slower than the GTX 1080 Ti and even slower than the RTX 2080.
AMD no longer enjoys a performance advantage in Vulkan-based titles. Take Wolfenstein II for example, here the Radeon VII was 12% slower than the RTX 2080.
DiRT 4 is always an interesting inclusion as CMAA enables god mode on the Radeon GPUs and we again see this here with the Radeon VII. Vega 64 was able to beat the 1% low performance of the RTX 2080 Ti and here we see the Radeon VII shatter it while delivering the same 154 fps on average. AMD's GPU division would be in pretty good shape if every game looked like this.
That's how the Radeon VII stacks up in another dozen titles, so between this feature and the day-one review we've closely looked at 24 games, but there's another 9 that were part of our mega benchmark.
The graphs below will show you how the Radeon VII compares to the RTX 2080, 2060, GTX 1080 Ti and Vega 64 in all 33 games...
In our review featuring just a dozen games, Radeon VII was 4% slower than the RTX 2080. Now with 33 games it's 7% slower, so a slight change there. The previous 12 titles are included here so an even amount of favorable and unfavorable titles for the GCN 5th-gen architecture.
What the graph above tell us is that there's an overwhelmingly good chance that in a given title the RTX 2080 will be faster, making it the superior gaming graphics card right now.
The Radeon VII was 2% slower than the GTX 1080 Ti with our 12-game sample, now it's 5% slower. No major changes, but for the most part the much older GTX 1080 Ti was faster. Moreover, it was faster by a 10% margin or greater in 10 of the 33 games whereas the Radeon VII was faster by a 10% margin or greater in only 2 of the 33 games.
Against the RTX 2060 the Radeon VII is 28% faster...
Finally compared to Vega 64 the latest Radeon is 24% faster. That's a nice little performance bump, but as we said in the day-one review, you're paying 40% more for a little over 20% more performance.
Putting It All Together
For better or worse, it seems we pretty much nailed it with our sample of games in the day-one coverage. The Radeon VII is indeed slightly slower than the RTX 2080, while costing the same amount and consuming a little extra power. Currently the reference card is extremely loud, but AMD has promised a fix is coming for that. We're also glad to report all the stability issues we were seeing prior to release have been addressed, so anyone who bought this card should enjoy a flawless experience.
We've yet to delve into any overclocking and/or undervolting, something we'll report on if we find there's room for tweaks and squeezing more performance there.
Something worth noting, AMD does believe that the Radeon VII is performing as it should be. Even though we plan to continue benchmarking this GPU during its lifespan, as we always do, AMD is not putting up excuses and saying drivers are still immature or early revisions. A surprise would be nice, but in the meantime what you see is what you get.
The Radeon VII is a fine graphics card, but it's not competitive enough against the RTX 2080. We review it exclusively as a gaming product (where that 16GB frame buffer is not really a factor) and frankly it under delivered. If it was more efficient than the RTX 2080 and ran quiet, maybe we could deem it a worthy alternative, but let's not sugar coat this or beat around the bush, it's not as efficient, it's loud and for the most part it's slower, only a little slower but it's slower.
For those reasons we can't recommend the Radeon VII over the GeForce RTX 2080. As badly as we wanted the RTX 2080 to be obliterated, forcing Nvidia to get real with their pricing, that has not happened. Therefore gamers are forced to pay 2016 pricing for 2016 performance (unless there's a DLSS miracle, but wait, no titles supporting that...). It's not a bleak scenario at all -- read why we believe building a gaming PC right now is a good idea -- but let's still hope later in the year we see GPUs deliver better value for gamers.