AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 benchmarks: performance – at a cost

The Radeon RX Vega 64 is the most powerful consumer graphics card AMD have ever made, rivalling Nvidia’s GTX 1080, but falling leagues behind the Green Team’s best, the excellent RTX 2080 Ti – not to mention the RTX 2080, GTX 1080 Ti and even the recently released RTX 2070.

The Vega 64 makes a case for itself as an excellent 1440p performer that often has frames to spare, making it a better choice for ultra-wide 21:9 and 32:9 monitors that would overburden lesser cards. It’s also the first AMD graphics card that can really grapple with 4K gaming, although you’ll likely need to turn down settings in order to achieve that vaunted 60fps ideal. Still, the Vega 64 is the undisputed fastest AMD graphics card on the market.

One nice advantage to choosing high-end AMD hardware is that picking up a variable refresh rate monitor is much cheaper. AMD’s FreeSync standard adds almost nothing to the cost of a monitor, while Nvidia’s comparable G-Sync module can increase the price by 20 per cent or mroe. This cost savings makes the Vega 64’s sub-par 4K performance feel a little more reasonable.

How does the Vega 64 compare to its little brother, the Vega 56? Well, the Vega 64 is normally around ten per cent more powerful than its cut-down counterpart, although this does come at a cost: greater power consumption, higher temperatures and a steeper asking price as well. However, if you’re looking for the best AMD graphics card on the market, then you won’t find a more powerful card than the Vega 64 outside of AMD’s prototypes lab.

In order to give you a good idea of in-game performance, we’ll show you exactly how the Vega 64 does in nine different games at 1440p and 4K using very High or ultra settings throughout.

Our comparison includes the two Vega cards released so far, the Vega 56 and Vega 64, plus three competing Nvidia cards that occupy a similar price sphere: the GTX 1070 Ti, GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti. We’ll also include an AMD cross-generation benchmark towards the end of this piece, letting you see how the Vega 64 compares to its predecessors.

You’ll notice that our benchmarks are a little different than you’ll find on other sites. Instead of using graphs or videos with “burnt-in” metrics, our system uses a YouTube video with live frame-rates and frame-times shown below – at least while you’re viewing this page on a computer rather than a mobile. Because these stats exist on our site, you can control them – you can add or remove cards from the comparison using the controls to the right of the video, skip around or play back the video at double speed and everything will just work. This makes it easy to just see the results you’re interested in, so you can see how up to four cards compare at the same resolution or see how one or two cards work over multiple resolutions.

As well as the live data, there’s also a handy graph slightly further down which shows you the average results over the entire run. You can mouse over different parts of the graph to see other metrics, like the worst one per cent frame-rates which give you an idea of just how bad things can get. You can also click on the barchart to see how the other cards compare in terms of percentages – possibly more easy to follow than frame-rate numbers alone. For more info on the benchmarking system, you can take a look at our full introduction to the Digital Foundry benchmarking system here.

Assassin’s Creed Unity is the first title in our benchmark series. The 2014 game is comfortable for the Vega 64 at 59fps, but the 1440p score is still outperformed by the GTX 1070 Ti (61fps), GTX 1080 (67fps) and GTX 1080 Ti (85fps). That shows that while the Vega 64 is a powerful card, there are some games where it will be heavily outgunned by Nvidia’s high-end hardware. The Vega 64 is at least 10 per cent faster than the Vega 56 at 1440p, making its higher price point a little bit more reasonable. Moving to 4K, the Vega 64 draws level to the GTX 1070 Ti but still falls behind the GTX 1080 by eight per cent.

Next up we have 2016 lasers-and-spaceships game Ashes of the Singularity. This DirectX 12 title ought to favour AMD hardware, and indeed we see a strong result for the Vega 64 over its main rival, the GTX 1080. The Vega 64 turns in a solid 80 frames per second here, which is sufficient to outperform the GTX 1080. At 4K, the Vega 64 still manages 63 frames per second, just fractionally ahead of the GTX 1080. Meanwhile, the 10 per cent lead over the Vega 56 is maintained once more at 4K.

Battlefield 1, the 2016 interim release between main series titles Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 5, is our third test for the Vega 64. AMD cards seem to do well in this tank-based test, and the Vega 64 is able to once again comfortably eclipse the GTX 1080 by nine per cent at 1440p and four per cent at 4K. However, the GTX 1080 Ti still holds on determinedly to the top spot, with 12 per cent faster than the Vega 64 at 1440p and 13 per cent faster at 4K.

Despite being released in 2013, Crysis 3 still challenges modern graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia alike. Our train journey through the jungle doesn’t seem to suit AMD’s hardware though, with the Vega 64 doing three per cent worse than the cheaper GTX 1070 Ti. The gap narrows fractionally to two per cent at 4K, but the average frame-rate of 36fps remains unimpressive. Expect to turn down some settings from very high or lean heavily on a variable refresh rate monitor in order to assure a playable 4K experience.

2016 release The Division is reasonably balanced in its DirectX 11 incarnation, which is the version we’re grappling with today. The Vega 64 outperforms the GTX 1080 by a frame or two at both 1440p and 4K, but the high-flying GTX 1080 Ti still takes the overall win. The gap down to the Vega 56 remains around 10 per cent. Switching to the DX12 render path should boost AMD scores a tad.

Far Cry Primal, another 2016 release, provides one of the closest results we’ve seen between the Vega 64 and GTX 1080. Both cards deliver 78 frames per second at 1440p, giving a comfortable experience at 1440p. The 4K results are similar, with the Vega 64 producing 44 frames per second and the GTX 1080 hitting 42. Of all the cards we’ve tested, only the GTX 1080 Ti comes close to the 4K 60 frames per second ideal.

How does the Vega 64 handle Ghost Recon Wildlands, the most extreme test and most recent addition to our benchmark suite? Well, it’s not great news for Team Red here, with the GTX 1080 swiping a narrow four per cent lead at 1440p and a one per cent lead at 4K. Neither card could be considered completely playable at 4K though, at a console-quality 30 frames per second. We’d recommend stepping back from the ultra preset in actual use, as no modern card can handle it just yet.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a popular target for the PC press thanks to its integrated benchmark and support for many DirectX 12 features. Fittingly, we’re looking at the DirectX 12 version of the benchmark here (although you’re free to use DirectX 11 in-game if you prefer). As expected, we see the GTX 1080 pip the Vega 64 to the second place spot at 1440p, 94fps to 91fps. The trend continues at 4K, where the Vega 64 scores 48fps and the GTX 1080 49fps. Looking back at the Vega 56, we can see a 10 per cent performance advantage at 1440p and 13 per cent at 4K. That’s pretty standard given our previous results.

The Witcher 3 is a slightly less demanding game than some others we’ve featured earlier, perhaps thanks to its heavy optimisation. The Vega 64 delivers 82 frames per second at 1440p, ensuring even the worst one per cent score is higher than 60 frames per second and therefore gameplay will remain smooth. However, the GTX 1080 does better with a slightly higher 84 frames per second average and a worst one per cent score of 69 which should make for a better experience in more demanding scenes. The Vega 64 does slightly better at 4K, but the same general story plays out: the GTX 1080 has a few frames over the Vega 64 in the average score, and quite a few more if we look at just the one per cent of worst performing frames.

We’ll conclude with a look at how the Vega 64 and 56 compare to their predecessors in the Assassin’s Creed Unity benchmark, including the RX 570 and RX 580, along with AMD’s previous flagship card, the now venerable R9 Fury X. You can see that the Vega 64 is comfortably the best AMD graphics card to date, with a 10 per cent lead over the Vega 56, a 25 per cent lead over the Fury X and 31 per cent lead over the RX 580 at 1440p. Progress!

With that, our look at the benchmarks of the Vega 64 have come to an end. We encourage you to check out our full Vega 64 review for more information on this card if you’re considering it.

Now that you’ve seen the benchmarks for one card, why not check out see which GPUs we recommend? Click through to see Digital Foundry’s updated selections for the best graphics cards and for the best gaming monitors of 2018.

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