Several Engineering Boards For AMD’s Vega and Polaris GPUs Based Radeon RX Graphics Cards Show Up – Designs That You’ve Never Seen Before

Mar 5, 2020
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Engineering boards for GPUs are quite fascinating. We get to see them listed & tested in leaks all the time but only on a few rare occasions do we get to see what they actually look like. Well, we might be a bit lucky today as several AMD engineering boards that were used to test and validate its Vega and Polaris GPUs, have appeared on various channels.

AMD Engineering Boards For Vega and Polaris GPUs Show Up - Early Validation & Testing Designs For Radeon RX Series Graphics Cards

There are a whole bunch of AMD GPU engineering boards that have been spotted and we shall start off with the most recent ones which are the Radeon RX Vega 64 and RX Vega 56 boards. It looks like the Radeon RX Vega 64 engineering board is the same one that AMD used back at a press event held prior to the official unveiling of the card at Capsacian & Cream, all the way back in February 2017.

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You might remember the secondary PCB attached to the card which was mainly used for the GPU verification and testing. The engineering board for the Vega 64 also featured an 8+6 pin config vs the dual 8-pin config on the final variant. The rest of the components layout is exactly the same as the final variant. Some interesting things about this card are that it has a dual BIOS with one BIOS retaining the 300W TDP limit and the other BIOS pushing the maximum TDP of the card to 600W. But that's not useful at all since the card is locked to a default frequency of 1200 MHz. The PCB is listed to be produced in 2016 (28th week or July 2016).

AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 Graphics Card Engineering Sample (Image Credits: Bilibili via Komachi):

Moving on to the second Vega card, we have the Radeon RX Vega 56. This engineering board is of no surprise as it was pictured a while after the release of the RX Vega 56 itself. Surprisingly, a triple fan variant wasn't released as a reference design by AMD but the red team did take some design inspiration of this cooling design for its Radeon VII graphics card.

We get a more detailed look at the card and its inside. Originally, the Radeon RX Vega 56 was meant to offer a much smaller PCB footprint than the RX Vega 64. This design would eventually be followed by several AIB partners of AMD but not AMD themselves. The triple-fan design may look generic but under the hood was a very impressive heatsink design with a large aluminum fin block which was equipped with four thick copper heat pipes running from the start and to the end of the heatsink block. The GPU and VRAM made direct contact with the copper base.

AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 Graphics Card Engineering Sample (Image Credits: Bilibili via Komachi):

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Next up, we have two very similar looking engineering boards for two very different GPUs. The first engineering board is the one for AMD's Vega 12 GPU which has been listed on eBay for $799.99 US and is stated to work perfectly. I wouldn't personally advise anyone to buy this GPU and for several reasons. There's no guarantee if the chip is indeed working perfectly and engineering boards don't usually get the same level of driver support as consumer / retail boards. The other thing is that the price is just way too high if you're considering this to somehow perform real great which as a matter of fact, it doesn't.

The AMD Vega 12 GPU was designed solely for mobile platforms and this is the specific board it was tested on. The Vega 12 GPU comes with a single 4 GB HBM2 package on the same interposer. This specific variant is the Vega 12 XLA chip with 1024 stream processors and not the higher end XTA variant which features 1280 stream processors. As you can see from the board itself, even mainstream and low-end GPUs need to be tested in various environments and that's why test boards such as this one are equipped with such a high-end cooling design and triple 8-pin power connectors.

AMD Radeon RX Vega 12 GPU Engineering Board (Image Credits: eBay):

And finally, the last board that we got to see is the one for the Radeon RX 560 which has also been used for testing out all the way from the lowest end RX 540 (Lexa) GPUs to the highest-end RX 590 (Polaris 30) GPUs. This board might look similar to the one for the Radeon RX Vega 12 GPUs but is very different on closer inspection. The first thing is the cooling design which is more toned down compared to the ones for the Vega GPUs. We are also looking at two dual 8-pin power inputs vs 3 on the board for Vega. The PCB itself is very huge and has 5 display outputs.

Underneath the main cooler is a piece of copper CNC heatsink which makes contact with the VRAM but not all memory dies are making perfect contact with the heatsink. The VRM is a 6+2 phase layout with the IR3567B PWM controller. There are four memory dies featured on this board which are 7 Gbps Samsung modules (128-bit / 4 GB). This model is also listed at eBay for a price of $650 US.

AMD Radeon RX Vega 12 GPU Engineering Board (Image Credits: Bilibili):

At the end of the day, these are some really interesting test/engineering boards that show us how GPUs are tested prior to their release in the consumer market and what kind of validation processes each chip has to go through before they end up in retail-ready graphics cards & discrete solutions.

Products mentioned in this post

AMD Radeon RX Vega 56
AMD Radeon RX Vega 56
USD 429.99
Radeon VII
Radeon VII
USD 953.76
RX 590
RX 590
USD 258.34

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