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AMD Radeon Vega Frontier Edition Liquid Cooled Graphics Card Dissected – Throttles When Overclocked, Power Consumption Peaks Out at 440W


The AMD Radeon Vega Frontier Edition liquid cooled graphics card was released last week. The new graphics card features the same specifications as the air cooled model but comes with liquid cooling that allows it to maintain its rated clock speeds and deliver slightly better graphics performance.

AMD Radeon Vega Frontier Edition Liquid Cooled Model Dissected - Power Consumption and Clock Frequencies Evaluated

Last month, PC Perspective did extensive testing of the air cooled Radeon Vega Frontier Edition graphics card. AMD revised the pricing at the very last moment and toned it down to just $999 from $1200 US for the air cooled variant and $1500 from $1800 US for the liquid cooled model. These graphics cards are now officially available and not being seeded to media for a few specific reasons.

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Since these are not entirely gaming or general consumer focused cards, it does make sense. These cards are semi-consumer, semi-pro variants designed for the high-end workstation user base and don't generally fall in the same league as the latest TITAN series from NVIDIA. That does not stop media from purchasing the card after they have been released and PC Perspective have done the same, once again.

Coming to the specifications, the card features 64 NCUs (Next Generation Compute Units) that include a total of 4096 stream processors. There's additionally 16 GB of HBM2 memory that outputs 484 GB/s of bandwidth along a 2048-bit bus interface. The card delivers the same compute performance of the air cooled variant with peak single precision rated at 13 TFLOPs and half-precision rated 25 TFLOPs.

The Radeon Vega Frontier Edition Technical Features

• Powered by the Vega architecture
• 25 TFLOPS Peak FP16 Compute Performance
• 13 TFLOPS Peak FP32 Compute Performance
• 16GB High Bandwidth Cache
• 64 Next-Gen Compute Units
• 4096 Stream Processors

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In terms of design, the card is really well built. Featuring a dual slot shroud with golden color theme that covers the PCB underneath it, the card has a very complex liquid cooler underneath it. The top of the card has the Vega logo and a boxed LED at the rear corner which emits blue light. The back of the card features a nice backplate along with a GPU Tach controller that lets you change the color of LEDs near the power connectors. These LEDs show the total load on the GPU and indicate it on eight different LEDs.

The 120mm radiator has tubing leading to a large cooling pump underneath the shroud. The whole cooling system is developed and manufactured by Cooler Master who also did a great job on the AMD Pro Duo. There are two individual pumps that cool the GPU/HBM2 and the power delivery system. The liquid cooler produces less noise than a Radeon R9 Fury X which is nice to know. The liquid cooled model ships with a TDP of 375W which is 75W higher than the air cooled variant but will operate at much faster speeds due to the extra cooling.

AMD Radeon Vega Lineup:

Graphics CardRadeon R9 Fury XRadeon RX 480Radeon RX Vega Frontier EditionRadeon RX Vega 64Radeon RX Vega 56(Radeon Pro Vega 64Radeon Pro Vega 56
GPUFiji XTPolaris 10Vega 10Vega 10 XTX/XTVega 10 XLVega 10Vega 10
Process Node28nm14nm FinFETFinFETFinFETFinFETFinFETFinFET
Compute Units64366464566456
Stream Processors4096230440964096358440963584
Performance8.6 TFLOPS
8.6 (FP16) TFLOPS
5.8 (FP16) TFLOPS
26 (FP16) TFLOPS
Up to 13+ TFLOPS
26+ (FP16) TFLOPS
~25 (FP16) TFLOPS
22 (FP16) TFLOPS
Texture Mapping Units256144256256TBA256224
Render Output Units64326464TBA6464
Memory Bus4096-bit256-bit2048-bit2048-bit2048-bit2048-bit2048-bit
Launch20152016June 2017July 2017July 2017December 2017December 2017
Price$649 US$199 (4 GB)
$229 (8 GB)
$999 (Reference)
$1499 (Liquid)
$499 (Reference)
$549 (Limited Air)
$599 (Liquid)
$649 (Liquid LE)

PCPER: Does Liquid Cooling Affect The Clock Speeds on Vega Frontier Edition?

We know that the air cooled model throttles a lot and that is one reason the liquid cooled variant ships with higher TDPs and beefier cooling. The Radeon Vega Frontier Edition liquid cooled model was tested at both 300W and 350W power levels which can be set through a switch on the card. Only at 350W and liquid cooling is the card able to hit 1600 MHz for a great amount of time and with occasional spikes to 1528 MHz. With 300W, the card hits between 1528 MHz and 1440 MHz which is still better than the air cooled model which hit clocks between 1440 MHz and 1348 MHz at most.

Radeon Vega Frontier Edition Liquid Cooled Comparable To a 180W GTX 1080 While Consuming 440W Power

The stock solution was 1-2% better than the air cooled model but when overclocked with a TDP setting of 350W, the card reached 1712 MHz with occasional throttles down to 1637 MHz which is still higher than the stock 1600 MHz. This achieved a 13-15% better performance at 4K resolution but resulted in a peak power draw of 440W which is crazy! The GeForce GTX 1080 on average consumed 180W of power.

The difference is huge as the Vega Frontier Edition Liquid Cooled only manages to compete against the GTX 1080 with the rated power draw.

This might sound crazy but it also shows that Vega is now comparable to a GeForce GTX 1080 whereas it was a GTX 1070 levels in previous tests from many review sources. That means that AMD may have a competitive card planned against NVIDIA's last year's Pascal cards but they may have to price it right like Radeon RX 400 and 500 series cards.