AMD’s RX Vega 56 Can’t Be Unlocked To Vega 64 With A BIOS Flash
Several reports have surfaced over the past couple of days from users claiming to have unlocked shader cores or Texture Mapping Units in their RX Vega 56 graphics cards by flashing them with the vBIOS of Vega 64. Many have also reported noting performance gains after having done so.
Well, sadly, I’m here to tell you that flashing your Vega 56 with a Vega 64 vBIOS won’t unlock any additional hardware in the chip. Even if GPU-Z is telling you otherwise. All it does is boost the core and HBM clock speeds. Which is why many users have reported noticing performance gains after having flashed their GPUs. GPU-Z has also been updated, it will now report the correct number of shaders and TMUs no matter what BIOS version you have.
No, You Can’t Unlock A Vega 56 To A Vega 64 By Flashing The vBIOS
Gone are the days when you could buy a cut-down version of a high-end AMD GPU and unlock all the shaders and hardware goodies available in its full fledged higher end variant. AMD’s RX 480 4GB graphics cards were famously unlocked to 8GB versions with a vBIOS flash on launch day.
This was the result of high demand on the company’s 4GB version of the card. AMD ended up slapping 4GB stickers on 8GB cards and selling them as 4GB RX 480s to meet the initial demand. This decision to short sell RX 480 8GB cards as 4GB cards gave birth to one of hardware’s most famous memes. The practice was ceased soon after launch when the supply normalized.
Prior to the RX 480, R9 Furys were also unlockable to full-fledged R9 Fury Xs. Before that, R9 290s were also unlockable to R9 290Xs. There are even older examples if you can be bothered to look them up. At this point you might be wondering why would AMD sell cut back chips if the hardware in all of these graphics cards can be unlocked to match that of their higher-end siblings? Well, it all comes down to manufacturing economics.
How We Tricked Sand Into Thinking For Us
All semiconductor microprocessors are manufactured on a silicon wafer. Simply put, each silicon wafer goes through a long photochemical process to have circuitry photolithographically etched onto it, to convert that purified sand into a functional electrical device. It’s a complex multi-step process that takes months from start to finish. Tiny defects in the wafer inevitably occur, and the end-product is never 100% perfect.
Not all “chips” on a wafer end up being equal. Some, especially those in the periphery, end up with the shorter end of the stick. Chips closer towards the center usually come out the best. If we’re talking about Vega, then these cream of the crop chips end up as your Vega 64s. If we’re talking about NVIDIA’s GP102, then these end up in the the Titan Xp cards. This is also true for CPUs. AMD only uses the best Ryzen dies for its high-end Threadripper CPUs.
The best chips go into the “best” products. Slightly defective — perhaps they clock lower or require more voltage, have some dysfunctional shaders so on and so forth — but otherwise fully functional chips go into making the cut-down variant of the same product. In Vega’s case that’s the Vega 56. In GP102’s case that’s the GTX 1080 Ti. This is also why not all Fury or 290 cards could be unlocked to become R9 Fury X or 290X cards.
Chip makers salvage these slightly defective die to maximize the number of usable chips that they can sell. If you’re going to chuck out every defective die on the wafer you won’t end up with much left to sell. CPU & GPU makers usually go through an extra step to make sure that these cut-down chips stay cut down, and that’s by lasering off the unused hardware. NVIDIA and Intel have consistently done this. Things have been a little more lenient on the AMD side. Over the years we’ve seen cut-down chips that had gone through the laser treatment and some that hadn’t. Fiji is a good example of a GPU that hadn’t and is why R9 Furys were unlockable to R9 Fury Xs.
As of right now we don’t know for a fact if AMD is lasering off the unused hardware in Vega 10-56 dies or not. But so far, there hasn’t been any success in attempting to unlock a Vega 56 to a Vega 64. It took months for folks to figure out how to do it on the Furys, and it may take months for it to happen with Vega, if ever.