Skip to content

AMD Radeon VII review: best in class strategy?

Instinct MI50 and MI60 are out there, based on the Vega 20. They target the high margin server and data center business. Vega 20 chips are coming from the 7nm TSMC tech node. The yield will not be great since the technology is not yet mature. So, why did AMD launch the Radeon VII that is also based on the Vega 20?


One of the things that is new with AMD is that they learned from the Opteron server market fail. They promised and didn’t deliver. With Ryzen and Vega, they promised and the first generation is out there, visible and competing on the low- and mid-end of the market. Consumer products are giving visibility. People notice that AMD is back. The adoption of server chips takes a lot longer, so EPYC Naples deploys now. Rome is going to put AMD at 64 cores (versus 48 for Intel, update: it will be 56). In essence, the GPU space for consumers is important. But the Vega 20 for the datacenter can just as easily be sold as a video card for gamers. High-end. That is where NVIDIA Turing is. It is important to show performance on the high-end because right now, NVIDIA is ruling there. Challenging the high-end is a strong message. So, that is why the AMD Radeon VII exists IMO.

AMD Radeon VII launch

Before the launch, they send the cards to various websites that benchmark therse cards. But 7nm yield isn’t great yet, but if you salvage silicon that passes the test program except for a few cores, you can actually use these chips to make a statement. Rumours that supply for Radeon VII is low, that they are noisy and that their price is not that great compared to NVIDIA, makes me think this is genius. The benchmarks show more or less (5%ish) the same performance but without ray tracing. NVIDIA has RTC (ray tracing cores) but support for RTC needs to grow (games for example) before this extra feature becomes valuable. Yet, if the price is more or less the same, gamers are going to buy the NVIDIA card. Also because the AMD card fans are noisy (cooling, rpm). If your supply is limited, nobody will buy the consumer card and you can supply the high margin market (Instinct) while at the same time, putting word out that you are going to be competitive soon on the high-end GPU’s.

I could be wrong, but it looks to me that AMD has a great strategy for drawing attention and delivering on promises. I believe they are worthy challengers of the Intel and NVIDIA dominance.