GRAPHICS OUTFIT AMD has finally released the first of its graphics cards based on its new Vega architecture, the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition
However, rather than targeting the ultra-expensive card at gamers, AMD is resolute in claiming that it is intended for serious professionals, such as scientists, creators and developers.
AMD claims that the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition graphics card will provide "unmatched performance and total cost of ownership in machine learning applications" together with AMD's open-source Radeon Open Compute (ROCm) platform.
"Developers can now use the power of the 'Vega' architecture for machine learning algorithm development on the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition faster than with any other GPU on the marketi, before deploying it out to massive servers equipped with Radeon Instinct accelerators," claimed AMD.
The company also claims that the graphics card is capable of "photo realistic rendering performance" capable of driving large and complex models, and to deploy real-time visualisation and physics-based rendering.
Rather than for gamers, the graphics card will be more aimed at games developers "by providing a single GPU that is optimised for every stage of a game developer's workflow, including everything from asset production to play-testing and performance optimisation". The device has a "pro mode" and a "gaming mode" enabling users to switch optimisation accordingly.
The company also claims that the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition "achieves the maximum possible score in the SteamVR benchmark", up to 21 per cent higher than the multi-GPU Radeon Pro Duo. "When used with Radeon Loom, creators can stitch high-resolution video in real-time at up to 8K by 4K [resolutions]," AMD suggests.
However, users will have to pay-up $999, or around £999 , or the air-cooled edition, or $500/£500 more for a water-cooled version launching in the third quarter.
The latter might be a sensible option as the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition isn't designed as an energy-efficient graphics card, with a touted TDP rating of 300 watts for the air-cooled version and 375 watts for the water-cooled version.
PC World was privileged with a preview of the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition, testing it in a PC with a top-of-the-range AMD Ryzen 7 1800X microprocessor alongside a similarly specced machine bearing a Nvidia Titan Xp.
"In the given time we had to run the tests, we saw the Frontier Edition outscore the Titan Xp by 28 per cent in Catia and Creo to 50 per cent in SolidWorks. We also ran Maxon's Cinebench, a popular OpenGL benchmark, in which the Frontier Edition was about 14 per cent faster," noted PC World.
It did, though, add the following caveat: "Radeon Vega Frontier Edition is certainly faster in the tests we witnessed, but to be fair, it's comparing an ostensibly consumer-focused Titan Xp card to the pro-level Frontier Edition.
"Nvidia's Titan Xp, for example, officially works only with consumer drivers, while the company's Quadro workstation products offer a lot more performance."
Nvidia Quadro graphics cards, though, typically cost even more.
The first of AMD's Vega cards comes a year after Nvidia started to release its 10-series graphics cards to acclaim, which left AMD somewhat floundering in its wake with a series of stop-gap Polaris-based releases that have struggled to compete, pound for pound.
While the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition is intended for professionals, mainstream users will have to wait until the end of July before the more mainstream (but still expensive) RX Vega appears.
AMD is also planning to integrate Vega GPUs with multi-core Ryzen microprocessors to enable PC makers to offer genuinely powerful laptops that are also capable of desktop-class gaming in smaller and lighter form factors. µ
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