Unpacking AMD's Radeon RX Vega 56 and Vega 64

Just in time for the weekend, AMD's RX Vega graphics cards arrived yesterday morning. The full review will be up on Monday morning, or at least as much of the review as I can get done in the next couple of days, but for now we're allowed to show pictures and videos of the cards. We've already covered the specs, and we can't talk benchmarks just yet, so in the meantime let's go hands-on with the hardware.

Initially, it seemed like AMD might only send out the Vega 64 for review, but at the last minute we received word that Vega 56 would be coming as well. AMD asked us to prioritize the Vega 56 benchmarks and testing, since it feels that will be the more interesting of the two products for most gamers. And why shouldn't it be? $399 compared to $499 makes it more affordable and puts it below the current retail prices on the GTX 1070 competition. But will it be faster? That's the question. Don't worry, though—we've already tested the RX Vega 64, and RX Vega 56 benchmarking is in progress.

We received the standard reference edition for both models of Vega, which look identical. Unlike the limited edition with the sweet brushed aluminum shroud, these cards have a black plastic cover—they're very similar in appearance to the RX 480 8GB reference cards from last year. There are a few major differences, however, which you can see in the video.

First, RX 480 came with a single 6-pin power connector (which ended up being too little power and there was a bunch of buzz about the cards drawing too much juice from the PCIe slot), and the two Vega models come with two 8-pin power connectors. The Vega 64 has a 295W TDP (or board power, whatever), which means it needs both connectors—150W each, although technically the 75W from the PCIe slot plus an 8-pin and 6-pin would give a maximum of 300W, so AMD is being a bit cautious here and giving extra headroom for overclocking. The Vega 56 meanwhile has a 210W power requirement, so it could theoretically get by with just a single 8-pin connector, and the extra is there to provide plenty of room for overclocking.

RX Vega is also larger than the RX 480, by about an inch, and it uses a vapor chamber for heat dissipation. Combined with a slightly larger 30mm fan compared to the 480's 25mm fan, it should be able to handle the added heat better, while remaining cooler and quieter. And finally, video outputs on both cards are the same as on previous AMD reference models: three DisplayPort and one HDMI port.

In summary, then, Vega is larger, faster, more power hungry, cooler, and quieter compared to AMD's Polaris cards. How much faster and more power hungry is something we'll talk about in the full review on Monday.

Jarred Walton

Jarred's love of computers dates back to the dark ages when his dad brought home a DOS 2.3 PC and he left his C-64 behind. He eventually built his first custom PC in 1990 with a 286 12MHz, only to discover it was already woefully outdated when Wing Commander was released a few months later. He holds a BS in Computer Science from Brigham Young University and has been working as a tech journalist since 2004, writing for AnandTech, Maximum PC, and PC Gamer. From the first S3 Virge '3D decelerators' to today's GPUs, Jarred keeps up with all the latest graphics trends and is the one to ask about game performance.