No live stream for the launch event
I wanted to start with this sin because it still boggles my mind it happened. AMD did not livestream the launch event. The event wasn’t even really focused on RX Vega. There were no other public announcements apart from press-only briefings. The launch at SIGGRAPH lacked content and numbers and it wasn’t even live. Compared to GTX 1080 Ti launch (which was basically: “GTX has ‘x’ cores, is ‘y’-times faster and costs ‘z'”), RX Vega/Threadripper launch was underwhelming. If we can have livestreams for ‘Ryzen Tech Talks’, then we can also have livestreams for high-end GPU launches, just keep it short and don’t mix professional and consumer topics.
Vega is too late
Vega arrived few months late and no HBM2 yield issues were responsible. Sources have told us that Vega was delayed to polish the drivers and squeeze every last bit of performance out of the chip. In the end, this resulted in a very high power consumption and questionable performance gain over the competitor. A rumor has it AMD simply could not afford to sell Vega for a lower price, and that’s where the whole delay came from.
‘Poor Volta’ marketing
AMD had two marketing strategies for Vega. The first one was to release technical information months in advance. The second strategy was to tease performance advantage over the competitor, such as Volta (which isn’t even out yet), but in the end struggling to compete with Pascal. I’m not even going to talk about ‘blind-comparison’ tests. Rather than say ‘if there’s no difference then why pay more’, they should ask “can you see how much faster it is?”. It was a long marketing campaign with some really bizarre ideas (such as ‘Vega is RX Vega’). We need less hype and more facts and numbers.
AMD did not give enough time for testing
This is by far, the biggest sin yet. AMD only gave few days (often three or two) to test not one, but two cards before embargo ended. A tight schedule forced reviewers to work tirelessly over the weekend. We should really appreciate the work they have done.
A good reviewer would spend those two days to familiarize with the new technology, only to verify it later. It’s impossible to do both at the same time.
AMD tends to change NDA dates quite often, pushings things back, adding another NDA date. They had no problem shipping cards to reviewers on Friday and expecting reviews online on Monday. There was absolutely no reason for them not to give reviewers few more days. They could’ve done it, yet they didn’t.
Since I spoke with few reviewers, I can ask on their behalf: was intentional or just poorly coordinated?
Vega drivers were not ready
The CrossFire doesn’t even work yet. Overclocking wasn’t even possible with the first press driver and there was not enough time to test the newer version.
The last thing reviewers want is a new driver after they did their testing. There is simply no way of telling if anything else changed unless they retest it. That’s a huge waste of time.
AMD delayed Vega to increase launch volume?
Chris Hook said in an interview:
“Part of the reason it’s taken us a little longer to launch Vega – and I’ll be honest about that – is that we wanted to make sure we were launching with good volume. (…) Obviously we’ve got to compensate for things like coin-miners, they’re going to want to get their hands on these. We believe we’re launching with a volume that will ensure that gamers can get their hands on them, and that’s what’s important to us.”
In reality, there are countries where Vega wasn’t even available at launch. The stocks are already gone and the only ones left are for an increased price.
The point is, it is quite normal for GPU to be available in low quantity at launch, but saying that Vega was delayed to increase it, is slightly misleading.
Read more at TechPowerUP.
AMD Vega pricing and Radeon Packs
Here’s the thing. AMD cannot force any retailer to sell Vega at fixed price, it’s illegal. That’s why we have MSRP (suggested pricing). Yet somehow most retailers are offering Vega for the same increased price (a true magic I guess). Probably the best examples are Newegg and most European shops. Newegg only offered MSI Vega for 499 USD, every other Vega was sold for 599 USD. In Eurozone, the price oscillated from 609 EUR to 649 EUR. Currently, you can only buy Vega for 649 EUR.
Overclock3D reported after OverclockersUK that the initial 449 GBP price was only for early adopters who would not receive any games. The new price, which includes two games is 549 GBP. So this means that the free games are no longer free.
Is Vega focusing on gamers?
AMD acknowledges the problem of cryptocurrency miners buying all stock, even for a higher price. They decided to counter this issue by introducing Radeon Packs. But in the end, miners would buy these cards anyway, even if they had free games, so the whole idea of Radeon Packs is only good for those who really wanted the limited edition with Ryzen 7 or a new monitor.
The only real way to counter mining craze is by enforcing limits on order quantities. Some retailers did just that, some didn’t care. This doesn’t work when miners are buying cards directly from factories, that’s where the real problem lies and no one seems to have a solution for that.
Another problem is AMD doesn’t really want to fight miners. In fact, they just released new driver designed specifically for mining “Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition Beta for Blockchain Compute”. Rather than leave the problem of increased DAG size (which basically made Radeon cards slower and less competitive for mining) and solve the issue of miners buying Radeon cards, they actually fixed the problem and made all their claims completely ridiculous.
Read more about the new driver at LegitReviews.
Vega shows minimal architectural improvement over Fiji
Today ComputerBase published an update to their original RX Vega review. They added a comparison between Vega and Fury at the same clocks. Overall architectural performance is minimal (5.6%) over Fury. Mind you, this is a new GPU based on a smaller node. It feels almost as if Vega was just overclocked Fiji on smaller fabrication process with HBM2.
Where are custom cards?
The last sin is not a big one. Normally we get to see a variety of custom cards at launch. Of course, they are never available for sale, but this time we only saw ONE custom design by ASUS. No other partner was ready. What this means is that partners were not given enough time to prepare their cards. According to our source, the engineering boards were given to partners in June. That’s really late. As a result, we are not seeing more prototype designs at launch.
This is actually a common practice for both AMD and NVIDIA, to sell as many reference cards as possible at launch (basically to make money). This is also why you should wait for custom cards. Those cards will be superior to hot and noisy reference design. You will also support AMD partners, which could really use more money for further research and development.
I hope you agree with me on most points. If you don’t, feel free to leave a comment. This is an open discussion on an independent site. We don’t rely on AMD samples so we are not afraid of any repercussions, but we care if they listen to the community and do better next time.
As always, others editors are welcome to contact me anonymously if they want to share their thoughts.