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Is the Radeon RX Vega 'Too Little, Too Late'?

Officially announced last night at the SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles, AMD’s new Radeon RX Vega GPUs are the talk of the PC hardware town. Arriving a little over two years after the company’s flagship Fury-series cards, the RX Vega line shares some similarities to its predecessors. Cards from both series are offered in air-cooled and liquid-cooled variants and also give users the option of buying a card for small form factor systems. Formally announced after the big show, the RX Vega Nano will fill a niche that was previously occupied by AMD’s own Fury Nano. GPUs in both series offer some strong DirectX 12 and Vulkan API performance. The similarities mostly end there, however.

In the lead up to the RX Vega reveal, AMD's marketing has been positioning its new GPU as a competitor to nVidia’s 2016 flagship, the GeForce GTX 1080. Early leaks and data from AMD itself have shown that the top-end Vega GPU, the Radeon RX Vega 64, trades blows with the GTX 1080. The company has priced the RX Vega 64 accordingly, matching the $499 MSRP of nVidia’s card. Unlike its Fury predecessor that launched against the GTX 980 Ti, the RX Vega 64 will not be competitive with nVidia’s current flagship offering, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti.

Not being the fastest GPU on earth is not really a big problem for the RX Vega 64, but arriving over a year after its intended competition and doing so with nearly twice the power draw certainly decreases the allure of the brand new GPU. With any GPU launch, availability can often be an issue. PC Gamers that have waited more than a year for AMD’s response to nVidia’s Pascal cards will continue to wait until there are enough cards in the retail channel to ensure that the inflated pricing that is typically seen with new launches is alleviated.

The wait for that price stabilization may take longer than normal due to the ongoing GPU price spikes as a result of cryptocurrency mining. AMD’s mid-range GPUs have been unavailable at MSRP for months now. Many PC gamers who owned those cards prior to the mining boom have sold them at a profit to miners, with more than a few choosing to wait for the RX Vega launch to pop a new GPU into their systems. The additional demand will go beyond what is typical with a normal graphics card launch. Due to its reduced cryptocurrency mining capabilities, the nVidia GTX 1080 has not suffered stock depletion as badly as its lowered-powered sibling the GTX 1070 or AMD’s Polaris GPUs. The GTX 1080 can still be had at or near its $499 MSRP, with several models often going for less during sales.

With low supply and high demand ensuring that higher prices will be a part of the RX Vega 64 launch, does it make sense for PC gamers that are looking for a new high-end GPU to go with AMD? The extremely high power consumption of the RX Vega cards coupled with limited availability will work together to create an option that appears to offer little value to the end user when compared against the GTX 1080. Buyers who already own a Freesync-enabled monitor may be more inclined to spend extra to go with AMD so that they may make use of the adaptive-sync features of their monitor.

AMD appears to be betting on this scenario as the company made the difference between its FreeSync and nVidia’s G-Sync experiences a focal point during recent RX Vega demos. The company will also be selling special RX Vega “packs”, some of which include discounts for a Freesync monitor and its own Ryzen CPUs if gamers are willing to pay extra for the RX Vega 64 upfront. The RX Vega 64 pack includes the liquid-cooled version of the card, discount coupons for the monitor/CPU, and a couple of pack-in games for $699, the same price that nVidia sells their GTX 1080 Ti. AMD is betting that these packs will offer an enticing value for prospective buyers and get them locked into AMD’s gaming ecosystem. For PC gamers who plan on using their current monitor and system, the $699 pack loses much of its appeal.

For those still on the fence about which GPU to buy, is the RX Vega bundle pack something you would consider? Do you think that the RX Vega 64 by itself works for $499, even with the increased power draw? Let us know in the comments!

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