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A Look at RX Vega 64 Efficiency

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Conclusion:

This has definitely been an interesting project for me, and one I am very glad I decided to do. Of course the surprising results of Killing Floor 2 made it worthwhile, but so too do the results for both Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus and Middle-earth: Shadow of War, just in different places. Across all three games we saw a noticeable drop in power use when undervolting and not limiting the frame rate, or using a high limit. This reduction in power use is important as it improves the efficiency of the RX Vega 64 and it allows increased clock speeds with the reduction of thermal throttling. Bump up the fan speed limits and the impact should be even greater as more heat can be removed too. Unfortunately I do not have comparable data for a GTX 1080 to compare so I cannot state how much narrower the efficiency gap is between the two graphics cards, but it has certainly reduced.

The TDP of the RX Vega 64 is 295 W, though mine kept to a limit of 225 W, but when undervolted and not limited by frame rate, the ASIC power usage was around 175 W for Killing Floor 2 and 190 W for Shadow of War. (The New Colossus was around 153 W for its undervolted configurations, but remember there were some issues with these runs and that might influence power usage as well, making it unwise to compare between the games.) For comparison, the TDP of the GTX 1080 is 180 W, so while it might still use less power and/or push out frames faster, my undervolted RX Vega 64 is in the ballpark. Actually, from the Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus Performance Analysis that led me to doing this, we know in that game the RX Vega 64 does outperform the GTX 1080, even without the undervolt. While one game does not at all make a trend, it does show the two GPUs can trade blows in some circumstances.

What the Killing Floor 2 results have shown us is that when using the power saving features offered in the Radeon Adrenalin drivers, there appears to be a point at which more power will be used with an undervolt than at stock voltage. Not at all an expected outcome, but could be an important one. I like using Chill in a number of games because with a 60 Hz monitor letting a game render above even 90 FPS seems a waste, so I set that as the upper limit and enjoy a cooler and quieter card without compromising performance. There are plenty of games, popular games too, that such a limit would make sense, unless you are using a high refresh rate monitor or are sensitive to the impact high frame rates have on 60 Hz monitors. (I know I can feel a difference between a locked 60 FPS in a game like Killing Floor 2 or The New Colossus and 90 FPS, where I typically cap games.)

The purpose of this article was to look into the efficiency of the RX Vega 64 under different configurations, and in the end I think I can say this: While it very likely is not going to be the most efficient GPU out there, undervolting the RX Vega 64 improves its efficiency and can even improve its performance. Apply the power saving features built into the drivers, Radeon Chill and FRTC that many AMD GPU users (not just Vega GPUs) can take advantage of, and the power savings can be even greater. In some cases these features will drop power use more than undervolting even, so if you are not comfortable messing around with the Wattman settings, you can still see your power use go down. Not every game needs to be run at the limit of your hardware and the game engine for a good experience, which is a fact these two features take advantage of. At least FRTC can be recreated with NVIDIA GPUs using third-party utilities, but by being third-party they are not part of the out-of-box experience of the GPU, and I am unaware of anything equivalent to Chill. Personally I enjoy using Chill in a number of games, including these three, to keep the GPU cooler, which also makes it quieter.

Now I need to think about changing my undervolt/Wattman settings to see if I can make even greater improvements.




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