Unless you happened to miss yesterday's reveal, all the talk in the graphics card world right now is about AMD's Vega Frontier Edition graphics cards. The price reveal is interesting enough if it's accurate, but there's another tidbit of as-yet-unofficial info that found its way into the wild—total board power ratings, courtesy of pro graphics retailer Exxact. Steal your budgie's salt lick and read on.
First, the exact rumored figures. The air-cooled standard-issue Vega FE card with a blower cooler is rated for a square 300W of "max board TDP." Meanwhile, its under-water cousin can pull a whopping 375W at peak. These numbers may look a little high at first, but let's try and keep some perspective. The performance information presented is also for the air-cooled Vega card only, so the liquid-cooled version could offer even higher performance to go with its power draw.
While it's tempting to draw conclusions about the performance per watt of this card from these figures, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, the air-cooled Vega FE isn't really meant to be compared to standard-issue GeForces. We think the natural competitor for this compute-focused card is the Quadro GP100. That card already pulls a respectable 235W of power, or about 28% less than the rumored 300W figure for the air-cooled Vega FE. In turn, we spitballed that the GP100 would deliver about 26% lower peak performance in both FP16 and FP32 operation than the Vega chip on board the Frontier Edition. If those projections hold, at least the FLOPS-per-watt increase would seem to be linear.
Second, Vega is a new architecture, and drawing direct comparison to its predecessors is an endeavor doomed to failure. This may be stating the obvious, but far too often we witness megahertz and mega-watts comparisons between apples and coconuts. We don't know full implementation details of the Vega chip on board the Frontier Edition card yet, but we do know that several new things are going on with this architecture compared to older Radeons, like the High-Bandwidth Cache Controller. Those fancy features may require a lot of power to operate.
Third, high-performance cards simply drink up juice like it's going out of style, and there's no word how far AMD cranked the clock knobs on the Vega FE (though we're guessing it's around 1600 MHz at peak). Heck, not that long ago, the R9 290X's board power was 290W. It also pays to think of voltage and frequency scaling as an exponential function, because it is. You need to look no further than the RX 580 and realize that its power draw is roughly 40W over the RX 480 for a relatively minor increase in clock speeds. We should be able to find out more soon, since the Vega Frontier Edition launches June 27.