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Revisiting the Radeon VII and RTX 2080 at 2560x1440


Can a lower resolution turn the tables for AMD?

Our initial review of AMD's brand-new Radeon VII graphics card relied on a punishing combo of a 4K resolution and high-dynamic-range output to bring our field of graphics cards to its knees, and folks, let me tell you: It is a glorious thing to experience smooth 4K gameplay with HDR on an OLED TV over a few days' worth of gaming with the latest titles.

Our 4K results offer a robust idea of the relative performance offered by today's graphics cards for the dollar, but I understand that some gamers really want cold, hard numbers for how many FPS they can expect from a given card and title at their preferred resolution. I'll also concede that I do most of my gaming on 2560x1440, 144-Hz screens with variable-refresh-rate guts to begin with. While those panels might not provide the in-your-face color and brightness of an OLED TV, few things can, and I'll just as happily take my gaming in high-refresh-rate, tear-free flavor as I will at a higher resolution and lower frame rates.

Certainly the most-requested missing piece from our Radeon VII review was 2560x1440 results, and it just so happened that we had a slightly older data set full of 2560x1440 captures from our recent review of Asus' Strix RTX 2070 (which is well worth reading in its own right if you're a 2560x1440 gamer). I don't usually like commingling data sets produced with older and newer drivers, but given the distinct leap in performance from RTX 2070-class graphics cards to the RTX 2080 and Radeon VII, the single-digit performance differences afforded by most graphics driver updates probably won't mess up our relative standings too much. The competition between the Radeon VII and the RTX 2080 is a lot closer on paper, though, so I retested the RTX 2080 with Nvidia's latest drivers to keep things fair. Let's keep this short and sweet.

Our testing methods

If you're new to The Tech Report, we don't benchmark games like most other sites on the web. Instead of throwing out a simple FPS average—a number that tells us only the broadest strokes of what it's like to play a game on a particular graphics card—we go much deeper. We capture the amount of time it takes the graphics card to render each and every frame of animation before slicing and dicing those numbers with our own custom-built tools. We call this method Inside the Second, and we think it's the industry standard for quantifying graphics performance. Accept no substitutes.

What's more, we don't typically rely on canned in-game benchmarks—routines that may not be representative of performance in actual gameplay—to gather our test data. Instead of clicking a button and getting a potentially misleading result from those pre-baked benches, we go through the laborious work of seeking out test scenarios that are typical of what one might actually encounter in a game. Thanks to our use of manual data-collection tools, we can go pretty much anywhere and test pretty much anything we want in a given title.

Most of the frame-time data you'll see on the following pages were captured with OCAT, a software utility that uses data from the Event Timers for Windows API to tell us when critical events happen in the graphics pipeline. We perform each test run at least three times and take the median of those runs where applicable to arrive at a final result. Where OCAT didn't suit our needs, we relied on the PresentMon utility.

As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Our test system was configured like so:

Processor Intel Core i9-9900K
Motherboard MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon
Chipset Intel Z370
Memory size 16 GB (2x 8 GB)
Memory type G.Skill Flare X DDR4-3200
Memory timings 14-14-14-34 2T
Storage Samsung 960 Pro 512 GB NVMe SSD (OS)
Corsair Force LE 960 GB SATA SSD (games)
Power supply Seasonic Prime Platinum 1000 W
Operating system Windows 10 Pro version 1809

Graphics card Boost clock
(specified)
Graphics driver version
EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 SC2 Gaming 1784 MHz GeForce Game Ready 417.35
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Founders Edition 1683 MHz
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition 1733 MHz
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition 1582 MHz
Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 Gaming OC 8G 1725 MHz
Asus ROG Strix GeForce RTX 2070 O8G Gaming 1815 MHz
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition 1800 MHz GeForce Game Ready 418.81
AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 1471 MHz Radeon Software Adrenalin 2019 Edition 19.1.1
AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 1546 MHz
AMD Radeon VII 1750 MHz Radeon Software Adrenalin 2019 Edition 19.2.1 for AMD Radeon VII

Unless otherwise specified, image quality settings for the graphics cards were left at the control panel defaults. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests. We tested each graphics card at a resolution of 2560x1440 and 144 Hz, unless otherwise noted.

The tests and methods we employ are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.