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ASUS ROG STRIX Radeon RX Vega 56 8GB OC Edition

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Introduction

It’s been a few months since we checked out the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX Vega 64, and today we got our hands on its little brother the ROG Strix Radeon RX Vega 56. While the number of Compute Units (or CU’s) is reduced from 64 to 56, not much else is changed save for a small difference in power limits. Does the difference matter for gaming?

 

Pro Clockers would like to thank ASUS for sending the ROG STRIX Radeon VEGA 56 OC Edition over to check out!

ASUS’s take on the STRIX Radeon Vega56:

ROG Strix RX VEGA56 gaming graphics cards are packed with exclusive ASUS technologies, including all-new MaxContact Technology that is 2X more contact with GPU for improved thermal transfer, and Patented Wing-Blade IP5X-Certified Fans for maximum airflow and longer fan lifespan. While ASUS FanConnect II features 4-pin, hybrid-controlled headers connected to system fans for optimal system cooling. ASUS Aura Sync RGB LED synchronization enables a gaming system personalization and VR-friendly HDMI ports let gamers easily enjoy immersive virtual reality experiences. ROG Strix RX VEGA56 also has GPU Tweak II with XSplit Gamecaster that provides intuitive performance tweaking and instant gameplay streaming.1590 MHz Boost Clock (OC Mode) featuring 8GB HBM2 memory with AMD’s Vega architecture.

  • MaxContact Technology that is 2X more contact with GPU for improved thermal transfer.
  • Patented Wing-Blade IP5X-Certified Fans for maximum airflow and longer fan lifespan.
  • ASUS FanConnect II equips with hybrid controlled fan headers for optimal system cooling.
  • Industry Only Auto-Extreme Technology with Super Alloy Power II delivers premium quality and best reliability.
  • ASUS Aura Sync RGB LED synchronization enables a gaming system personalization.
  • VR-friendly HDMI ports let you enjoy VR experiences anytime without having to swap cables.
  • GPU Tweak II with XSplit Gamecaster provides intuitive performance tweaking and real-time streaming.

ROG Strix is the newest recruit into the Republic of Gamers. A series of specialized gaming gear designed for the rebel in all of us, Strix exemplifies ROG’s premier performance, innovative technology, and leading quality, but with its own confident and dynamic attitude. Featuring bold designs and bright colors, this exciting new series possesses a spirit of fierce individualism that charges every gaming experience with thrilling energy. ROG Strix equips players with the necessary speed and agility to dominate their game. A new generation of force has arrived. Join the Republic and experience the power of ROG Strix.

Features & Specifications

PERSONALIZED GAMING STYLE

ASUS Aura Sync – Outshine the Competition

Featuring Aura RGB Lighting on both the shroud and backplate, ROG Strix graphics cards are capable of displaying millions of colors and six different effects for a personalized gaming system. ROG Strix graphics cards also feature ASUS Aura Sync, RGB LED synchronization technology that enables complete gaming system personalization when the graphics card is paired with an Aura-enabled gaming motherboard.

40% More Heat Dissipation Area – Up to 30% Cooler and 3X Quieter Gaming Performance

New ROG Strix graphics are constructed with a 2.5-slot width, providing 40% more heat sink surface area for heat dissipation compared to previous 2-slot designs for dramatically cooler and quieter performance.

*Images for reference only.

MaxContact Technology – 2X More Contact with GPU for Improved Thermal Transfer

MaxContact is an industry-first GPU cooling technology, featuring an enhanced copper heat spreader that directly contacts the GPU. MaxContact utilizes precision machining to provide a surface that makes up to 2X more contact with the GPU than traditional heat spreaders, resulting in improved thermal transfer.

Patented Wing-Blade Design – Max Air Flow with 105% More Air Pressure

Patented wing-blade fans deliver maximum airflow and 105% greater static pressure over the heat sink while operating at an up to 3X quieter volume than reference cards.

0dB Technology – Game in Complete Silence

Innovative 0dB technology stops the fan completely when the GPU temperature remains below a set level*, letting you enjoy light gaming in complete silence.

IP5X-Certified Dust Resistance – Longer Fan Lifespan

The fans in ROG Strix graphics cards are certified under the International Protection Marking (IP code) as IP5X dust resistant for improved reliability and a longer lifespan. This stringent certification process ensures ROG Strix graphics cards provide optimal fan performance, even under severe conditions.

ASUS FanConnect II – Optimal System Cooling

ASUS FanConnect II features two 4-pin, hybrid-controlled headers that can be connected to both PWM and DC system fans for optimal system cooling. The connected fans reference both the GPU and CPU, operating automatically based on the one with the higher temperature. A comprehensive set of tuning options allow you to tune fan speeds for efficient cooling.

GPU Tweak II lets you easily set these ASUS FanConnect II modes:

Auto mode:

Chassis fan speeds reference GPU temperatures and operates based on the default factory setting.

Manual mode:

Allows you to set a fixed speed for connected fans.

User-defined mode:

Allows you to set chassis fans to reference either the CPU or GPU temperature to determine rotational speed. Additionally, a smart, automatic calibration routine senses the controllable range of connected fans and allows you to fine-tune speeds for efficient cooling and low noise.

Auto-Extreme Technology – Industry-only 100% Automated Production Process.

All ASUS graphics cards are now produced using Auto-Extreme Technology, an industry-exclusive, 100% automated production process that incorporates premium materials to set a new standard of quality. Auto-Extreme Technology ensures consistent graphics card quality as well as improved performance and longevity. Since the introduction of Auto-Extreme technology, reliability has improved by 30%.  This new manufacturing process is also environmentally friendly, eliminating harsh chemicals and reducing power consumption by 50%.

12+1 Phase Super Alloy Power II – Enhanced Durability and Efficiency

ASUS engineers have integrated premium alloy components into their graphics card designs to reinforce overall reliability. Super Alloy Power II components greatly enhance efficiency, reduce power loss and achieve thermal levels that are approximately 50% cooler than previous designs.

Your Need for Speed, Fulfilled – The Best Combo Ultra-smooth Gameplay.

AMD FreeSync™ technology resolves the communication issues between processor and monitor, eliminating image tears and choppiness for effortlessly smooth gameplay. With ROG Strix gaming graphics cards and ASUS MG gaming monitors, scenes appear instantly, objects look sharper, and gameplay is super smooth, giving you a stunning visual experience and a serious competitive edge.

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Packaging & Unboxing

Like most STRIX family products, the STRIX Radeon RX Vega56 comes in black packaging with a full-color image of the card on the front. The colorful STRIX logo splashes across most of the box.

The rear of the box is also in full color and highlights several of the important features of the card. Also listed are the ports on the rear of the card.

The edge of the box gives a quick rundown of specs in several languages.

The Sides of the box are pretty basic, only showing the brand and model of the card.

After taking off the outer sleeve of the Box, we find the inner box has the STRIX logo printed on it. Most of the other STRIX family products only have a black interior box.

Inside we find the typical folded packaging holding the driver disk and paperwork nestled securely in a pocket in the foam.

Under the top cover, we get our first look at the card. ASUS provides very secure packaging with several inches of foam around the card, and the included accessories in their own pocket nearby.

This is everything included with the card, some paperwork, a Driver disk, a dual 6-pin PCIe to single 8-pin PCIe adapter, and a pair of ROG-branded Velcro straps for cable management.

A Closer Look

The STRIX Radeon RX Vega56 sports the same triple fan, 2.5 slot, triple-fan cooling solution many of the recent STRIX line of cards have used previously and looks identical to its Vega 64 sibling.  RGB capable light bars run along the edges of the card blending into the angular outline.

The rear of the card will also look similar to other STRIX branded GPUs. A large ROG logo on the rear of the card lights up in your choice of RGB colors and effects along with the other side of the card. The brushed metal surface hides partially under a scratch protective film out of the box.

The rear of the card sports ASUS’s FanConnect II which includes dual 4-pin fan headers and an additional RGB header. Fan’s connected here will spin up after the card warms up, but can be controlled manually from software as well.

From the side you can see how massive the heatsink assembly is, taking up the entire typical 2-slot space all by itself even before the fans are strapped on top of this.

The rear sports a VR friendly set of video outputs, including a pair of HDMI 2.0 ports, a pair of DisplayPort 1.2 and a sole Dual Link DVI-D. You can also see from this vantage point how far the cooling solution extends towards the outside of your case, as well as creeping into the next expansion slot a bit.

There isn’t much to see on this side of the card, only the PCIe 3.0 x16 connection.

Power is provided by a pair of 8-pin PCIe connections for a total of 375W worth of power delivery including the PCIe slot.

It’s not readily obvious and is in fact quite easy to miss, but the STRIX Radeon Vega56 comes with 2 performance profiles, selectable by a very small switch near the STRIX logo on the side of the card. The positions are labeled ‘P’ for performance mode (240W TDP) and ‘Q’ for quiet mode (220W TDP).

An X shaped cutout in the backplate fits around the GPU cooling reinforcement bracket.

In the typical fashion with the STRIX line, the PCIe power connections have a pair of LED’s tied to each port. When the LED is white, the plug above has an 8-pin power connection properly connected, and red indicates a problem. A set of test points are on the rear of the card to measure critical voltages will be appreciated by overclockers looking to push this card to the breaking point.

The Light tubes sure do look great with nice even light from end to end.

System Configuration & Software

CPU: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X

Motherboard: ASUS ROG STRIX X399-E

RAM: 32GB Corsair Dominator Platinum 3200Mhz

GPU: ASUS STRIX Radeon RX Vega 56 OC Edition

SSDs: Samsung 850 EVO 256GB

OS: Windows 10 Professional X64

 

ASUS GPU Tweak II

Do More with One Click Than You Ever Thought Possible

ASUS GPU Tweak II provides an intuitive interface to access serious functionalities, all right at your fingertips. And the best part is, you can access all that on-the-fly, even in-game ─ all with one click.

  • Enjoy your music and videos by clicking Silent Mode
  • Game for hours on with Gaming Mode as the default setting in ASUS graphics cards
  • Bench and play the most demanding games by clicking OC Mode to unlock maximum performance
  • Stream and record your gameplay on-the-fly with XSplit Gamecaster

ASUS Aura Sync (GPU)

ASUS Aura Sync takes RGB lighting beyond the checkbox, combining and controlling the LEDs of all your Aura-enabled products from a single application to achieve perfect, synchronized harmony. From motherboards and RGB strips to graphics cards and beyond, Aura Sync enables a veritable symphony of light for ultimate personalization.

The rear side logo, front accent lights, and RGB header on the rear can be controlled by the Aura software.

Radeon WattMan

Radeon WattMan is AMD’s new groundbreaking power management utility that controls GPU voltage, engine clocks, memory clocks, fan speed and temperature1. Radeon WattMan is based on Radeon Software features but offers multiple new ways of precise overclocking controls. With the new control over voltage and per state frequency curve for GPU clocks, comprehensive tuning control is now available. With these new controls in Radeon WattMan, the extra benefit lies within the new ability to finely tune the exact experience for your games.

Using the new histogram which records and displays the GPU activity, clock speeds, temperature and fan speed, you can visualize and understand how the game/application runs in a single interface, and configure based on that captured data. This complements the initial Radeon Software Crimson Edition launch feature of per profile overclocking, where each detected game can have its own overclocked profile. On launch, that game profile’s overclocking settings will take effect, and on close, the overclocking settings revert back to the global defaults the user can also set.

Synthetic Testing & Performance

Futuremark 3DMark

3DMark includes everything you need to benchmark your PC and mobile devices in one app. Whether you’re gaming on a smartphone, tablet, notebook, or a desktop gaming PC, 3DMark includes a benchmark designed specifically for your hardware.

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Our first test of the ASUS ROG Strix Vega56 is quite interesting. We keep having to double check our numbers against our previous results from our testing of the ASUS ROG Strix Vega64 as they are very close together. For example, our Vega64 run of the standard Firestrike scored 22786 points on the graphics segment, only around 1500 points more than here.

The split on Timespy between the Vega 64 and this Vega 56 is a bit further apart, but the Vega 56 does great here. 4K is still a little too heavy of a hit for good performance, but its common to see frame rates in the low 40’s here.

 

Futuremark VRMark

The performance requirements for VR games are much higher than for typical PC games. So if you’re thinking about buying an HTC Vive or an Oculus Rift, wouldn’t you like to know that your PC is ready for VR?

VRMark includes three VR benchmark tests that run on your monitor, no headset required, or on a connected HMD. At the end of each test, you’ll see whether your PC is VR ready, and if not, how far it falls short.

Orange Room Test – The Orange Room benchmark shows the impressive level of detail that can be achieved on a PC that meets the recommended hardware requirements for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. If your PC passes this test, it’s ready for the two most popular VR systems available today.

Cyan Room Test – Cyan Room is a DirectX 12 benchmark. It features a large, complex scene and many eye-catching effects. Cyan Room shows how using an API with less overhead can help developers deliver impressive VR experiences even on modest PC systems.

Blue Room Test – The Blue Room is a much more demanding test. It’s ideal for benchmarking the latest graphics cards. With its massive 5K rendering resolution and spectacular volumetric lighting effects, the Blue Room sets the bar for future hardware generations.

The Strix Vega 56 does admirably in both Orange and Cyan level VRMark tests, but it just a bit shy of a passing mark for the Blue Room test which comes in a 44 FPS. Overall, the Vega 56 powered card should do well in all but the most demanding VR titles.

 

Unigine Superposition

Extreme performance and stability test for PC hardware: video card, power supply, cooling system. Check your rig in stock and overclocking modes with a real-life load! Also includes interactive experience in a beautiful, detailed environment.

A lone professor performs dangerous experiments in an abandoned classroom, day in and day out. Obsessed with inventions and discoveries beyond the wildest dreams, he strives to prove his ideas.

Once you come to this place in the early morning, you would not meet him there. The eerie thing is a loud bang from the laboratory heard a few moments ago. What was that? You have the only chance to cast some light upon this incident by going deeply into the matter of quantum theory: thorough visual inspection of professor’s records and instruments will help to lift the veil on the mystery.

 

Running 1080p, even the extreme level test is no match for the Vega56 running the DirectX API, but OpenGL does still take a heavy hit. 4K optimized shows a solid score and a playable frame rate, but 8K is still out of reach for current generation GPU’s. Interestingly, at 1080P, the Vega 56 scores higher now than when we ran the Vega 64 through the same tests.

Game Testing & Performance

Ashes of the Singularity

Planet by planet, a war is raging across the galaxy. The technological singularity has given humanity the power to expand further than they ever have before. Now, they compete with each other and their sentient artificial intelligence adversaries for control of newfound worlds.

In Ashes of Singularity: Escalation, the Strix Vega 56 does a great job on the DX12 Extreme preset. The average frame rate of the 4K test dips to 51FPS, but the 1440p and 1080p tests maintain solid frame rates.

Compared to a range of current GPU’s, the Strix Vega 56 lands right around the more expensive Nvidia GTX 1070Ti cards, not bad at all.

Interestingly here, at 4K, the Vega 56 outpaces its Vega 64 counterpart. We tested the Strix Vega 64 right at launch, so at this point, it’s apparent AMD has made some significant gains in the terms of driver derived performance gains. Great hardware is one thing, but a solid software suite makes all the difference.

Dues Ex: Mankind Divided

The year is 2029, and mechanically augmented humans have now been deemed outcasts, living a life of complete and total segregation from the rest of society.

Now an experienced covert operative, Adam Jensen is forced to operate in a world that has grown to despise his kind. Armed with a new arsenal of state-of-the-art weapons and augmentations, he must choose the right approach, along with who to trust, in order to unravel a vast worldwide conspiracy.

At the Ultra preset level, the Strix Vega 56 provides solid frame rates up through 1440p, but 4K is just a little too heavy at this detail level.

Comparing to a few other cards, the Vega 56 does decently, outpacing the Vega 64 at 1080p thanks to stronger drivers currently, and is only a short distance behind its V64 counterpart.

 

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider is an action-adventure video game developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix. It is the sequel to the 2013 video game Tomb Raider, a reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. It was released on Xbox One and Xbox 360 in November 2015 and for Microsoft Windows in January 2016. It is set to release for PlayStation 4 in the second half of 2016.

Rise of the Tomb Raider was officially announced in June 2014. The game’s storyline follows Lara Croft as she ventures into Siberia in search of the legendary city of Kitezh, whilst battling a paramilitary organization that intends on beating her to the city’s promise of immortality. Presented from a third-person perspective, the game primarily focuses on survival and combat, while the player may also explore its landscape and various optional tombs. Camilla Luddington returns to voice and performs her role as Lara.

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Upon release, Rise of the Tomb Raider received positive reviews, with critics praising its graphics, gameplay, and characterization. It was the best-selling Xbox One game during Christmas week and had sold over one million copies by the end of 2015. Additional content was also released, including a new story campaign, a new gameplay mode, as well as new outfits and weapons for Lara.

 

Rise of the Tomb Raider proves to be quite playable at 1080p and 1440p, but you may want to knock the preset down a notch or two to stay in the 60 FPS range for 4K resolution.

At 1440p, we see the Vega 56 hot on the heels of the Vega 64, but overall, a bit behind Nvidia’s 1070 and above cards.

At glorious 4K, the gap closes quite a bit.

 

Grand Theft Auto: V

“When a young street hustler, a retired bank robber, and a terrifying psychopath find themselves entangled with some of the most frightening and deranged elements of the criminal underworld, the U.S. government and the entertainment industry, they must pull off a series of dangerous heists to survive in a ruthless city in which they can trust nobody, least of all each other.

Grand Theft Auto V for PC offers players the option to explore the award-winning world of Los Santos and Blaine County in resolutions of up to 4k and beyond, as well as the chance to experience the game running at 60 frames per second.”

Grand Theft Auto: V is the oldest game in our benchmark suite but still proves to be a heavy load on high settings and resolutions. The game offers players a huge range of PC-specific customization options, including over 25 separate configurable settings for texture quality, shaders, tessellation, anti-aliasing and more. It has the highest recommended system requirements in our game benchmark suite.

 

For as old as it is, Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V is still a demanding game with the settings turned up.  With very high settings applied, the Strix Vega 56 holds on to quite playable frame rates up to 4K resolution. The minimums dip heavily, clear down to around the 20 FPS mark, but averages are all well above 60 FPS even at 4K.

Compared to a few other cards, we again see driver optimizations helping the Vega 56 out quite a bit.

Overclocking

We were able to push the HBM2 memory to 960Mhz, a little less than our Vega 64 sibling, but even a modest overclock on the GPU core causes temps to creep out of the green zone and to start throttling which hurt scores more than helping. We never saw the card hit its own peak boost speeds during benchmark runs, mostly due to VRM thermals.

Power Draw and Temps

 

We did see the quiet mode show a maximum ‘GPU only power draw’ reported by GPU-Z as 221W while Performance Mode peaked out around 240W at stock. Opening up the power target and pushing the clocks a bit jumped the power draw to a peak of about 340W. Overall, about 20W less than its V64 counterpart across the board.

The GPU’s core temps stayed under about 65C under load in all conditions, often around the 61-62C mark with the fans at about 50% speed. Our real issue overclocking came from the VRM temps shooting up quickly to the 100C range and causing heavy throttling of the card, even with fan speeds set to 100% manually. With the VRM SOC temps above 90C, the core clock would fall back to around 1200MHz and the GPU memory would hover close to the 800Mhz mark while occasionally dropping to 500Mhz. If you leave it at stock, temps are quite good but any serious overclocking is going to require some better cooling love to the VRM, like water cooling.

The front half of the card around the GPU core and HBM2 memory seems to have solid cooling, but the rear of the card around the VRM stages gets hot quickly under full load conditions if you start pushing the clocks. This really isn’t a design flaw made by ASUS, it’s more of just trying to cram 300+ watts into something the size of a GPU and squeeze all that power through a handful of tiny surface mount components.

 

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

ASUS’s modifications to the Vega platform are great and really give the Vega56 room to breathe. AMD has done some significant updates to the drive suite since we checked out the ROG Strix Vega 64 a few months ago, and in turn, it makes the Vega 56 here beat its bigger brother in a few of our charts. Rest assured, the Vega 64 has also seen improvements. GPU availability is still low, but better than it was several months ago. Stock of a GPU online stays around for hours to days now, not seconds to minutes. Prices are still inflated quite a bit, but you can still snag a deal here and there with a little searching around.

While the driver updates have unlocked quite a bit of previously unrealized potential, 4K at max settings is just out of reach most of the time. If you are willing to back off the settings just a hair, it’s certainly doable, and any lower resolution will do great. If VR is your thing, the STRIX Vega56 OC can probably handle your favorite games on current VR headsets, but upcoming 2nd generation sets are going to be even more demanding.

We hate to let you down in the overclocking section of any review, but ASUS’s latest firmware for this card has it tuned about as well as it can be. There is plenty left under the hood for the adventurous overclocking who is willing to slap a water block on here, but for the rest of us, ASUS provides a well-tuned and optimized product right out of the box and its hard to fault them for that. If you can get your hands on one for close to the MSRP and avoid the scalpers pricing of $800+, it’s a tough card to beat.

Great job ASUS!

 

ProClockers was founded way back in 2004, with a goal to provide unbiased PC hardware and tech reviews. Whilst the first products we reviewed are long gone, we're continuing to review the latest and greatest every month.

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ProClockers was founded in 2004, and since then we have reviewed thousands of tech products, including motherboards, CPUs, graphics cards, PC cases, cooling solutions and more. Whilst many of the original products we reviewed back then have long bit the dust, we continue working hard to provide unbiased PC hardware and tech reviews.

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