AMD’s Radeon RX Vega is upon us, and some stock is already trickling into the country. There are some Vega 64 cards available through a few retailers, and stock is expected to start ramping up in September-October as AMD increases production to meet – in the company’s own words – “unprecedented demand.”
Miners are a part of that demand, of course, but I don’t think it’ll be much of a problem locally for Vega 64 or 56. AMD fans should be able to get their hands on a card without much fuss soon. I have some price comparisons after the jump, and a little bit of history using old editions of the System Builder’s Guide.
EDIT: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed some statements to a local AMD sales representative. These have been corrected.
Having it all laid out shows how things stack up. At R11,499, Radeon RX Vega 64 is priced higher than competing GeForce GTX 1080 custom cards, and is not too far off the price of the cheapest GTX 1080 Ti cards available today. Pricing will come down eventually, but overall, with just this launch of AMD’s reference design, there isn’t much reason to consider RX Vega if you’re also not buying into AMD’s ecosystem with a FreeSync monitor to match. RX Vega 64’s price needs to come down considerably for it to make sense when purchasing it on its own.
Rebel Tech currently also has the only listed price for a Vega 56 graphics card, a reference design with the Gigabyte brand that should be launching worldwide today. That pricing might not be accurate because I don’t think there’ll be a R1,000 price gap between the two cards, but pricing should be available generally later today once orders open. A R1,000 gap would be too insignificant a difference to make anyone consider buying Vega 56. If you have the extra cash, buying Vega 64 makes more sense because it’s a small jump in price for a 10% increase in performance.
But if prices for Vega 56 come down to an average of R9,000 or less, it would be a great option compared to the GeForce GTX 1070 for anyone sitting on the fence. RX Vega 56 is the best answer AMD has to Pascal, and it’s not just competitive at a similar price point compared to the GTX 1070, but also ends up slightly faster than it in 90% of game benchmarks out there. Game optimisations will play a big role in how AMD is able to compete with NVIDIA, but I’m confident that they can keep up.
Radeon Packs and pricing
AMD’s only local partner for the Radeon Packs is Evetech. The only bundle on offer will be the Radeon Black Pack with two free games, Prey and a pre-order for Wolfenstein II. No other retailer or e-tailer will be offering this, so it’s an Evetech exclusive. It’s applicable for single-card sales as well as system bundles.
Similarly to what AMD told journalists overseas in the US and Europe, AMD has no control over local pricing, or what kind of mark-ups are put on product sold locally – only suggestions to retailers on what prices they should target. In South Africa, AMD products are imported directly by distributors or retailers on their own terms because AMD doesn’t have a local presence here aside from PR and marketing arms.
AMD also noted likewise that the GeForce GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 have been available for a longer period of time, and RX Vega, being brand new, will likely have a higher price due to limited stock being available. The hope is that once the ramp-up with products from their board partners begins six to eight weeks from now, there’ll be more stock available and prices will drop. This means that, at most, it’ll be two months before stock settles in and RX Vega is generally available, and this takes into account miners snapping up early launch stock as well. Because they probably won’t, at least not locally.
One highlight is that AMD likely isn’t going to run into any PR problems over prices locally, because they’re not employing the same launch price strategy that they did overseas. To keep retailers honest and make it possible for gamers to buy cards at the suggested price, AMD offered rebates to overseas retailers who sold cards at the suggested price to consumers, according to feedback that AMD gave to LinusTechTips. This didn’t work for everyone who wanted a card, because opportunistic retailers sold through on their initial allotment of cards that had been rebated, and then immediately hiked up the selling price to make more profit as stock levels dropped.
That’s not happening here, because miners aren’t going to suck up these cards at launch anyway. The price is too high, our currency is stronger against the dollar, and the return on investment mining Ethereum is easily seven months or more. This may change over time as Vega gets better at coin mining or if our currency devalues again, but today it’s a safe bet that miners aren’t targeting it yet. Mining Monero might become more profitable, but the coin’s value is too low at this point.
I was also told by Wootware’s Rory Magee that the retailer would be keeping a close eye on pricing and availability of RX Vega, but would not be listing pricing for all cards until they’re happy with the value being offered to consumers. That is not a tough decision to make given that NVIDIA’s pricing is a little to a lot more attractive, and sells quicker, but this means that AMD fans locally have less choice as a result.
Will pricing really drop?
Think back to July 2016. During the months of June to August 2016, there was, again, a worldwide shortage of graphics cards owing to shortages of other critical components that slowed the ability for anyone to deliver stock. AMD had just launched Polaris with low stock levels on launch day, with the promise of more cards to come, while NVIDIA had lots of stock globally of the Founders Edition versions of the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070, but no-one wanted to pay the higher prices for the louder coolers.
At that point, the cheapest GTX 1070 was the EVGA GTX 1070 SuperClocked with the ACX 3.0 cooler for R8,459, available from Landmark PC. In a June System Builder’s Guide, I included a GTX 1070 Founder’s Edition for R8,899. Two months later, I wrote a review for MSI’s GeForce GTX 1070 Gaming X, and it had a recommended price of R8,999.99, though retailers had it selling for around R8,500, and stock wasn’t a problem. It took three months for prices to drop to acceptable levels.
This wasn’t the case for the Radeon R9 Fury. In a November 2015 System Builder’s Guide, I included a Sapphire Tri-X R9 Fury in the build for R8,338, remarking that it’s the first time I was able to fit it in thanks to a price drop from R9,000. Six months later in May 2016, the same card shot back up to R9,849 as the global GPU shortage ramped up and our rand traded at R14.64. This was a wind-down after the rand sat at R15,96 on 1 February 2016, and R9 Fury prices back then were around R10,000. Eight months later, a January 2017 edition of the guide had the same card for R6,722, a result of a very recent price drop by AMD behind the scenes as it began to give rebates to board partners and distributors to clear out remaining inventory.
It took fourteen months for that one card to drop from a launch price of around R9,500 to less than R7,000 where it was competitive to the GTX 980. It’s not an overall indication of AMD’s performance locally, but it is one example of how AMD’s high-end cards typically remain priced higher for longer periods of time, while NVIDIA’s cards tend to be priced lower (the reverse is seen in the mid-range and low-end markets, where AMD’s pricing is lower and more consistent). In our market, AMD’s high-end cards just don’t sell that well, while NVIDIA’s cards do. It’s both a market share and a mind share problem. That’s why a Radeon R9 Nano still retails for over R11,000 despite having fallen far behind the GTX 1070 long ago.
Over time, this will get better. If AMD’s current shortage of RX Vega works itself out, prices will drop and perhaps we’re going to see better competition between the two GPU manufacturers. But today, this week, if you’re buying RX Vega, do keep in mind that you’re effectively paying an early adopter tax, and the best-case scenario to grab a reference design is if you’re going to eventually water cool it. Custom cards are on the way, they will perform better, and they will probably be much cheaper.