Having taken a look at our recommended Nvidia GeForce graphics card upgrades last week, it's now the turn of AMD Radeon once again.
it's been a quiet few months for AMD, in truth, with no notable hardware releases to speak of aside from the Radeon VII back in January. This graphics card barely even registered as a blip on the radar though. Odd, considering it's the most powerful AMD Radeon graphics card money can buy right now.
On that front, all we've done is creep nearer to the next generation, and the looming shadow of Navi.
AMD's Polaris 20 GPUs powering much of the Radeon RX 500 series are now two years old and should be phased out very soon indeed. With that in mind, we're sticking to the AMD Polaris 30 and Vega GPUs for our look at whether or not you should upgrade your AMD Radeon graphics card in Q2 2019.
Price - $215-300
Now available from a frankly ridiculous $215 on NewEgg, complete with a three-game bundle of AAA titles (that are comfortably worth half the asking price), the Radeon RX 590 remains a 'Buy' for AMD fans. However, it's not so cut and dried as it was three months ago.
Nvidia has provided some fresh competition with the GeForce GTX 1660 and GTX 1660 Ti; the Radeon RX 590 offers performance a shade below the former while costing somewhere in-between Nvidia's two offerings. On the surface, that sounds bad value, but the 3-game bundle that's available helps to sweeten the deal.
For those looking at a solid 1080p AMD graphics card that doesn't break the bank, it's difficult to overlook the Radeon RX 590. It is teetering on the edge of a graphical generation but considering the gaming goodies thrown into the mix, buying this feels like a smart decision.
If you have yourself a 1080p resolution display then the RX 590 offers fantastic price to performance that can outstrip a GeForce GTX 1060 by some distance. It's decently fast but most of all the RX 590 is pretty affordable, something that can't be said for a lot of new graphics cards these days.
Buy, Wait or Don’t Buy? - Buy
Alternative: The obvious alternative would now be the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti or GeForce GTX 1660. As we said earlier, the Radeon RX 590 can be had for much cheaper than the GTX 1660 Ti, although will pull in around 20% lower frame rates at 1080p. The GTX 1660, which is priced around $229, offers almost identical performance, albeit in a Team Green flavour.
Bringing it back to Team Red, you could also step down and pick up a Radeon RX 580. You'll lose about 10% performance and one of the free games in the 3-game bundle for a $50 or so discount. Neither is a bad choice so this purely comes down to the budget you have available, with the RX 590 being the obviously faster card.
Price - ~$300-400
With the way the markets now shaking out, the Radeon RX Vega 56 has begun to enter mainstream pricing. Shop around and you can find it for as cheap as $300 for a basic blower model. This graphics card is currently an ideal fit for 1440p gamers, providing performance that's actually pretty close to Nvidia's RTX 2060. However, it's a power-hungry beast which will cause some minor damage to your electricity bill.
As far as graphics cards go, the RX Vega 56 doesn't quite offer the feature set to go with its pricing though. Having no DXR features make this a tough sell compared to the RTX 2060, and we can't shake the feeling this card, now almost two years old, is going to be shown the door fairly soon. In the here and now, at $300, you could argue value for money, but that may not be the case in just a few months time.
Buy, Wait or Don’t Buy? - Don't Buy
Alternative: For those gaming at 1080p right now, you don't really need to look any higher than the Radeon RX 590. It's a capable graphics card at this resolution and can be bought for as little as half the price of some versions of the Vega 56. Something in the same price region but with a little more future proofing would be Nvidia's RTX 2060, a graphics card that can also stretch its legs at 1440p.
Price - ~$400-600
The full-fat version of the Vega 56, the Radeon RX Vega 64 is a power-guzzling workhorse that perhaps comes with one too many doubts to make it a 'Buy' for some at this point. While theoretically a graphics card capable of 4K, in newer titles the Radeon RX Vega 64 can really begin to struggle compared to the Radeon VII or the RTX 2080. Sacrifices will need to be made in order to reach this screen resolution, which is not necessarily what you'll want to do having splashed out $500 on a graphics card.
Should you be gaming at 1440p with high refresh rates though, then the Radeon RX Vega 64 can have a chance to shine. It's too powerful for 1080p, frankly, and too weak for reliable 4K, making it the AMD GPU of choice at 2560x1440. However, this comes largely down to price. Some of the more expensive Vega 64's really aren't worth buying at this point, not when you can pick up an RTX 2070 for $500. Score one for $400-450 and you've got yourself a bargain though.
Buy, Wait or Don’t Buy? - Buy
Alternative: For those in this price bracket, the alternative would be to look at a GeForce RTX 2070 or GeForce RTX 2060, depending on how much you're willing to spend. Both are at least a little more future-proofed thanks to the newer Turing tech under the hood and the GeForce RTX 2060 should be available for a cheaper price.
Price - $699
Movement! But not the right way. We're now shifting Radeon VII from a hesitant 'Wait' down to a 'Don't Buy'. AMD's effort at getting back into the high-end market is okay, but it really doesn't do enough to justify its existence. At $699 this is a GPU which matches the GeForce RTX 2080 in pricing, yet not performance, nor power efficiency. The Radeon VII falls just short in nearly every benchmark, and the lack of ray-tracing and DLSS support makes it the clear second-best in this category.
If you're absolutely dead-set on going with AMD and supporting the underdog, then the Radeon VII is the best on offer. For anyone who's brand-agnostic though, you'd do well to look at the other side of the fence where the grass is greener right now.
However, there does exist one major 'what if'. If you are looking for a graphics card that can handle intense productivity then the Radeon VII could be the winner for you. With 16GB HBM2 memory, it excels in areas such as video editing. Pair this with strong gaming performance and you have yourself a winner.
Buy, Wait or Don’t Buy? - Don't Buy
Alternative: Looking downwards and sideways are your only options here really. Keeping at the same price level you'll find the GeForce RTX 2080, a graphics which we currently rate as a 'Buy' in the current market. Looking downwards, say hello to the Radeon RX Vega 64. You can save up to $300 by going for the Vega-powered sibling, although it's not exactly a spring chicken these days.
Do you think AMD has a great video card line-up at the start of 2019? Would you recommend upgrading to any of these graphics cards, or should people wait for Navi? Assuming you had the money, would you buy, not buy, or wait for each of these GPUs? Get voting in the polls and let us know why below!