Close to the Metal Ep. 52: AMD’s return to form with Vega and Ryzen

Everyone loves a good comeback. AMD’s budget-focused Bulldozer chips and modest R9 graphics line had lost them the favor of all but the most devout red team members, until now. AMD’s return has had a sharp takeoff, and a steady climb towards relevance, creating a competitive market its enemies can’t ignore.

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While the last few years have seen remarkable improvements to gaming PC performance, they were dominated by Intel and Nvidia. For a while, it seemed like every other system was sporting a Core i5 and GTX 970. AMD needed a saving throw, and the RX 480 struck that chord, offering a $200 GPU when Nvidia’s GTX 1070 started at almost $400.

Then along came Ryzen, with chips like the Ryzen 7 1700 offering more cores than Intel at the price point, a move the PC gaming community was quick to take advantage of. Our breakdown of all the Ryzen chips showed there was a lot of value from top to bottom, something the blue team wasn’t offering at the time.

ThreadRipper pushed performance boundaries too, with 16 cores and 32 threads of massive computing power. All of a sudden, AMD’s $800 chip was beating out Intel’s $1,060 chip in multi-core performance tests like Cinebench. Intel will have a chance to fire back in September, but AMD’s platform support on the high-end chips may still be unmatched.

And finally, we come to Vega, the long-awaited GPUs based on a brand new architecture, so far only seen in workstation graphics cards. No longer content with taking the budget market, the Radeon RX Vega 64 and Radeon RX Vega 56 aim straight for Nvidia’s GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 Ti, and actually manage to land a solid blow to the other side’s thick armor.

We’ll talk Threadripper, Vega, and AMD’s steady march back into relevance, as well as what it means for the computing and PC gaming communities at large, on this week’s Close to the Metal.

Close to the Metal is a podcast from Digital Trends that takes a deep dive into computing and PC gaming topics. Each show, we’ll focus in on one topic, and leave no stone unturned as we show off the latest in hardware and software. Whether it’s the latest GPU, supercomputers, or which 2-in-1 you should buy, we break down the complicated jargon and talk about how user experience is affected in the real world. Please subscribe, share, and send your questions to We broadcast the show live on YouTube and Facebook at 10 a.m. Pacific / 1 p.m. Eastern, every Tuesday.

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