Testing cheap Polaris and Vega GPUs from Aliexpress
For a few months we have had quite an explosion of Polaris and Vega AMD GPUs on Aliexpress and probably other stores. Some are used units of known brands, while others are
new from unknown brands. Even though those GPUs are old, and not as powerful as modern graphics cards there are still some use cases for them.
First warning - word on the net is that AMD will be dropping new driver support for GCN graphics cards, which includes Polaris and Vega graphics cards. Even during testing, the 23.9.2 driver is the latest for them, while RDNA cards use a newer one.
Second warning - even if the graphics card is
new it's not fully new - the graphics chip is old and some components could be refurbished from a mining GPU for example. You should accept you are buying a bit of a mystery box.
For positive - we are talking about RX570 starting from around $65 (also labeled as RX580 2048SP), or RX580 and RX590 20 USD higher, and Vega 56 starting just above $100. New Intel Arc A380 starts at $140, depending on region. And if you want to they even have Radeon VII but at higher prices.
This one was marked as used but arrived clean with no dust. Only some discoloration on the slot bracket. RX 590 GME is slightly different than RX 590 as it's made from Polaris 20 chip, while the plain RX 590 is from Polaris 30 chip. Both have the same specs.
At the time of writing this article those cards start at around $86, but the price may vary based on sales and vendor.
This is an example of a no-name brand GPU. Listed at around $70. It comes with a plastic shroud and backplate but looks new. While testing, I did hear a slight coil whine coming from it.
RX580 2048SP is not RX580, but an AMD renamed RX570, which happened somewhere during the mining boom and/or in the context of the Internet cafes in Asia, mostly China where large quantities of such hardware would be needed. On Aliexpress you will be able to find RX570, RX580, and RX580-2048SP while only one is the actual RX580 and has more cores and TMUs than the other two.
A no-name Vega 56 in custom metal housing in white finish. Running quiet and cool. Right now it's listed at $106 plus shipping.
When you start looking at those graphics cards you will also get similar offers below the product listing or with time on the home page as suggested products. Depending on the day there can be sales on some of those graphics cards, not to mention possible discounts for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Aside from low price there are a few graphics cards at a bit higher price points but with custom shroud or small form factor. You can look for something you could adapt to a really custom build or just a cheap card for multimedia use or tinkering in custom projects. If you want something with a warranty then probably only the Intel Arc A380 would fit this price range. From used cards - GTX 1660 Ti/Super, RX 5600/5600 XT.
And if you really want to there are also stock Radeon VII cards from around $300. Server version (Radeon Instinct) starts at around $250.
For the tests I used a system with Ryzen 7 5800X3D, 2x8GB 3200CL16 RAM on a Gigabyte B550M DS3H rev 1.4 motherboard with the latest BIOS. The tests were done on Windows 11. For Vega/Polaris cards the 23.9.2 driver was used (whereas 23.9.3 or 23.10.2 do not support those graphics cards). I've also included mobile Ryzen 7840U running at 24W TDP with Radeon 780M integrated graphics with 32GB of 7500 MT/s LPDDR5x RAM.
The settings at 1080p ultra are slightly too high for those graphics cards but to push them I used what the game recommended. If you lower the settings then RX590 and Vega 56 should manage at 1080p.
Lighter games line online MMOs have lower requirements and here any GPU at 1080p can handle the game easily. The settings are rather low with the laptop preset but in Endwalker the difference may not be noticeable while in-game (unsure what will happen in Dawntrail).
Do note that MMOs tend to hammer the CPU a lot and here those tests were done with 5800X3D so a really strong CPU. Using a much weaker CPU will not produce as good results as those.
So as you can see RX570 is around Intel Arc A380 levels of performance while RX 590 and Vega 56 can usually fight GTX 1660 Super. Those aren't modern graphics cards and such a low price reflects that, yet if you want something really cheap or tinker with modding a GPU case, practice board level repair, and the like then why not? If Arc A380 can't do what you need then those old Polaris/Vega cards could fit in.
If you have a system with a higher PCIe lanes count you could run some CrossFire synthetic benchmarks with multiple Polaris/Vega cards for the fun of it as well ;)
On the other hand if you actually want to play in various games and want a good 1080p experience but are cheap then look at RX 6600/6600 XT/6650 XT, Intel Arc A750/580, RTX 3060 prices, and benchmarks.