For the last month or so AMD have been talking about their latest GPU, teasing little bits of information here and there. Today that comes to an end with the launch of the product and we’ve put it through benchmarks in a bunch of the latest games including DOOM and the DX12 build of Total War: Warhammer. Welcome to our AMD Radeon RX 480 Review.
AMD Radeon RX480 Review – Polaris Highlights
Known as Polaris while it was approaching launch, the latest AMD products based on this GPU will be called Radeon RX 460, RX 470 and RX 480. Manufactured using the latest FinFET 14 process these new products benefit from that architectures lower power requirement which in turn means lower temperatures and reduced fan speed/noise. The new RX series is very much about gaming with performance enhancements across the architecture and we’ll look at the framerates later in this article, but AMD is looking to offer more than just that.
Those who like to view the latest high-def content on Netflix and Amazon can do so over HDMI 2.0b and DisplayPort 1.4 and the RX series supports HDR both in gaming and video playback. Streamers will look to use the built in GPU compute functionality which works with leading capture software such as OBS, minimising CPU use and maximising performance. Then, as far as VR goes, Polaris is fully compatible with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and through features such as native support for asynchronous compute should offer optimal performance.
TrueAudio Next is also built into this product, offering real-time GPU audio physics processing and AMD’s software is also receiving a few tweaks, one of the most notable being the launch of Radeon WattMan. An overclocking and tweaking experience for enthusiasts. Fine tune the graphics card to your exact power, thermal and acoustic needs in a much more advanced way than previous cards/control panels allowed.
AMD Radeon RX 480 Review – The RX 480 Reference Card
Shown above is the reference card for the RX 480. It is a fairly standard length card, although turning it over shows that the PCB is quite compact. AMD use a dual slot cooler with the usual mix of copper GPU block and aluminium fins. Worthy of note is that this card continues AMDs approach of not using a bridge for multi-GPU setups.
The RX 480 uses a single 6pin power connector and round at the outputs we find three DisplayPort connectors along with one HDMI. Multi-screen setups are supported as is 3D, 4k and VR. All of the usual features are present such as support for DirextX 12, FreeSync, OpenCL, Direct Compute , Virtual Super Resolution and Frame Rate Target Control (FRTC) which allows us to specify a maximum framerate and have the card hit this, rather than its maximum, reducing power use and heat generated.
As far as the key specs go we get a core speed of 1266MHz and memory of 2000MHz (8GB GDDR5).
AMD Radeon RX 480 Review – Performance
Testing was performed on the Intel Core i7-6950X running on an X99 board with 16GB of DDR4 and a Samsung 850 Pro SSD. Windows 10 was the OS and all games along with the OS were patched.
NVIDIA Driver: 368.39
AMD Driver: Latest Crimson Edition (June 16)
AMD Radeon RX 480 Review – Conclusion
Before we get to some thoughts on the performance of the RX 480, let’s talk about the reference card a little. In its styling, it is obviously quite similar to the Fury X we saw from AMD last year. Overall that means a pretty nice looking card, however, the one disappointment is the cooler used. It is great to see a compact PCB used here but the longer cooler is disappointing. AMD will say it is only for the reference card however manufacturers often follow their lead. A more compact cooling solution would have helped make a better product range. That said, we look forward to seeing what some of AMDs partners do, we’re sure at least some of them will look to deliver a compact version of the card.
That larger cooler does allow AMD to deliver a reference card which runs quiet, we rarely heard any noise from the fan. They are clearly balancing fan speed and thermals though, over 80c is quite hot by recent standards (average historically). We can, of course, tweak the fan speed and therefore temperatures to our needs. What remains low regardless is the power draw. The RX 480 runs on significantly fewer watts than the direct competition, in our testing roughly 50w less.
The card features are also good. DirectX 12, Async compute, support for VR, support for the latest video codecs, HDR, 4K, etc. All good and of course support for all the key game streaming/recording applications is a big thing for many gamers.
So that brings us to gaming performance and pricing where the RX 480 is competitive. The 8Gb version of the card which we tested today sits right at the GTX 970 OC price point and that is the performance we see from the card. We did note that there were a few games where the GTX 970 had a significant win however both cards offered playable performance in every game at 2560×1440 with max detail. The RX 480 edged ahead in our Warhammer DX12 test which could give an indication of future performance and it was worth noting that the two offesimilarmiar 3D Mark performance with the RX 480 edging ahead of the GTX 970 when both are overclocked.