AMD Radeon RX 480 8GB Reference Graphics Card Review

AMD Radeon RX 480 8GB Graphics Card Review


 

Price / Where to Buy:

US – SRP $239 – Sapphire AMD Radeon RX 480 8GB ||  XFX Radeon RX 480 8GB
PH – Approx. Php14,995

 

RX_480_reference

The latest iteration of the AMD GCN architecture, the fourth-gen chips codenamed Polaris, features an improved memory controller, delta compression, shader functions and new async compute functionality. This is by no means a completely new architecture but AMD is trying to hit significant goals with this 14nm chip without releasing a totally new architecture.

Specs-wise we’re looking at the new GPU manufactured in the 14nmFinFET process featuring 2304 stream processors rated for a TDP of 150w. A 6-pin PCIe power connector provides power to the reference design.

The Radeon RX 480 has a base clock of 1120Mhz and can boost up to 1266Mhz. AMD has dropped its heavily used “up to xxx mhz” to refer to the boost clock. And while this is still somewhat relevant and the card does indeed run with varied clock speeds depending on the game/application.

AMD decided to go with two variants for the RX 480, a 4GB model and 8GB model. Both cards are similar specs-wise with the memory bandwidth and amount the primary difference in reference design. The RX 480 uses GDDR5 memory instead of HBM seen in the Fury cards and is wired to a 256-bit bus and runs at 8000Mhz effective.

Related: ASUS ROG STRIX RX 480 8GB Review

Closer Look

The AMD Radeon RX 480 features a block blower-type cooler clad in black with the Radeon branding in one end of the card and one side. Dimples adorn the card for visual detail. A single fan intake is positioned at the end of the card extending the card’s length from the PCB. This effectively makes it possible for half-length cards to be made should adequate cooling power be possible. The blower has intake vents on the back of the card and yes, there is no backplate present here. A single PCI-e 6-pin connector powers the card together with the native PCIe slot power.

One of the most notable issues here is the lack of DVI output. We’ll talk about that more later. Overall the design of the reference RX 480 is a step back from the aggressive R9 290X/290 cooler though the Fury did use this design but that was an AIO cooler shroud.

Performance Testing

How We Tested

The PC we used for testing is shown below:

Processor: Intel Core i7 6700K @ 4.0 GHz (Turbo disabled)
Graphics Card: MSI GeForce GTX 1060 6GB Gaming X, AMD Radeon RX 480 8GB
Motherboard: ASUS Maximus VIII Formula
Memory: Kingston Hyper X Savage 8GBx2 DDR4 3000 MHz
Power Supply: Thermaltake Tough Power 1000 watts
Case: DimasTech EasyXL
Monitor: ASUS VC239H
Driver: NVIDIA GeForce 368.81, AMD Crimson 16.7.2
Operating System: Windows 10 64-bit

Frame rates and frame times of a 60-second game play were recorded using FRAPS v3.5.99. The test results are the average of 3 benchmark runs. Since this is a GPU review, we benchmarked the area of the games that put heavy load on the GPU.

All our test runs are repeatable, click the links below for area and details. Read our benchmarking methodology.

The games and corresponding image quality settings used are shown below:

Crysis 3

Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Texture Resolution: Very High
Anti-aliasing: SMAA 2Tx
System Spec: Very High
Anisotropic Filtering: 16x
Motion Blur: Disabled

Grand Theft Auto V

Resolution: 1920 x 1080
FXAA Off
MSAA 4x
TXAA Off
Very High settings
Anisotropic Filtering: 16x
Motion Blur disabled
Advanced Graphics enabled

The Witcher 3

Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Frame Rate: Unlimited
Nvidia HairWorks: Off
Ultra Settings
Motion Blur: Off
Blur: Off
Anti-aliasing: On
Bloom: On
Sharpening: High
Ambient Occlusion: SSAO
Depth of Field: On
Chromatic Aberration: Off
Vignetting: On
Light Shafts: On

Rise of the Tomb Raider

DirectX11
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Anti-aliasing: FXAA
Very High settings
Ambient Occlusion: On
Pure Hair: On
Vignette Blur: Off
Motion Blur: Off
Bloom: On
Tessellation: On
Screen Space Reflections: On
Lens Flares: On
Film Grain: Off

DOTA2

DirectX9 (default)
Resolution: 1920×1080
Best-Looking slider setting (non-Ultra)
FPS_MAX 240
Vsync OFF

Note: Some proprietary technologies of NVIDIA like PCSS, HBAO+, and HairWorks work on AMD GPU’s but we decided not to use them.

Test Results

Power Consumption & Temperature

A 20-cycle Fire Strike Ultra Stress Test is our GPU load of choice in stressing our benchmark to capture typical power and temps for our cards. System power draw is recorded as well as peak temps. Power draw is taken for the entire system with only the GPU loaded plus the normal load of the components as listed in our test bench. Room temperature is kept at 25*C – 26*C.

Read more about FutureMark 3DMark

reference_480

Total system power draw is mostly close between the RX 480 and GTX 1060 sample we have but  its the temps that really show us the real limitation of this reference design card. The reference style blower suffers from the same thermal issues that the previous generation blower-style coolers have and that’s a sub-optimal cooling performance. The lack of a backplate doesn’t help either as the images below will tell you. The VRM heats up to toasty 90*C which is really uncomfortable for some people.

Thermal Images

Conclusion

Let’s break it down for the AMD RADEON RX 480 8GB graphics card:

Performance. Performance-wise, the RX 480 is positioned well for most 1080p games with a most eSports titles going to run fine up to 1440p but for the bulk of the games out right now, the RX 480 is best fit for high-detail 1080p gaming.

Build Quality. AIB partners may vary on their take on the RX 480 but for the reference card, its mostly a poor cooler of choice and limits the RX 480 in achieving full capacity when the heat sets in. Not to mention possible deterioration due to prolonged use.

Functionality. The AMD Radeon RX 480 is aimed to provide VR experience for less but with the majority of card buyers still focusing on the traditional model of gaming, the RX 480 sits at the mainstream market range and competes head-to-head with the GTX 1060 from NVIDIA. While this card performs a bit below the GTX 1060, the advantage of having Freesync support as a cheaper variable refresh rate option together with Crossfire capability gives the RX 480 the ability to scale performance higher than the GTX 1060 which is squarely a single card solution.

Bundle. Varies by AIB and promotion.

Value. AMD heavily marketed the RX 480 as a $199 product but that’s for the 4GB. At $239, the 8GB RX 480 is the one heavily marketed in PH and is locally priced at an SRP of Php14,900. This directly puts it in contention with old-generation GeForce cards and its main competitor the GTX 1060.

As we’ve discussed in our in-depth analysis of the RX 480 vs. GTX 1060, there is no clear winner in this debate. One outperforms the other in single card performance while the other potential scalability and other features. As street prices get lower for these cards though, it makes more sense to pick up an RX 480 vs. an older GTX 970. With the availability of Freesync monitors making it much more affordable also, the RX 480 also seems like a good choice if you’re looking at that route.

The AMD Radeon RX 480’s main advantage here is its ability to Crossfire making it an option vs. a single high-end GeForce card. We’ll look into that in a separate article when we match the RX 480 in Crossfire against a single GTX 1070 and GTX 1080.

For now, the AMD Radeon RX 480 is an excellent card for its price limited by its reference cooler. While custom board partners will easily resolve this, those who opt for the reference design may find that watercooling these cards can also yield great results.

In closing, the AMD Radeon RX 480 is a great improvement over previous-generation and completely shuts down all cards before it. If multi-GPU is something you’re eyeing but is constrained to the range of the RX 480, custom cards can be had for around $299 like the ASUS ROG Strix RX 480 we’ve recently reviewed, then the AMD Radeon RX 480 is a good choice.

Price / Where to Buy:

US – SRP $239 – Sapphire AMD Radeon RX 480 8GB ||  XFX Radeon RX 480 8GB
PH – Approx. Php14,995

Warranty varies by AIB. We give it our B2G Recommended Award!

B2G_Recommended

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