AMD Radeon RX 480 Graphics Card Review
For some time now Nvidia have been dominating the ‘Fastest Graphics Card in the World’ sector, due to the fact that they have designed some pretty powerful GPUs in recent years, and well, AMD have not! But that’s not to say that AMD have been idle and as most of us know and appreciate AMD Radeon Graphics Cards have always offered some serious bang for your buck! With that in mind AMD have seemingly been concentrating on that very sector of the market and that’s a good thing as Graphics Cards are not cheap, especially if they’re made by Nvidia! 😉
So today we’re going to take a look at AMD’s latest GPU the AMD Radeon RX 480. This new GPU is based upon AMD’s new Polaris architecture and utilises AMD’s new 14nm manufacturing process making the new GPU more power efficient. The reference card itself is therefore quite small measuring in at only 243mm in length and is equipped with a single 6-pin power connector. The RX 480 boasts a Core Clock of 112MHz and a Boost Clock of 1266MHz, with the choice of either 4GB or 8GB of GDDR5 memory running at 8000MHz. Here today we will be be looking at the 4GB version, which is (somewhat obviously) also the cheapest.
Among other new features is Asynchronous Compute, an ability that allows the Graphics Card to process both graphics and compute tasks simultaneously. This leads us nicely into AMD’s new True Audio Next technology that can utilise real-time ray tracing to effectively map audio and how it moves around and bounces off of other objects in the 3D world, ideal for VR. In fact the card is touted (by AMD) as an entry level VR Graphics Card and that is backed up by the fact that it passes the Steam VR test. In addition to this the new RX 480 also sports HDMI2 (2b) via its single HDMI output. This enables the card to output 4k at 60Hz with High-Dynamic Range (HDR) and this is also supported by the card’s three DisplayPort (1.4) outputs.
There’s no un-boxing this time around I’m afraid as we were sent a card directly from AMD and it arrived in nothing more than an anti-static bag. Note that here we have the 4GB reference card with the stock AMD cooler.
At the time of review, the AMD Radeon RX 480 is retailing at Overclockers UK from approximately £200 and comes with a minimum 2 year warranty.
courtesy of AMD
|Radeon™ RX 480 Graphics|
|GCN Architecture||4th Generation|
|Clock Speeds (Boost / Base)||1266 MHz / 1120 MHz|
|Peak Performance||Up to 5.8 TFLOPS|
|Memory Clock Speed (MHz)||1750 or higher|
|Memory Bandwidth||224 GB/s or higher|
|Memory Interface||256 bit|
|Typical Board Power||150W|
|AMD FreeSync™ Technology||Yes|
|DirectX® 12 Support||Yes|
|Virtual Super Resolution||Yes|
|DisplayPort Version||1.4 HDR Ready|
First impressions of the AMD Radeon RX 480, in its stock form straight from AMD, is as you can guess somewhat underwhelming. It’s a Graphics Card! A black one at that with a regular blower style cooler. It’s all plastic and hard plastics at that, but at least it will fit in with many a Rig design I guess. But to critique the RX 480 for its looks would be to miss the point, so I’ll stop… 😉
The card’s design is not too dissimilar to the FuryX as you can see from the front of the card. But it lacks the high quality materials as everything here is hard plastic. Meaning that it feels somewhat cheap in the hand unfortunately (but then it is cheap James!). It’s construction features a basic blower design meaning that the fan at the rear of the card sucks in cool air (hopefully) an expels it out of the back. On the left there’s a simple Radeon logo in red that helps to brighten things up a little.
Looking at the back of the card there really is very little to see, other than we can see how small the PCB is compared to the size of the cooler itself. Meaning that should you wish to water cool this card it would make for a very small package indeed.
Looking at the right side of the card (or top) we can see see that there’s simple plastic cover with another Radeon logo on the left. We can also see that the RX 480 requires just one 6-pin power connector, a testament to the new 14nm manufacturing process and a nod at the card’s low power consumption of no more than 150W. On the other side we simply find more plastic and the PCIE connector.
Just when we all though that DisplayPort was the way to go for us PC Gamers, VR headsets appeared requiring an HDMI port. And, should you wish to send your Graphics Card’s signal to your monitor via HDMI that’s now two HDMI ports you’re going to need. The reference AMD RX 480 has just one I’m afraid, so you’ll want to look at the partner cards should you want more. Thankfully though there’s also three DisplayPorts and single DVI port. At the far end of the card there really is nothing to see, so…
OK so what we have here then is simply a Graphics Card that is designed with simplicity in mind and to a budget. And this is something we need to remember as what AMD have tried to do here is do away with the ancillaries and provide a Graphics Card that gives us real performance for not very much money. Let’s take a look and see if they’ve succeeded.
Installing the AMD Radeon RX 480 into our Test Rig was very simple thanks to the card’s small size measuring in at just 243mm long, 95mm high and 35mm deep. Then there’s just one 6-pin power connector to power up.
|Case||Cooler Master HAF XB||Power Supply||Corsair Professional Series AX 760i|
|Motherboard||ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 GAMING K6||CPU||Intel Core i5-6600K|
|CPU Cooler||Noctua NH-U12S||RAM||G Skill Ripjaws 4 16GB|
|Graphics Card||AMD Radeon RX 480||SSD||HyperX FURY 120GB|
Although I wish someone would just decide, 8-pin, 6-pin, x2 8-pin etc, as now I just have additional cables (albeit very short ones) flapping around inside my case, RANT OVER! 😮
Our New Test Rig was treated to a fresh install of Windows 10 64Bit with all associated drivers also installed. The latest AMD Crimson Edition Driver (16.7.3) was then downloaded and installed and used throughout testing. In addition to this the Crimson Edition 16.8.2 Hotfix was also installed as this was available at the time of review.
For testing purposes we use MSI Afterburner (here), to help us with our testing and overclocking. We also used AMD’s new WattMan software that can be seen below.
Overclocking the new AMD Radeon RX 480 is an interesting affair, especially if you use the new WattMan application. This new overclocking and monitoring app can be found within the latest Crimson Edition Driver software. The software allows control over the Boost Clock and Memory Clock speeds with an eight level scale. Here you can also manipulate the voltage, fan speed, temperature and (most importantly) the Power Limit (%).
I say the Power Limit as without increasing this I just experienced instability and crashes. After some time and rather a lot of crashes I ended with the Profile shown above that increases the Boost Clock to 1330MHz (up[ from 1266Mhz) and the Memory Clock to 2200MHz (8800MHz effective) up from 2000MHz (8000MHz effective). Note that to do this I did not mess with the voltage (as it didn’t seem to help), but did increase the Power Limit to 150%, fan speed and the Temperature control, see image above for full details.
The end result was a card that was approximately 5% faster in Game, but this small increase also came at a large cost as the increase in noise from the single fan was now almost extreme. Bottom line – the cooler attached to this RX 480 is basic at best, yes it works but it’s too noisy (and a little warm at 86°C) when overclocked even for me! And that’s saying something…
|Benchmark||1080P||1440P||Ulta Wide (3440×1440)|
|Ashes of the Singularity (DX12)||65.10||56.00||50.20|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider (DX12)||67.08||46.19||36.89|
|Far Cry Primal (DX 11)||58.00||42.00||34.00|
|UNiGiNE Valley (DX 11)||63.60||39.50||30.10|
|Total War (Warhammer) (DX 12)||83.00||55.60||41.80|
Comparative Test Results (at stock):
* all comparative results are average FPS at 2560×1440
Don’t let the AMD Radeon RX 480’s position in the charts above cloud your vision as every card shown above (all Nvidia I know!) are over £100 more expensive. And, before we look at and analyse these results let’s also not forget that here we are looking at a £200 Graphics Card and I’ll tell you now for £200 the RX 480 offers plenty of performance and that has also forced Nvidia’s hand where GTX 1060 pricing is concerned. For that alone AMD, I applaud you. 🙂
As you can see in two of the tests shown above the RX 480 actually pulls in front of the Nvidia GTX 1060 and lets’s not forget that this particular GTX 1060 (review coming soon) is a heavily overclocked 1060. Also what we can see front the data above is that the RX 480 performs especially well in DirectX 12 titles and not so well in DirectX 11. Now for some this may be an issue, but thinking forward and into the future I would much rather have a card that would perform better with newer (DX12) titles than with older DX11 titles.
In game (that’s actually playing BTW) the Radeon performed well and with no overclock was relatively quiet too, fine in fact when playing with a Headset on. At 2560 x 1440 the card performed flawlessly in Overwatch with Framerates above 60 FPS. But as you can see it’s not a card for 4K or Ultra Wide resolutions but is actually pretty good for 1440p and just perfect for 1080p.
I would be easy to bemoan the lack of overclocking headroom and perhaps, more importantly the very noisy fan. But again we have to remember the asking price, which for as Graphics Card such as this is very fair in my opinion. But as the AMD stock/reference card is limited in numbers, you can turn to the partner card instead that are already offering custom overclocked versions for as little as £10 more, now that does sound good and is probably quieter too! 😉
The sort of performance offered up by the AMD Radeon RX 480 for the price that is asked is in my mind impressive, but (thanks to a price drop) already the new Nvidia GTX 1060 is snapping at its heels, but (of course) it still costs more.
Our sample Radeon RX 480 was sent to us direct from AMD and arrived in nothing more than an anti-static bag, so we cannot comment on the un-boxing this time around. Once out of the box (sorry bag) the reference AMD Radeon RX 480 is somewhat underwhelming to look at. The design is similar to the FuryX but there’s no high quality materials to be found here, just hard plastics. But we must remember this a stock card and remember the asking price, partner card will no doubt (and in fact do) look better and cost only a little more.
Performance wise the AMD Radeon RX 480 offers up plenty of performance for its £200 price tag. Gaming is best enjoyed at 1080p or at a push 1440p, there’s simply not enough performance here for any resolution above that. We found that the RX 480 performs particularly well in DirectX 12 titles and that’s great if your thinking that you’d keep the card for some time to come. Older titles based on DirectX 11 unfortunately don’t fare so well. The AMD Radeon RX 480 is also VR Ready meaning that it’s likely to be the cheapest way into VR if that’s what you’re after.
But there is a problem and that’s the fact that the stock cooler is well, rubbish! But (thankfully) I think that was part of AMD’s master plan; as you cannot seem to buy a stock card anyway, but there’s plenty of partner cards with custom coolers on offer for as little as just £10 more. One would hope that not only do these card’s look better and cool better, but they’re also likely to make less noise.
Overall the new AMD Radeon RX 480 does what AMD does best and that’s simply offer damn good performance for very little money and that is likely to be where AMD remain strongest. What this has also done is forced some real competition in this budget sector and I certainly thank AMD for that. So if you’re trying to save every penny for that budget Gaming Rig or that budget VR rig and you’re looking to the future with DirectX 12 then you’ll not be disappointed by the AMD Radeon RX 480, especially if you pick up one of the partner cards for (hopefully) just a few pounds more…
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Many thanks to AMD for providing this sample for review