AMD Radeon RX 480
CONCLUSION: A decent graphics solution that is able to consistently deliver more performance than its price suggests.
We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again. These are some exciting times to be a PC gamer. Following the launch of the Pascal-based NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 – both of which offered unprecedented levels of performance at their respective price points – AMD announced the Radeon RX 480 at a staggeringly value-oriented price of just US$199 for the 4GB version. The Radeon RX 480 is based on Polaris, a fourth-generation Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture. While Fiji added features like support for High Bandwidth Memory (HBM), Polaris focuses on optimizations like improved geometry processing, enhanced shader efficiency, and more flexible asynchronous compute capabilities. These efficiency gains have allowed AMD to squeeze extra performance from the GCN architecture, which debuted in its first iteration in 2012. Polaris also has asynchronous compute capabilities, which is the ability to process compute and graphics workloads simultaneously. This includes recently added features like Quick Response Queue, which allows greater flexibility in handling both types of tasks. While GCN might prioritize graphics over compute tasks, Quick Response Queue now enables the GPU to devote more resources to compute tasks if they are more urgent, without stopping the graphics task entirely. Alternatively, compute tasks are also able to preempt graphics workloads, and the GPU is able to divert resources entirely to the former where necessary. The Radeon RX 480 features 36 Compute Units (CUs), for a total of 2,304 stream processors and 144 texture mapping units (TMUs). The number of CUs actually puts it somewhere between the Radeon R9 380 and 390X, but at a much lower price than the latter. Our review unit is the 8GB model that’s priced at US$239, which is slightly more expensive than its 4GB counterpart. It boasts up to 5.8 TFLOPS of singleprecision floating point performance, which isn’t that far behind the 6.46 and 8.9 TFLOPS the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 and 1080 off er respectively, especially when you consider their prices. The reference design has a fairly short PCB, although the blower-style fan extends beyond that. But because of the vents on the top of the card, it looks like the fan might actually exhaust some heat into the case, and not just out the back of the chassis. The cooling shroud is constructed of plastic, and the dotted grid pattern is reminiscent of the design we saw on cards like the Radeon R9 Fury X. Round the back, the Radeon RX 480 sports three DisplayPort 1.3/1.4 ports and an HDMI 2.0b connector. These are essentially the latest display standards, so the RX 480 supports things like HDR video and higher resolution displays with higher refresh rates, for instance standard definition 4K video at 120Hz.
AT A GLANCE
GPU TRANSISTOR COUNT: 5.7 billion
CORE CLOCK: 1,266MHz
MEMORY: 8GB GDDR5
MEMORY CLOCK: 8,000MHz
The card requires just one 6-pin power connector for power.
The fan actually extends beyond the PCB itself.
This is also AMD’s first GPU to be based on the new and more efficient 14nm FinFET process, so we can expect power savings as well. When it comes to power consumption, the card has a TDP of 150 watts, which means it still requires a 6-pin PCIe connector. That’s pretty low in and of itself, but we can’t help think that it’s actually not that impressive – despite AMD’s emphasis on how efficient Polaris is – because the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 has the same TDP and is so much more powerful. The GeForce GTX 1080 also isn’t that much more power hungry at 180 watts, so AMD isn’t really breaking any new ground in the power consumption department at least. Performance-wise, the card manages to hold its own against cards like the Radeon R9 390X and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970. In newer titles like Tom Clancy’s The Division, the card pushed out a perfectly playable 39.2fps at Ultra settings and a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels. In DirectX 12 games like Hitman and Ashes of the Singularity (Aots), it did quite respectably as well, especially in the former game. In Hitman, the card managed 50.84fps at 1600p and Ultra settings, well ahead of the GeForce GTX 970’s 35.95fps. In Aots (Crazy settings, 1600p), the card eked out a mediocre 28.5fps – not the smoothest experience around but still playable.