AMD Radeon RX 480 Video Card - Best Bang For the Buck GPU?The Radeon RX 480 is finally here and after weeks of leaks we can finally show you our performance numbers and tell you what we know about the card. As you likely already know the AMD Radeon RX 480 features the Polaris 10 GPU built on the 14nm FinFET process by Samsung and Global Foundaries. The AMD Radeon RX 480 has 5.8 TFLOPS of compute performance thanks to having 36 Compute Units containing 2,304 stream processors based on the latest GCN 4.0 technology. AMD is using dynamic clock speeds on RX 480, so it has a base clock of 1120MHz and a peak boost clock of 1266MHz. The RX 480 comes with either 4GB or 8GB of GDDR5 memory running on a 256-bit wide memory interface at speeds starting out at 7Gbps for 224 GB/s of bandwidth all the way up to 8Gbps for 256 GB/s of bandwidth. From what we gather it is up to the board partner to use the memory that they want, so be sure to keep an eye on that if you are looking to purchase one of these cards. When it comes to suggested retail pricing on the Radeon RX 480 you are looking at $199 for the 4GB versions and $239 for the 8GB versions. This card is targeted at mainstream 1080P and 1440P gamers that are looking for solid performance and something that is also VR-ready! The AMD Radeon RX 480 8GB reference card is your typical dual-slot card that measures in at just under 9.5" in length. The RX 480's single 6-pin power connector resides along the top edge of the 150W TDP card. Flipping the AMD Radeon RX 480 over we can see that the PCB is pretty small at just 7.0-inches in length! None of the 8GB worth of GDDR5 memory can be seen on the back of the card and AMD asked us not to remove the GPU cooler. AMD has been using the PCIe bus for CrossFire multi-GPU support and we've heard rumors that as we move beyond 4K and 5K video content that there will be more data than the bus can handle. It looks like AMD has tinkered around with a new CrossFire interconnect as there are 16-pins where a CrossFire interconnect has been used in the past. When it comes to video outputs the AMD Radeon RX 480 has three DisplayPort 1.3/1.4 HDR outputs and one HDMI 2.0 video output. The rear grill also has been ported for optimal airflow to help the hot air from the Polaris 10 GPU to be exhausted out of the case. No DVI output is present on a sub $250 graphics card, so make sure you pick up an adapter if you need one for an older display. The fan shroud is sealed on the end and along the bottom, so the only opening are on the front and back covers. Here is a look at the AMD Radeon R9 Nano (top) and the AMD Radeon RX 480 (bottom) to give you a better idea of the size of the card. The AMD Radeon RX 480 is a very small card. Flipping the cards over you can see that the AMD Radeon RX 480 PCB is only about an inch longer than the Radeon R9 Nano, which is impressive seeing how the Nano features HBM memory and the 480 uses GDDR5 memory that has to be on the PCB. Let's move along to the test system overview and then get straight on to the benchmark results!
Test SystemBefore we look at the numbers, let's take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. There has been some concern of people testing a cold card versus a hot card, but we've always done out testing 'hot' since the site started back more than a decade ago. Video Cards & Drivers used for testing:
- AMD Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.6.2
- NVIDIA GeForce 368.39 for GTX 1080/1070/960 and GeForce 362.00 For All Others
Intel X79/LGA2011 PlatformThe Intel X79 platform that we used to test the all of the video cards was running the ASUS P9X79-E WS motherboard with BIOS 1704 that came out on 05/08/2015. We went with the Intel Core i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E processor to power this platform as it is PCIe 3.0 certified, so all graphics cards are tested with PCI Express Gen 3 enabled. The Kingston HyperX 10th Anniversary 16GB 2400MHz quad channel memory kit was set to XMP Profile #2. This profile defaults to 2133MHz with 1.65v and 11-13-13-30 2T memory timings. The OCZ Vertex 460 240GB SSD was run with latest firmware available. A Corsair AX860i digital power supply provides clean power to the system and is also silent as the fan hardly ever spins up. This is critical to our testing as it lowers the ambient noise level of the room and gives us more accurate sound measurements. Here are the exact hardware components that we are using on our test system:
|The Intel X79 Test Platform|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-4960X|
ASUS P9X79-E WS
16GB Kingston 2133MHz
|Solid-State Drive||OCZ Vertex 460 240GB|
|Cooling||Intel TS13X (Asetek)|
|Power Supply||Corsair AX860i|
|Operating System||Windows 10 64-bit|
|Monitor||Sharp PN-K321 32" 4K|
Battlefield 4Battlefield 4 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts. It is a sequel to 2011's Battlefield 3 and was released on October 29, 2013 in North America. Battlefield 4's single-player Campaign takes place in 2020, six years after the events of its predecessor. Tensions between Russia and the United States have been running at a record high. On top of this, China is also on the brink of war, as Admiral Chang, the main antagonist, plans to overthrow China's current government; and, if successful, the Russians will have full support from the Chinese, bringing China into a war with the United States. This game title uses the Frostbite 3 game engine and looks great. We tested Battlefield 4 with the Ultra graphics quality preset as most discrete desktop graphics cards can easily play with this IQ setting at 1080P and we still want to be able to push the higher-end cards down the road. We used FRAPS to benchmark with these settings on the Shanghai level. All tests were done with the DirectX 11 API. Benchmark Results: At 1080p resolution, the Radeon RX 480 came in at an average frame rate of 83.4, or 8 FPS lower than the Zotac GeForce GTX 970, but 20 FPS faster than the Sapphire R9 380X Nitro. Benchmark Results: When scaling the resolution up to 2k (2160×1440), the RX 480 was still very much ahead of the Sapphire R9 380X, showing an average of about 12 FPS better, on average. Benchmark Results: When it comes to 4k UHD gaming, the RX 480 actually started to catch up to the Zotac GeForce GTX 970 quite a bit, with an average of only 2 FPS slower.
Fallout 4Fallout 4 is an open world action role-playing video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. Fallout 4 is set in a post-apocalyptic Boston in the year 2287, 210 years after a devastating nuclear war, in which the player character emerges from an underground bunker known as a Vault. Gameplay is similar to Fallout 3. The title is the fifth major installment in the Fallout series and was released worldwide on November 10th, 2015. Fallout 4 was benchmarked with ultra image quality settings with TAA and 16x AF. These settings are tough for entry level discrete graphics cards, but are more than playable on high-end gaming graphics cards. V-Sync can't be disabled in the games options, so we edited the necessary INI files and disabled vsync in the driver software as well. We used FRAPS to benchmark Fallout 4 after you emerge from the vault and are in The Commonwealth. Benchmark Results: In Fallout 4, at 1080p resolution, the RX 480 came in at 84 FPS, on average, and dominated the Sapphire R9 380X by about 21 FPS! Benchmark Results: With the display resolution bumped up to 2160×1440, the AMD Radeon RX 480 lowered its lead over the Sapphire R9 380X, but still came in with an average of almost 46 FPS and about 5.5 FPS faster. Fallout 4 won't work on the Radeon RX 480 at a 4K resolution due to a driver issue. AMD is aware of the issue as it also impacts the Fiji GPU series cards, but the issue isn't critical since a resolution change will allow the card to work. AMD let us know that they will have a fix in a future driver version.
Grand Theft Auto VGrand Theft Auto V, currently one of the hottest PC games, was finally released for the PC on April 14, 2015. Developed by Rockstar, it is set in 2013 and the city of Los Santos. It utilizes the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE) which Rockstar has been using since 2006, with multiple updates for technology improvements. In Grand Theft Auto V we set the game to run with no MSAA with 16x AF and high image quality settings as we didn't want the GPU to bottleneck the system too bad, but wanted a setup that your average gamer would actually play on. We used the games built-in benchmark utility to have at least one game we used that could be compared to your setup at home. We averaged all the five of the default benchmark runs and omitted both the minimum and maximum values as those results are garbage due to major inconsistencies. 1080P Benchmark Results: The AMD Radeon RX 480 showed that it was a very capable of running high settings at 1920×1080 in GTA V, averaging 18 FPS faster than the Sapphire R9 380X and only 5 FPS slower than the XFX R9 390 Black Edition OC. 1440P Benchmark Results: Scaling up the resolution to 1440P, the RX 480 gave us an average of 55 FPS and maintained roughly the same gap from the XFX R9 390 Black Edition OC - 7 FPS slower this time. 4K Ultra HD Benchmark Results: GTA V's built-in benchmark definitely choked the RX 480 at 4K Ultra HD resolution and high settings, giving us 28 FPS on average, but only 4 FPS slower than the XFX R9 390 and only 1 FPS slower than the Zotac GeForce GTX 970.
Rise of the Tomb RaiderRise of the Tomb Raider is a third-person action-adventure video game developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix. It is the sequel to the 2013 video game Tomb Raider, which was itself, the second reboot to its series. It was released for Microsoft Windows in January 2016. Players control Lara Croft through various environments, battling enemies, and completing puzzle platforming sections, while using improvised weapons and gadgets in order to progress through the story. Crystal Dynamics used a proprietary game engine called 'Foundation' for Rise of the Tomb Raider and it is able to create some pretty nice looking graphics. We tested Rise of the Tomb Raider with the Very High preset, but then changed the ambient occlusion setting from HBAO+ (an NVIDIA developed feature) to 'ON' to have as fair of a match up as we could. We also disabled VSync. Once we had the graphics and display settings figured out we used FRAPS to manually benchmark a section of the Siberian Wilderness that is about 10% into the game for a couple minutes. Rise of the Tomb Raider does not have a built-in benchmark, so this is one of the only ways you can benchmark this particular game title. 1080P Benchmark Results: Though the margin is minimal, Rise of the Tomb Raider allowed the RX 480 to not only average, but provide a higher maximum and minimum frame rate than the XFX R9 390. We found an average of 67 FPS, or about 2 FPS faster than the XFX R9 390. 1440P Benchmark Results: With the resolution bumped to 2160×1440, the RX 480 actually hung right with the XFX R9 390 and EVGA GeForce GTX 970, giving an average of 45.7 FPS. 4K Ultra HD Benchmark Results: Rise of the Tomb Raider will bring all cards to their knees at 4K gaming, and the RX 480 averaged about 24 FPS and hung right with the GeForce GTX 970 cards and the Radeon R9 390. It was also only 3 FPS slower than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980!
Star Wars: BattlefrontStar Wars: Battlefront is a series of first- and third-person shooter video games based on the Star Wars films. Players take the role of soldiers in either of two opposing armies in different time periods of the Star Wars universe. Star Wars: Battlefront is built on the Frostbite 3 engine. Thief is the fourth title in the Thief series, developed by Digital Illusions CE and published by EA DICE/Disney Interactive on November 17, 2015. We ran Star Wars: Battlefront with the image quality settings set at Ultra and VSYNC was disabled. We used FRAPS to benchmark with these settings on Battle on Tatooine. 1080P Benchmark Results: With CPU limitations apparent on the high end cards, the RX 480 didn't make our Intel Core i7-4960X sweat and was able to push out an average of 117 FPS in Star Wars: Battlefront. It was found to be almost 26 FPS faster than the Sapphire R9 380X! 1440P Benchmark Results: When we played Battlefront at 2560×1440, the Radeon RX 480 hung right with the EVGA GeForce GTX 970, averaging roughly 1 FPS faster. 4K Ultra HD Benchmark Results: When moving up to 3840×2160, the Radeon RX 480 just barely topped the EVGA GeForce GTX 970 Hybrid Gaming by only half a frame per second on average.
Tom Clancy's The DivisionTom Clancy's The Division is an online-only open world third-person shooter video game developed by Ubisoft Massive and published by Ubisoft, with assistance from Red Storm Entertainment, for Microsoft Windows,PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It was announced during Ubisoft's E3 2013 press conference, and was released worldwide on March 8th, 2016. The Division is set in a dystopian New York City in the aftermath of a smallpoxpandemic; the player, who is an agent of the titular Strategic Homeland Division, commonly referred to as simply "The Division", is tasked with helping to rebuild the Division's operations in Manhattan, investigating the nature of the outbreak and combating criminal activity in its wake. The Division is structured with elements of role-playing games, as well as collaborative and player versus player online multiplayer. The Division uses Ubisoft's new proprietary engine known as Snowdrop, which is made for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Snowdrop was created in-house, at Massive, in response to a specific requirement: to do things better, not bigger. The engine focuses on dynamic global illumination, stunning procedural destruction and a great amount of detail and visual effects. The developers wanted a powerful engine that works intelligently and not by brute force only. We ran The Division with the image quality settings set at Ultra and VSYNC was disabled. We tried to FRAPS to benchmark with these settings, but found it was pretty much impossible due to the night and day cycle always changing when you enter the game and the spot where you load in the open world is slightly different. Unable to get consistent results we resorted to used the games built-in benchmark. 1080P Benchmark Results: Even at lower resolutions, The Division is a very punishing yet beautiful game, and at 1920×1080 we averaged roughly 59 FPS. 1440P Benchmark Results: As we scale up to 1440P resolution, the RX 480 hung in pretty well with an average of 42 FPS. 4K Ultra HD Benchmark Results: When moving up to 4K UHD resolution, the RX 480 averages 24 FPS or 8 FPS slower than the GeForce GTX 1070.
Ashes of the Singularity - DX12Ashes of the Singularity is a real-time strategy game set in the future where descendants of humans (called Post- Humans) and a powerful artificial intelligence (called the Substrate) fight a war for control of a resource known as Turinium. Players will engage in massive-scale land/air battles by commanding entire armies of their own design. Each game takes place on one area of a planet, with each player starting with a home base (known as a Nexus) and a single construction unit. We ran the integrated Ashes of the Singularity benchmark utility in DX12 mode with the 'High' Image Quality Profile and disabled VSync. 1080P Benchmark Results: The AMD Radeon RX 480 came close to averaging 60 FPS and averaged about 56 FPS in Ashes of the Singularity, and was approximately 8 FPS faster than the Zotac GeForce GTX 970! 1440P Benchmark Results: At 2560x1440, the Radeon RX 480 still did really well, averaging 49 FPS and still 8 FPS faster than the Zotac GeForce GTX 970. 4K Benchmark Results: The AMD Radeon RX 480 is no powerhouse card, but at 3840x2160 with 'high' image quality settings, we found it to average 39 FPS, which isn't horrible by any means since this is by no means a card that was designed to run 4K!
3DMark 20133Dmark Fire Strike Benchmark Results - For high performance gaming PCs Use Fire Strike to test the performance of dedicated gaming PCs, or use the Fire Strike Extreme preset for high-end systems with multiple GPUs. Fire Strike uses a multi-threaded DirectX 11 engine to test DirectX 11 hardware.
Fire Strike Benchmark Results:
Benchmark Results: The Radeon RX 480 scored 10662 points in the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark, versus the 10232 scored by the Zotac GeForce GTX 970 and the 8321 scored by the Sapphire R9 380X.Fire Strike Extreme Benchmark Results:
Benchmark Results: In 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme the RX 480 just barely flipped places with the Zotac GTX 970, scoring 5263 points, and still coming in ahead of the Sapphire R9 380X by 1153 points.
Temperature & Noise TestingThe gaming performance on a graphics card is the most important factor in buying a card, but you also need to be concerned about the noise, temperature and power consumption numbers. AMD Radeon RX 480 Idle and Load Temps: When it comes to temperatures the AMD Radeon RX 480 with the stock GPU cooler idled around 37C on our open air test bench and then hit 84C at load while gaming. The stock GPU cooler is basically a copper cored aluminum finned heatsink that you'd more commonly see on a CPU cooler. It was loud and ran at 2,100 RPM while gaming. We used 6.4GB of the cards 8GB of memory and put the GPU and memory controller at 100% load during our benchmarking. The voltage topped out at 1.25V while the most you could set it to in WattMan was 1.15V, so that is a bit odd. Here is a chart that shows the temperatures of the AMD Radeon RX 480 versus some other high-end desktop cards and you can see that the stock GPU cooler isn't that great. We hit 84C and that is hotter than any other card we have tested this year.
We test noise levels with an Extech sound level meter that has ±1.5dB accuracy that meets Type 2 standards. This meter ranges from 35dB to 90dB on the low measurement range, which is perfect for us as our test room usually averages around 36dB. We measure the sound level two inches above the corner of the motherboard with 'A' frequency weighting. The microphone wind cover is used to make sure no wind is blowing across the microphone, which would seriously throw off the data.The AMD Radeon RX 480 also is the loudest graphics card that we have tested recently as it topped out chart at 51.5dB. The reference design GPU Cooler is basically garbage and it looks like AMD went with a low cost design to hit the $199 price point. They most certainly splurged on the GDDR5 memory chips and cut back on the GPU cooler! Just one look at the GPU cooler used on the RX 480 should make that clear! ** The AMD Radeon R9 Fury X reference card that we are using was the original model with a loud water pump that whines. AMD changed the pump design before the cards hit the retail market, but wasn't willing to replace ours. We expect retail cards to perform quieter for this and hopefully AMD will send us a replacement card for proper noise testing. **
Power ConsumptionFor testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it into a Kill-A-Watt power meter. For idle numbers, we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers we ran Battlefield 4 at 3840x2160 and recorded the average idle reading and the peak gaming reading on the power meter. Power Consumption Results: The AMD Radeon RX 480 in our test system used 112 Watts at idle and 324 Watts at peak 4K gaming. This is a welcome power savings from the R9 380X, but still a decent amount higher than the GeForce GTX 1070 and 1080.
AMD Radeon RX 480 OverclockingRadeon WattMan is AMD's new overclocking utility in Crimson 16.6.2 drivers that controls GPU voltage, engine clocks, memory clocks, fan speed and temperature. Radeon WattMan is based on Radeon Software features but offers multiple new ways of precise overclocking controls. With the new control over voltage and per state frequency curve for GPU clocks, comprehensive tuning control is now available to finely tune your overclock. Using the new histogram which records and displays the GPU activity, clock speeds, temperature and fan speed, you can visualize and understand how the game/application runs in a single interface, and configure based on that captured data. You can save your overclocking settings globally or create an overclocking profile for each detected game title.. To adjust the GPU Clock speed the AMD engineers designed a curve as the generic optimal set for each GPU state, for the average experience expected for the GPU. You can then make adjustments to this curve by 0.5% intervals for a higher or lower clock speeds. GPU core and memory clocks can be adjusted per available Dynamic Power Management (DPM) state for greater control. This is also true with voltage control as you now have control at every available state and GPU and memory clocks are set independently. Here is how AMD suggested to us to overclock the AMD Radeon RX 480:
- Open and run 3DMark Fire Strike Benchmark to find base score.
- Open Radeon Settings and navigate to Global WattMan page.
- Toggle Temperature from Automatic to Manual. Increase the power limit slider to 50%, hit apply, and then run the benchmark to check stability.
- Raise GPU Clock frequency % slider incrementally after power limit has been adjusted, hit apply, and re-run the benchmark to check stability (by default the frequency % slider is shown, if toggled, you will get into dynamic mode for further customization)
- Raise Memory clock incrementally after GPU clock setting has been adjusted and hit apply.
- Close Radeon Settings.
- Open and run Fire Strike benchmark.
- Compare OC benchmark score to base score.