AMD Radeon RX 480 8GB Review

Conclusion

AMD says it’s going after that chunk of the market buying $100 to $300 graphics cards—84% of gamers, according to its internal data. The company wants a big install base of VR-capable PCs so that as HMDs become more affordable, enthusiasts have the hardware needed to enjoy virtual reality comfortably.

At this very moment, that means the Radeon RX 480 needs to be as fast as or faster than the Radeon R9 290 and GeForce GTX 970. Both HTC and Oculus use those as baseline recommendations for powering their headsets. Although the 480 isn’t always as fast as both cards, it seems to always beat at least one, and in many cases it outperforms even faster boards like the Radeon R9 390 and 390X. We think it’s safe to say that Radeon RX 480 satisfies AMD’s aim in this one regard.

But don’t let aggressive marketing overwhelm reason. The HTC/Oculus recommendations are a reasonable floor for enjoying VR. Just like conventional PC gaming, when you’re down at that level, you make quality compromises to keep the experience smooth. Though AMD claims the 480 enables a premium VR experience, we say it’ll get you in the door. Let’s put our muted enthusiasm into numerical terms. The Radeon R9 390 scores a 7.4 in Steam’s VR Performance Test. Radeon RX 480 achieves a 6.6. An old Radeon R9 290 isn’t far off at 6.5.

How about on a desktop monitor? What can you expect the RX 480 to do in a more traditional environment? Max out 1920x1080, by all means. Crank your resolution to 2560x1440, even. In almost every case, the Radeon RX 480 is faster than the old R9 290. In most, it beats the R9 390. And in some tests, the 480 even passes our current recommendation for 2560x1440, the R9 390X. Just don’t be surprised if you need to dial back quality in certain titles to yield better performance.

AMD is extremely proud of the efficiency gains it’s seeing from Polaris, too. To be sure, matching the performance of a 250W Radeon R9 290 or 275W R9 390 with a 150W GPU is nothing short of stellar. But, uh, Nvidia just launched its GeForce GTX 1070 at a similar 150W TDP, and that card is faster than a 250W Titan X. The rising tide of FinFET lifts all boats, in this case. Company representatives made it a point to mention Polaris’ gains aren’t solely attributable to 14nm manufacturing. Rather, architectural improvements facilitate up to 15% more performance per Compute Unit versus the Radeon R9 290’s implementation of GCN. No doubt, that plays a role in 480’s ability to keep up with more complex GPUs using fewer resources.

In the end, we get performance somewhere between a Radeon R9 290 and 390 at dramatically lower power and a $240 price tag. Compare that to GeForce GTX 970 with half as much memory for ~$280 and Radeon R9 390 8GB in the same neighborhood. It’s hardly what we’d call the cusp of a revolution, particularly since you still have to pay $600 for a Rift or $800 for the Vive. But we certainly appreciate the combination of smaller, faster, cooler and quieter, all for less money. Moreover, AMD says the 4GB version’s performance isn’t far off, and that card should start at $200. Expect the cost-conscious crowd to veer in that direction instead.

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  • ImDaBaron
    So....sucking almost the same wattage as a 1080...Yikes
  • Sakkura
    Anonymous said:
    All these people complaining about the wattage/performance, while ignoring the numbers for GTX 970, which this card was aimed at competing with. The furmark numbers has the GTX 960 just 1w different. :pfff:



    The real competition for the 480 is not the 970, it's the 1060 and whatever else Nvidia has planned for the mainstream segment.

    Just like the 1080 and 1070 can't fairly be compared to the Fury X etc.

    If AMD had hit a power consumption figure just 15-20W lower for the 480, I'd have been unequivocally happy about the card. As is, I'm left with a "yes it's good, but" impression.
  • Yuka
    Nice review as usual, thanks a lot.

    It's worrying the un-usual PCIe power sucking the 480 has. Maybe they have to fix something in the drivers? I'd be terrified it is something with the PCB design.

    All in all, it is a very decent upgrade for anyone with anything less powerful than a 290X/970. And that is a lot of people I'd say. At 250, it is not a bad deal, BUT I'd say we really need to wait for the partner boards. Specially for the awkward power consumption numbers. I wonder how Sapphire and Asus (even XFX and MSI) will equip the custom PCBs/Boards.

    Cheers!
  • Other Comments
  • chaosmassive
    this card will be my replacement of HD 7770 card for sure !
    thanks for the reviews, though power consumption from PCI slot is real concern here
  • asukafan2001
    Seems like a decent card for what it is and what its target market is. Based off where the 1070 and 1080 fall in though i cant help but feel the 1060 which is targeted for the fall might make things uncomfortable for th 480. Nice to see amd working on power efficency though. That has always been a weakspot for them.
  • JeanLuc
    I can't help but think you need to revist this. The AOTS benchmark don't look right, the 480 is behind the 390, 390X and GTX980 in DX12.........I know this card is mid range and all that but it is 14nm with a revised chip design, surely it should be ahead of the last generation mid range cards even if it's by just a small amount.

    Edit: I stand corrected. Just looked at Anandtech and there results confirm what Toms is reporting.
  • Davide_3
    If i replace my Gtx770 with this Rx480 i will gain a lot of performance?
  • Oranthal
    Wow all the hype and it didn't deliver on any of it. Yes its an improvement but a marginal one and the supply is non existent. So its a paper launch as well. I was hoping this would be the solution to my 1440p 144hz freesync setup. Really disappointed, then again nothing lives up to online hype now. Nvidia's offerings hit the performance numbers we wanted but are insanely expensive. So I will keep waiting to see if drivers and oc's helps this card out or hope the 490 delivers.

    Edit: The cards are 100% available on newegg, I guess it took them until 9:30 to have them show up. I am still completely let down and hoping the partner cards and new drivers deliver on some performance gains. I guess its my fault for believing the hype that AMD could produce the same jump in the low to mid tier that Nvidia did for the high end.
  • envy14tpe
    All that hype and finally the release....ahhh. We now have competition in the market place. The 960 and 970 have a good contender. Let's just hope price stays low as AMD doesn't play Nvidia's limited supply game.

    In Taiwan (where I am). There is one listing today selling the Gigabyte for $315usd. Prices need to get worked out. At that price I can get a 970.
  • ImDaBaron
    So....sucking almost the same wattage as a 1080...Yikes
  • CaptainTom
    Honestly quite let down. Will wait for non-reference boards or the 490.
  • Vikerules
    ETA for crossfire benchmarks against a gtx 1080?
  • rmpumper
    So basically AMD caught up to nvidia's now obsolete 9xx series? So much for the hype, though not unusual for AMD.
  • Yuka
    Nice review as usual, thanks a lot.

    It's worrying the un-usual PCIe power sucking the 480 has. Maybe they have to fix something in the drivers? I'd be terrified it is something with the PCB design.

    All in all, it is a very decent upgrade for anyone with anything less powerful than a 290X/970. And that is a lot of people I'd say. At 250, it is not a bad deal, BUT I'd say we really need to wait for the partner boards. Specially for the awkward power consumption numbers. I wonder how Sapphire and Asus (even XFX and MSI) will equip the custom PCBs/Boards.

    Cheers!
  • Sakkura
    Anonymous said:
    Wow all the hype and it didn't deliver on any of it. Yes its an improvement but a marginal one and the supply is non existent. So its a paper launch as well. I was hoping this would be the solution to my 1440p 144hz freesync setup. Really disappointed, then again nothing lives up to online hype now. Nvidia's offerings hit the performance numbers we wanted but are insanely expensive. So I will keep waiting to see if drivers and oc's helps this card out or hope the 490 delivers.


    It's in stock on Newegg, at the MSRP.
  • youcanDUit
    will customs cards have the same power issues? is this limited to boards or is this the chip itself?
  • jaber2
    I knew this card was in trouble when it failed to register on Ashe of Singularity, selling for $239 isn't bad but when you consider the 970 is now selling for less.
  • 0InVader0
    Well, I'm not sure what everyone else expecting. People made hype around these cards as if it was running up against the 1070.

    When NVidia releases the 1060, it will most likely set AMDs pants on fire.
  • chaosmassive
    please, dont groan on this card
    this card NEVER MEANT to be compared with GTX 10 series
    look at this price tag, long before this review y'all should got the hint
    its for 1080p gaming nothing more
  • 10tacle
    Anonymous said:
    Let's just hope price stays low as AMD doesn't play Nvidia's limited supply game.


    Uhm, it's not a "game." It's called demand for a hot new GPU. We saw this with the 970/980 and 670/680 series releases too (I know, I spent weeks trying to snap them up at release).

    With that said, considering the 480 has a massive MSRP price drop and TDP power drop, this is a winner card for AMD in the low-mid GPU segment. Nobody will be replacing their 4-8GB R9 290 and 380 GPUs with this, but for those with older AMD and Nvidia GPUs it will be a massive upgrade without breaking the bank. Looking forward to non-reference OEM variants from the likes of ASUS and MSI.
  • rush21hit
    That's about the level of performance I want to see from this card. AMD gets their job done right. With more time, driver should improve things. Much more improvement on the underlying architecturel than just smaller nodes compared to what nVidia did with Maxwell. Though still, I get the feeling its near derivative as what Fury was.

    Still, at $200, this card is a no brainer. Even if given at 4GB at that price point.

    But what I really want to see is 460. When?
  • Oranthal
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Wow all the hype and it didn't deliver on any of it. Yes its an improvement but a marginal one and the supply is non existent. So its a paper launch as well. I was hoping this would be the solution to my 1440p 144hz freesync setup. Really disappointed, then again nothing lives up to online hype now. Nvidia's offerings hit the performance numbers we wanted but are insanely expensive. So I will keep waiting to see if drivers and oc's helps this card out or hope the 490 delivers.


    It's in stock on Newegg, at the MSRP.


    Yup I jumped the gun as they showed sold out at 9:10 but it was just they hadn't showed the stock until 9:20.
  • elbert
    The base model 480 stock looks to beat out the 970 and overclocked match's the 980. This is based on all the reviews I've seen. The greatest overclock looks to be 1376 for the base model. Only question I have is will there be custom models with 8pin power to make sense of the 1.6Ghz overclock leaks?