AMD Radeon RX 480 8GB Review

How We Tested Radeon RX 480

While we wish the testing we did for our GeForce GTX 1080 and 1070 reviews was relevant to the Radeon RX 480, the cards are in a different league. As such, we’re dropping 4K altogether and adding 1920x1080 to our 2560x1440 results. We’re also carrying over our Skylake-based platform. From the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Pascal Review:

Instead of our Haswell-E-based Core i7-5930K at 3.5GHz, we’re using a Skylake-based Core i7-6700K at 4GHz, giving us two generations worth of IPC improvements and an extra 500MHz base clock rate to alleviate host processing bottlenecks wherever they may surface. Of course, the CPU’s LGA 1151 interface also calls for a different motherboard—we tapped MSI’s Z170A Gaming M7 for all of our game benchmarks, and dropped in G.Skill’s F4-3000C15Q-16GRR memory kit composed of four 4GB modules at DDR4-3000. Crucial’s MX200 SSD remains, as does the Noctua NH-12S cooler and be quiet! Dark Power Pro 10 850W power supply.

Gone is Windows 8.1, though. Prior to benchmarking, we installed a clean version of Windows 10 Professional and a new suite of games representing popular AAA titles, some DirectX 12-specific selections and a mix of genres”

The Radeon RX 480’s competition wasn’t as apparent, so we did a big of experimenting prior to committing to a line-up. For sure, we wanted the GeForce GTX 970 and Radeon R9 290 in there—both boards represent recommendations from HTC and Oculus for their head-mounted displays. Given AMD’s emphasis on VR for this launch, we knew the RX 480 would need to at least be as fast as both prior-gen boards. With that in mind, AMD’s Radeon R9 390 and 390X also made sense to compare. So did the GeForce GTX 980. Down low, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 960 sets the performance floor.

Now, we didn’t have reference examples of every card, and some of our partner boards exhibit strange behavior when they’re pinned at reference clock rates. Thus, our numbers are going to be almost universally a little faster than AMD’s and Nvidia’s launch hardware. The cards we used include:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Actual Core/Memory FrequenciesReference Core/Memory Frequencies
AMD Radeon RX 4801266/2000MHz1266/2000MHz
MSI R9 390X Gaming 8G1080/1500MHz1050/1500MHz
MSI R9 390 Gaming 8G1040/1500MHz1000/1500MHz
Sapphire Radeon R9 290 4GB947/1250MHz947/1250MHz
MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G1190/1752MHz1126/1752MHz
Gigabyte GTX 970 G1 Gaming1178/1752MHz1050/1752MHz
MSI GTX 960 Gaming 2G1190/1752MHz1127/1752MHz

Drivers and Benchmarks

All of the GeForce cards utilize the newest driver available on Nvidia’s site, 368.39. AMD’s boards are powered by an unreleased beta build called Crimson Edition 16.6.2.

The benchmark suite itself remains similar to what we ran in the GeForce GTX 1080 and 1070 reviews, except for the addition of Metro: Last Light Redux, bringing our total number of tests up to nine. The Ashes charts represent DirectX 12 performance using the game’s built-in benchmark/logging tool. Hitman and Tomb Raider are presented using DirectX 11. However, we have results from DirectX 12 using those games as well, which we’ll mention in the analysis (spoiler: in most cases, performance drops with DirectX 12). Everything else is DirectX 11-based, recorded with Fraps.”

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Ashes of the Singularity: DirectX 12, Extreme quality preset, built-in benchmark
Battlefield 4
DirectX 11, Ultra quality preset, custom Tom’s Hardware benchmark (Tashgar jeep ride), 100-second Fraps recording
Grand Theft Auto V
DirectX 11, Very High quality settings, 4x MSAA, built-in benchmark (test five), 110-second Fraps recording
Hitman (2016)
DirectX 11, Ultra level of detail, FXAA, High texture quality, built-in benchmark, 100-second Fraps recording
Metro Last Light Redux
DirectX 11, Very High detail preset, SSAA off, 16x AF, Normal Motion Blur, Normal Tessellation, built-in benchmark, 145-second Fraps recording
Project CARS
DirectX 11, Ultra quality settings, High anti-aliasing, High texture resolution, Nürburgring Sprint, 100-second Fraps recording
Rise of the Tomb Raider
DirectX 11, Custom quality preset, Very High quality settings, built-in benchmark, 80-second Fraps recording
Tom Clancy's The Division
DirectX 11, Custom quality preset, Ultra quality settings, Supersampling temporal AA, built-in benchmark, 90-second Fraps recording
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
DirectX 11, Highest quality settings, HairWorks disabled, custom Tom’s Hardware benchmark, 100-second Fraps recording
Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • 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.