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:


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.”

Ashes of the Singularity: DirectX 12, Extreme quality preset, built-in benchmark
DirectX 11, Ultra quality preset, custom Tom’s Hardware benchmark (Tashgar jeep ride), 100-second Fraps recording
DirectX 11, Very High quality settings, 4x MSAA, built-in benchmark (test five), 110-second Fraps recording
DirectX 11, Ultra level of detail, FXAA, High texture quality, built-in benchmark, 100-second Fraps recording
DirectX 11, Very High detail preset, SSAA off, 16x AF, Normal Motion Blur, Normal Tessellation, built-in benchmark, 145-second Fraps recording
DirectX 11, Ultra quality settings, High anti-aliasing, High texture resolution, Nürburgring Sprint, 100-second Fraps recording
DirectX 11, Custom quality preset, Very High quality settings, built-in benchmark, 80-second Fraps recording
DirectX 11, Custom quality preset, Ultra quality settings, Supersampling temporal AA, built-in benchmark, 90-second Fraps recording
DirectX 11, Highest quality settings, HairWorks disabled, custom Tom’s Hardware benchmark, 100-second Fraps recording

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  • 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
    2277213 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
    699111 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
    551379 said:
    2277213 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?
  • Cleber_1
    So, this or 970?
  • rush21hit
    So, apparently, according to Tech of Tomorrow channel on youtube, said that the 480 does not OC very well. Meaning, even by slight OC it gets very hot, very fast. That reference cooler may held things up, or perhaps something else being the culprit here.
  • Sakkura
    2277261 said:
    So, this or 970?


    This, but wait for non-reference versions if you can.
  • IInuyasha74
    I think some of you are forgetting that this is a $200 card that is competitive with the $300 GTX 970. It isn't meant to compete with the GTX 1070/1080. For what it is designed to do, it excels. It's power consumption isn't quite what AMD lead us to believe. The temps are concerning, but the board partners will fix that with better cooling solutions and additional power phases. Honestly it should be a highly competitive card.