AMD Radeon RX 480 8GB Review

Power Consumption Results

We're taking an even closer look at power than usual because we can't shake the feeling this card was designed for lower clock rates and less consumption. Don't worry, the following analysis explains this in greater depth. It just seems like there should be an eight-pin auxiliary connector on-board.

MORE: The Math Behind GPU Power Consumption And PSUs

Power Consumption

Test Method
Contact-free DC Measurement at PCIe Slot (Using a Riser Card)
Contact-free DC Measurement at External Auxiliary Power Supply Cable
Direct Voltage Measurement at Power Supply

Test Equipment
2 x Rohde & Schwarz HMO 3054, 500MHz Digital Multi-Channel Oscilloscope with Storage Function
4 x Rohde & Schwarz HZO50 Current Probe (1mA-30A, 100kHz, DC)
4 x Rohde & Schwarz HZ355 (10:1 Probes, 500MHz)
1 x Rohde & Schwarz HMC 8012 Digital Multimeter with Storage Function
Please note that the minimum and maximum states in the following tables don’t always occur at the same time. This is why the individual numbers for the rails don’t necessarily add up to the total for all of the rails.

Idle and Low-Load Power Consumption

The Radeon RX 480’s minimum GPU and memory clock rate is 300MHz, resulting in an idle power measurement of 16W (or 19W if you're using multiple monitors). That's simply too high for a modern graphics card. It was actually hard to take a stable reading at idle since even an empty Windows desktop is subject to load fluctuations. The card reacted quickly whenever these occurred, in spite of its high minimum frequency.

Blu-ray and 4K-MKV container playback came in at 36 to 42W. This is acceptable, but certainly not great.

Circling back to our idle measurements, many readers requested that we use a bar graph instead of a table to represent load distribution across the rails and connectors, as well as illustrating overall power consumption. We listened, and the results are as follows:

The seventh phase, which is responsible for the card’s memory, has to deal with an average of 2W and a peak of 3W. The remaining phases are distributed across the 12V rails, with an emphasis on PCIe connector's three phases. This would be a great setup if it stayed the same at higher loads.

The following gallery contains all of the detailed measurement and analysis results:

In conclusion, here’s a comparison with relevant graphics cards:

Gaming Power Consumption

The outcome of our gaming loop yields a a great example. AMD's GPU and Samsung's memory are equally stressed, so there's no real CPU bottleneck affecting performance. It’s also pretty close to a worst-case scenario in spite of load fluctuations during some scenes. Once again, we’re using a bar graph for our power consumption results to make it clear why we arrived at our (unfavorable) conclusions. It truly takes an observant eye to see why we bemoaned the lack of an eight-pin power connector and the power circuit's design.

AMD’s Radeon RX 480 draws an average of 164W, which exceeds the company's target TDP. And it gets worse. The load distribution works out in a way that has the card draw 86W through the motherboard’s PCIe slot. Not only does this exceed the 75W ceiling we typically associate with a 16-lane slot, but that 75W limit covers several rails combined and not just this one interface.

With peaks of up to 155W, we have to be thankful they're brief, and not putting the motherboard in any immediate danger. However, the audio subsystems on cheaper platforms will have a hard time dealing with them. This means that the "you can hear what you see" effect will be in full force during load changes; activities like scrolling may very well result in audible artifacts.

We’re also left to wonder what we'd see from a CrossFire configuration. Two graphics cards would draw 160W via the motherboard’s 24-pin connector; that's a tall order. Switching from the bars back to a more detailed curve makes this even more evident.

Here are the detailed results for the individual rails and connectors:

The smaller six-pin PCIe connector implies a more economical graphics card, but let’s be real here: an eight-pin connector would’ve been the way to go. The six phases could’ve been balanced for 30W each, totaling 180W. In such a configuration, two phases would have drawn a maximum of 60W through the motherboard.

We skipped long-term overclocking and overvolting tests, since the Radeon RX 480’s power consumption through the PCIe slot jumped to an average of 100W, peaking at 200W. We just didn’t want to do that to our test platform.

Here’s the comparison overview of our select group of graphics cards:

Stress Test Power Consumption

Believe it or not, the situation gets even worse. AMD's Radeon RX 480 draws 90W through the motherboard’s PCIe slot during our stress test. This is a full 20 percent above the limit.

To be clear, your motherboard isn't going to catch fire. But standards exist for a reason. All of the components around the PCIe slot and along the path from the slot to the 24-pin ATX connector will suffer from the peaks. And depending on your platform's design, audio problems may also materialize. 

Once again, here are all of the detailed measurement results:

The comparison overview shows that some of Nvidia’s GeForce cards consume less power during the stress test, since GPU Boost recognizes the nature of the load and limits power consumption accordingly.

Bottom Line

There’s no doubt that Polaris is more efficient than its predecessors. However, the design's efficiency isn't what enthusiasts might have been hoping for. The Radeon RX 480 significantly exceeds its official TDP. Moreover, distribution between the motherboard’s PCIe slot and the auxiliary power connector isn't optimal either. It’s up to AMD’s partners to design cards without these shortcomings.

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    Top Comments
  • 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?