AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB Review

Power Supply and Cooling

Power Supply and Board Layout

The board was designed by Sapphire, and its layout is quite a bit different from what we saw when AMD sent us the reference Radeon RX 480. A glance at the PCA reveals the GPU power supply’s six phases, which are prominently mentioned in the marketing material. Sapphire uses round polymer capacitors in all of the voltage regulator's critical places.

ON Semiconductor’s NCP81022 serves as the Nitro+ Radeon RX 580's PWM controller. But here's where the specs get a little confusing: this is a dual-output buck solution that can only control 4+1 phases, not six. If you need more evidence that Sapphire uses just three phases for the GPU, there are three 10A fuses on the right side of the board for the GPU and a fourth one on the left side for the memory’s single phase. The three 10A fuses limit Ellesmere's power to 360W, which is way more than enough. Even if they save the board from total destruction, you'd still have to RMA your card if any of the fuses blew. A TI INA3221 voltage monitor and emergency shutdown through the power supply would have worked as well.

So, how do we get from three phases to the advertised six? We don’t, at least not really. There are three phases that each have two voltage converters running in parallel. This is called phase doubling, and it’s achieved using a trio of NCP81162 current-balancing phase doublers on the back of the board. In reality, there are six real voltage regulator circuits, with three pairs that run in parallel.

More phases make for better balancing, but because they all come from those two auxiliary power connectors anyway, three phases should be close enough in this case. Each of the six supply rails (not phases) utilizes a Vishay SiC632 integrated power stage, which combines MOSFETS for the high and low side, a gate driver, a Schottky diode, and zero-current detection for improved light-load efficiency.

This configuration saves board space and money. Theoretically, the chip can handle up to 50A, though that number is a bit lower in practice. As a result, we're looking at power losses between 6 to 8W, totaling up to 50W of waste heat across Sapphire's board.

The memory’s power supply is comparatively simple. Its voltage converters are controlled by Anpec's APW8722 synchronous buck converter, and they consist of one ON Semiconductor NTMFS4C10N single N-channel MOSFET on the high side and two on the low side. They are driven by the motherboard's PCIe slot.

The memory is sourced from SK hynix, and just like Nvidia, AMD sells the GDDR5 with its GPUs. As a result, AMD’s partners don’t have the option to use faster memory.

These are 8Gb H5GQ8H24MJR modules (32x 256Mb) that can be operated at up to 1.55V, depending on clock rate. Just like Samsung’s K4G80325FB-HC25, they max out at 2000 MHz, or 8Gb/s. That's the fastest you can get from SK hynix, which doesn't leave much hope for aggressive overclocking. This is a shame, since the Radeon RX 480 benefited quite a bit from extra memory frequency.

Sapphire delivers both versions of its Nitro+ Radeon RX 580 with two BIOS files, selectable through a switch on top of the card. By default, they're set to use the more conservative frequencies. This is a change from the Radeon RX 480 generation, where Sapphire shipped its cards set to more aggressive clock rates. Apparently, lessons were learned from the thermal and acoustic fallout of that decision.

A Closer Look at the Cooler

The Nitro+ Radeon RX 580 Limited Edition's cooler needs enough headroom to handle at least 250W of waste heat without a problem. Below the shroud, two PWM-controlled axial fans from Dongguan Champion Electronics do their best to keep Sapphire's card cool. These are dual ball-bearing fans that top out in the 3250 to 3300 RPM range. The rotors have nine blades and a diameter of 95mm. They're designed to provide a broad and diffuse airflow, rather than a direct and targeted one.

Thermal density increases with fewer components shouldering the load. This creates hot-spots. Given what we saw from our walk-through of the Nitro+ Radeon RX 580's PCA, we know that just six components deal with as much as 50W of waste heat.

Consequently, Sapphire uses a backplate to help cool the card. It eschews the thick and inefficient thermal pads we dislike so much. Instead, there's a small aluminum heat sink positioned just below the hot spots on the board's back side. This makes it possible to go with a thin, much more effective thermal pad.

The heat sink makes direct contact with the backplate, leaving just a bit of thermal paste between them. This setup significantly improves cooling performance. Sapphire could have saved some money by stamping a depression into the backplate instead, though. Right next to all of that, on the left, we see the three chips responsible for phase doubling.

The cooler itself weighs 451g. It sports two 8mm and two 6mm heat pipes made of nickel-plated composite material. Those pipes are pressed into the back of a copper sink, which itself is surrounded by a light metal plate that makes direct contact with the heat sink and bottom of the cooler. It's responsible for drawing thermal energy away from SK hynix's memory modules.

The voltage converters get their own heat sink, which is integrated into the cooler. This should really help dissipate their significant waste heat. Moreover, this area receives lots of airflow. Consider us cautiously optimistic.

Sapphire's thermal solution isn't large or heavy, but its design looks good. The fins are relatively close to each other, providing lots of surface area. However, they aren't deep enough to necessitate lots of static air pressure. This makes the implementation less prone to annoying fan noise. Overall, Sapphire strikes a good compromise between all of the attributes we look at in a cooler.

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  • max0x7ba
    Battlefield 1 2560x1440, Ultra benchmark Radeon RX 580 minimum fps does not look right.
  • lasik124
    Unless I am really missing something, can't you just slightly overclock the 480 to match the slight performance boost the 580 has?
  • FormatC
    Anonymous said:
    Battlefield 1 2560x1440, Ultra benchmark Radeon RX 580 minimum fps does not look right.
    Take a look at the frametimes at start. I think, it's a driver issue, because it was reproducible ;)

    Anonymous said:
    Unless I am really missing something, can't you just slightly overclock the 480 to match the slight performance boost the 580 has?
    No, it were in each case less than 1375 MHz. Slower as the Silent Mode of this 580 and simply too hot for my taste. The problem is not the pre-defined clock rate itself but the reduced real clocks from power tune due temps and voltage/power limtations;)
  • lasik124
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Battlefield 1 2560x1440, Ultra benchmark Radeon RX 580 minimum fps does not look right.
    Take a look at the frametimes at start. I think, it's a driver issue, because it was reproducible ;)

    Anonymous said:
    Unless I am really missing something, can't you just slightly overclock the 480 to match the slight performance boost the 580 has?
    No, it were in each case less than 1375 MHz. Slower as the Silent Mode of this 580 and simply too hot for my taste. The problem is not the pre-defined clock rate itself but the reduced real clocks from power tune due temps and voltage/power limtations;)



    So i guess what Im trying to ask is it worth buying at 580 (Currently at a 7870) or save a couple bucks pick up a 480 non reference cooler and be able to slightly overclock it to get in game benchmarks similar if closely identical to the current 580?
  • Math Geek
    no, you'll get the 480 numbers with a 480. the tested card was already oc'ed and you won't get any better manually. the changes made to the 580 can't be done to the 480.

    want the extra few fps, then you'll want to get a 580.
  • turkey3_scratch
    I like the design of the Nitro card.
  • Tech_TTT
    I dont get it , for sure AMD could release this card as the original RX 480 long ago , why did they allow Nvidia GTX 1060 to steal the RX 480 share ?

    Very Stupid Strategy ... I now alot of people who bought GTX 1060 and wished AMD were better Just to take advantage of the cheaper Freesync Monitors.

    AMD you lost millions of buyers !!! for nothing !!!
  • turkey3_scratch
    Anonymous said:
    I dont get it , for sure AMD could release this card as the original RX 480 long ago , why did they allow Nvidia GTX 1060 to steal the RX 480 share ?

    Very Stupid Strategy ... I now alot of people who bought GTX 1060 and wished AMD were better Just to take advantage of the cheaper Freesync Monitors.

    AMD you lost millions of buyers !!! for nothing !!!


    Don't think it's as simple as you make it out to be. They're a huge company with a ton of professionals, they know what they're doing.
  • madmatt30
    Anonymous said:
    I dont get it , for sure AMD could release this card as the original RX 480 long ago , why did they allow Nvidia GTX 1060 to steal the RX 480 share ?

    Very Stupid Strategy ... I now alot of people who bought GTX 1060 and wished AMD were better Just to take advantage of the cheaper Freesync Monitors.

    AMD you lost millions of buyers !!! for nothing !!!

    .
    Better binning ,refinements on the power circuitry - something thats come with time after the initial production runs of the rx470/480.
    Fairly normal process for how amd work in all honesty.
    Has it lost them some custom to prospective buyers in the last 6 months since the rx series was released ?? Maybe a few - not even 1% of the buyers they'd have lost if theyd actually held the rx series release back until now though!!
  • Tech_TTT
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    I dont get it , for sure AMD could release this card as the original RX 480 long ago , why did they allow Nvidia GTX 1060 to steal the RX 480 share ?

    Very Stupid Strategy ... I now alot of people who bought GTX 1060 and wished AMD were better Just to take advantage of the cheaper Freesync Monitors.

    AMD you lost millions of buyers !!! for nothing !!!

    .
    Better binning ,refinements on the power circuitry - something thats come with time after the initial production runs of the rx470/480.
    Fairly normal process for how amd work in all honesty.
    Has it lost them some custom to prospective buyers in the last 6 months since the rx series was released ?? Maybe a few - not even 1% of the buyers they'd have lost if theyd actually held the rx series release back until now though!!


    Thats the Job of the R&D in the beta testing interval .. not after release, I am not buying this explanation at all.
  • Tech_TTT
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    I dont get it , for sure AMD could release this card as the original RX 480 long ago , why did they allow Nvidia GTX 1060 to steal the RX 480 share ?

    Very Stupid Strategy ... I now alot of people who bought GTX 1060 and wished AMD were better Just to take advantage of the cheaper Freesync Monitors.

    AMD you lost millions of buyers !!! for nothing !!!


    Don't think it's as simple as you make it out to be. They're a huge company with a ton of professionals, they know what they're doing.


    Blind faith ?

    sorry does not work .

    well Apple were huge once and they knew what they were doing and still lost the market when they kicked Steve Jobs out ...

    Digital Equipment were huge once ... they knew what they were doing

    SGI were huge once they knew what they were doing ...

    Comaq once were better than Dell they knew what they were doing .. where is Compaq now ?

    sorry does not work this way .
  • Isokolon
    Pretty sure they've released the rx480 ASAP
    And the Rx580 now wasn't ready back then

    It was important to release the 480 before the 1060 would come out to get early buyers.
    The fact that it took almost a year to release the 580 shows a lot.

    If they'd had waited with the 480 a few month they'd probably lost a huge amount of money
  • madmatt30
    Not seeing any reason to be disappinted at all personally.
    The 480 is still a good card for anyone who bought one on release - for anyone who hasnt it means a big price drop to the same pricepoint as the 1060 3gb for the 8gb models.

    The rx cards were a totally new fabrication process for amd after using pretty much the same stuff for the last 3 generations.
    Better binning refinements come with time on a new process!

    Where do you think the intel kaby lake chips appeared from 12-18 months after skylake ?? Theyre quite simply from a refined process & better binning of the same production line.
    Its a normal process , amd actually just managed it a bit quicker than is normal for them.
  • Sakkura
    Anonymous said:

    Blind faith ?

    sorry does not work .

    well Apple were huge once and they knew what they were doing and still lost the market when they kicked Steve Jobs out ...

    Digital Equipment were huge once ... they knew what they were doing

    SGI were huge once they knew what they were doing ...

    Comaq once were better than Dell they knew what they were doing .. where is Compaq now ?

    sorry does not work this way .


    Apple lost the market and were huge once? Excuse me, they just set a quarterly revenue record with 78 billion dollars earned in Q4 2016 (fiscal Q1 2017).

    The RX 480 was held to low clocks because the process node wasn't mature, and it was one of the first gaming GPUs in a long time not built by TSMC. It's only natural that they would eventually be able to reach higher clocks, which were not feasible at the 480 launch.

    Funny thing is it bears at least a passing resemblance to Nvidia's troubles with the GTX 480 back in the day. The GTX 580 polished that up.
  • elbert
    Anonymous said:
    Unless I am really missing something, can't you just slightly overclock the 480 to match the slight performance boost the 580 has?

    The 480 has a voltage limit of 1.15v so you had to mode the bios on the 480 to break beyond 1.4Ghz. Yes it could be done but only those that know how. Last OC I remember for the 480 was 1.65Ghz using LN2. I think the best Air OC was mid-ish 1.5Ghz but most on air wouldn't break 1.5Ghz due to the silicon lottery. The 580 seems to have a best performance around 1.48Ghz anyways with the memory OC'ed 50Mhz.
  • Martell1977
    I think you can attribute this to process maturity and design refinement. Have to remember that the 14nm process was brand new and as we always see, when the process matures, we get some enhancements. ALL companies do this.

    I have to admit I was surprised to see a 8 and 6 pin power connector on the 580, especially since the 480 took 1 - 8pin to be properly powered. But since this isn't a arch tweak, I understand it.

    So what it comes down to now is:
    Better efficiency and preference for older DX11 games = 1060
    Better DX12 and Vulcan + equal current DX11 games = 580

    I think this is a win for AMD overall. Guess we will have to wait for the 680 for architecture refinements or maybe by then we will be getting a look at Navi.
  • Tech_TTT
    a win for AMD ? it is TOOO LAATE .. ALL are waiting for the VEGA now... TOO LAATE ...
  • Tech_TTT
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:

    Blind faith ?

    sorry does not work .

    well Apple were huge once and they knew what they were doing and still lost the market when they kicked Steve Jobs out ...

    Digital Equipment were huge once ... they knew what they were doing

    SGI were huge once they knew what they were doing ...

    Comaq once were better than Dell they knew what they were doing .. where is Compaq now ?

    sorry does not work this way .


    Apple lost the market and were huge once? Excuse me, they just set a quarterly revenue record with 78 billion dollars earned in Q4 2016 (fiscal Q1 2017).

    The RX 480 was held to low clocks because the process node wasn't mature, and it was one of the first gaming GPUs in a long time not built by TSMC. It's only natural that they would eventually be able to reach higher clocks, which were not feasible at the 480 launch.

    Funny thing is it bears at least a passing resemblance to Nvidia's troubles with the GTX 480 back in the day. The GTX 580 polished that up.


    I was talking about Apple old times when they struggled after kicking out Steve Jobs ... READ
  • Martell1977
    Anonymous said:
    Apple lost the market and were huge once? Excuse me, they just set a quarterly revenue record with 78 billion dollars earned in Q4 2016 (fiscal Q1 2017).


    I think they were referring to how they dominated the PC market back in the 70's, then Jobs made some really bad business decisions, got removed from the company and Apple spent several decades as a footnote. Today, their computer business isn't exactly booming, just the phones and tablets.
  • Martell1977
    Anonymous said:
    a win for AMD ? it is TOOO LAATE .. ALL are waiting for the VEGA now... TOO LAATE ...


    Vega is top end, this is a mainstream market refresh. Not too late for anything, they tuned and corrected some design flaws while the maturity of the process let them boost the clocks.

    nVidia could potentially do a similar thing, but they are probably just moving on.