AMD has no qualms about slapping new names on old GPUs. Radeon RX 580 is, for the most part, Radeon RX 480. Sure, the Ellesmere processor is pushed to higher clock rates now than it did last June. And a new intermediate memory clock state helps bring power consumption down when you have multiple monitors attached. But if you jumped on either Radeon RX 480 or GeForce GTX 1060 6GB last year when they launched, this isn’t an upgrade.
Rather, Radeon RX 580 is for gamers with older graphics cards. If you’re still using a Radeon HD 7850 or GeForce GTX 660, for example, the RX 580 would be a tremendous step up.
In the context of its modern contemporaries, though, Radeon RX 580 helps make up some of GCN’s lost ground against GeForce GTX 1060 6GB in the DirectX 11-based apps where it trailed previously, and extends AMD’s lead in a growing list of DX12 titles. That means you get playable performance at 2560x1440 using the highest quality settings. Or dial back to 1920x1080 and add anti-aliasing.
Further, AMD continues working to improve the software supporting its graphics processors. WattMan gives you the flexibility to manually undervolt/underclock if you want to pursue greater efficiency (overclocking really isn't an option here), while Chill arms eSports enthusiasts with a tool to bring power consumption and temperatures down. Our testing from last December shows this technology works well in certain cases and isn't as ideal in others. Have a look at Benchmarking AMD Radeon Chill: Pumping The Brakes On Wasted Power for specifics.
The only real drawback to Radeon RX 580, aside from the mistaken presumption of a next-gen product, is higher power consumption under load. AMD needs to use more voltage to get additional frequency out of the same Ellesmere GPU, necessitating better coolers from the company's board partners to keep thermals under control.
AMD tells us that Radeon RX 580 will start at $230 and go up from there. The Sapphire Nitro+ model we tested represents the upper range of what you'll find at $275. But that's not a bad place to be, since the next step up is GeForce GTX 1070 for $360+. Value-seekers may want to look at more basic models, though, which should still come close to Sapphire's performance.
Because the competing GeForce GTX 1060 6GB already utilizes a complete GP106 GPU, we expect that Nvidia will respond to a slightly faster Radeon RX 580 with more aggressive pricing/rebates/game bundles and premium models sporting 9 Gb/s GDDR5 memory. Of course, that assumes the 580 doesn't launch at one price and sell for something higher, as the Radeon RX 480 did during its early days. Best-case, gaming enthusiasts enjoy the consequence of two closely-matched graphics cards capable of smooth frame rates at 2560x1440 and pay less for more performance.
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