Radeon RX 590 Review: AMD’s First 12nm GPU Hits 225W


AMD launched its Radeon RX 480 as a 150W graphics card back in 2016. Pressure from Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 just weeks later forced the company to repackage its Polaris GPU as Radeon RX 580, bumping power consumption up to 185W in the process.

More than a year later, motivated by the large price gap between Radeon RX 580 and Radeon RX Vega 56, AMD is re-repackaging Polaris as Radeon RX 590 to occupy some of that space. The company says it transitioned from GlobalFoundries’ 14nm FinFET manufacturing node to 12nm FinFET but won’t go into any more depth on the technology or its implications.

What we can see, however, are the benchmark results, power consumption measurements, value comparison, and efficiency calculation. Radeon RX 590 may benefit from a tuned process, but it’s still being flogged for a few percentage points of additional performance and sold at a higher price. It’s sucking down GeForce RTX 2080 power to generate frame rates between GeForce GTX 1060 and 1070. As a result, the Radeon RX 580 and 590 both look bad when we look at performance per watt.

Sure, $280 (£250) for Radeon RX 590 remains a relative bargain to shell-shocked gamers still reeling from the cryptocurrency bonanza that saw mainstream graphics cards selling for two or three times their original worth. In that context, you’re basically getting a great (guaranteed) overclock at a 25 or 30 percent premium over Radeon RX 580 8GB. But we’d just as soon save some money and buy the cheaper Polaris card for high-detail gaming at 1920 x 1080. After all, RX 580s are readily available for less than the price point AMD launched them at back in 2017.

It would have been super cool to see some sort of die-harvested Vega 48 with 3072 Stream processors for somewhere in the $300 range. Unfortunately, AMD’s Vega GPU and its expensive HBM2-equipped package presumably make such a project implausible.

And so, we’re left with Radeon RX 590 instead. It’s faster than GeForce GTX 1060 6GB across our suite at 1920 x 1080 and 2560 x 1440, which seems to have been AMD’s goal. However, when we comb over graphics card prices and compare their performance, the real winner today is Radeon RX 580 8GB. Ample performance for cranking up quality at 1920 x 1080 and post-crypto-crazy pricing combine for some of the best deals we’ve seen on mainstream gaming hardware in 2018.

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