Pros, Cons & Verdict
There are a number of facets to AMD’s Radeon RX 470 launch. Let’s start with the easiest one: performance.
Radeon RX 470 sports roughly 89% of the shading/texturing hardware as RX 480. So is it any surprise that our factory-overclocked 470 achieves a little more than 87% of the 480’s performance across our benchmark suite’s 10 games?
Although this isn’t a big difference, it’s significant enough to bump the 470 under that threshold for VR-ready frame rates. In fact, AMD makes no mention at all of VR in conjunction with the RX 470, despite that card’s proximity to the RX 480. We’re not bothered, though. Back in March, after several of us spent quite a bit of time gaming on Oculus’ Rift, we decided that the Radeon R9 290 and GeForce GTX 970 minimum requirements simply weren’t fast enough. As an extension, we don’t particularly love the RX 480 in that role anyway. If you’re serious about VR and willing to spend several hundred dollars on an HMD, do yourself a favor and pay more than $200 for a graphics card to drive it. Moving on…
Where the RX 470 and 480 do earn respect is in the latest games at 1920x1080 with quality settings cranked up. Given the prevalence of FHD displays, that’s hardly a consolation prize.
And do you see the trend emerging through our tests? In the older DirectX 11-based titles, Nvidia continues to dominate with its efficient architecture and well-optimized driver. But as we incorporate more DirectX 12/Vulkan-based games, the previously underutilized pieces of AMD’s GCN design have a profound impact on performance, and momentum shifts in the company's favor. GeForce GTX 1070, 1080, and Titan X hold AMD at bay at the high end, but the Radeons are gaining ground down at this $200 level.
On the topic of dollars, we’ve never seen AMD so reluctant to discuss pricing. Hours before the RX 470’s introduction, we were handed a suggested $179 figure. However, there is no “reference” design, so it’s unclear what you’ll find at that price. Asus passed along that the Strix RX 470 OC Edition we tested would sell for $200, with the non-overclocked model offered at $195.
This puts “premium” Radeon RX 470 cards at the same level as reference-class 4GB RX 480s, which doesn’t make sense. Small performance delta aside, at $200, a Radeon RX 480 is the better buy.
For now it’s mostly theory anyway. Newegg lists 13 different RX 480 models and none of them are available, even a month after launch. We’re sure they’re trickling out slowly (user reviews abound), but supply hasn’t caught up. Don’t be surprised if Radeon RX 470 is just as hard to get your hands on.
To AMD’s credit, its partners aren’t exploiting the lack of RX 480s to charge higher prices. There are still several 4GB models at $200 and 8GB boards at $240. We hope the company can nudge RX 470s down to its $180 target, too. Above that price, you may as well be looking at the 480. And what about Nvidia? Its GTX 1060 looks especially good in DX11-based games. But an increasing emphasis on DX12 and Vulkan support does the $250 card no favors. Perhaps we’ll see it sell for less once AMD can keep RX 470 and 480 in stock.
MORE: Best Deals
MORE: Hot Bargains @PurchDeals