First Thoughts

Bringing our first look at AMD’s new architecture to a close, it’s exciting to see the field shape up for the FinFET generation. After over four years since the last great node transition, we once again are making a very welcome jump to a new manufacturing process, bringing us AMD’s Polaris.

AMD learned a lot from the 28nm generation – and more often than not the hard way – and they have put those lessons to good use in Polaris. Polaris’s power efficiency has been greatly increased thanks to a combination of GlobalFoundries 14nm FinFET process and AMD’s own design choices, and as a result, compared to AMD’s last-generation parts, Polaris makes significant strides where it needs to. And this goes not just for energy efficiency, but overall performance/resource efficiency as well.

Because AMD is launching with a mainstream part first they don’t get to claim to be charting any new territory on absolute performance. But by being the first vendor to address the mainstream market with a FinFET-based GPU, AMD gets the honor of redefining the price, performance, and power expectations of this market. And the end result is better performance – sometimes remarkably so – for this high volume market.

Relative to last-generation mainstream cards like the GTX 960 or the Radeon R9 380, with the Radeon RX 480 we’re looking at performance gains anywhere between 45% and 70%, depending on the card, the games, and the memory configuration. As the mainstream market was last refreshed less than 18 months ago, the RX 480 generally isn’t enough to justify an upgrade. However if we extend the window out to cards 2+ years old to things like the Radeon R9 280 and GeForce GTX 760, then we have a generational update and then-some. AMD Pitcairn users (Radeon HD 7800, R9 270) should be especially pleased with the progress AMD has made from one mainstream GPU to the next.

Looking at the overall performance picture, averaged across all of our games, the RX 480 lands a couple of percent ahead of NVIDIA’s popular GTX 970, and similarly ahead of AMD’s own Radeon R9 390, which is consistent with our performance expectations based on AMD’s earlier hints. RX 480 can't touch GTX 1070, which is some 50% faster, but then it's 67% more expensive as well.

Given the 970/390 similarities, from a price perspective this means that 970/390 performance has come down by around $90 since these cards were launched, from $329 to $239 for the more powerful RX 480 8GB, or $199 when it comes to 4GB cards. In the case of the AMD card power consumption is also down immensely as well, in essence offering Hawaii-like performance at around half of the power. However against the GTX 970 power consumption is a bit more of a mixed bag – power consumption is closer than I would have expected under Crysis 3 –  and this is something to further address in our full review.

Finally, when it comes to the two different memory capacities of the RX 480, for the moment I’m leaning strongly towards the 8GB card. Though the $40 price increase represents a 20% price premium, history has shown that when mainstream cards launch at multiple capacities, the smaller capacity cards tend to struggle far sooner than their larger counterparts. In that respect the 8GB RX 480 is far more likely to remain useful a couple of years down the road, making it a better long-term investment.

Wrapping things up then, today’s launch of the Radeon RX 480 puts AMD in a good position. They have the mainstream market to themselves, and RX 480 is a strong showing for their new Polaris architecture. AMD will have to fend off NVIDIA at some point, but for now they can sit back and enjoy another successful launch.

Meanwhile we’ll be back in a few days with our full review of the RX 480, so be sure to stay tuned.

Power, Temperature, & Noise


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  • D. Lister - Thursday, June 30, 2016 - link


    What he is saying is, that the total power draw of the 2x 1080 from the motherboard is less than 75W, because they take most of the power from the 8-pin connectors, which is true. The same statement is also true for the Radeon 290X, a GPU well-known for massive power use. But even 2x 290/290Xs don't draw so much from the board.

    Please refrain from abusive language and think before you post, because it only puts you, your argument and your brand of choice, in a negative light.
  • fanofanand - Friday, July 1, 2016 - link

    You are choosing to scold me for calling him out on his word choices that portray an inaccurate statement? Of all the people on here and all the things they say? Mr. Lister, kindly F off. Reply
  • D. Lister - Saturday, July 2, 2016 - link

    :) well, no one who has ever scolded me, used the word "please". Anyhow, you misunderstood the guy, didn't conduct any research in the matter, and instead of replying with an opposing argument/reference you asked for his post to be deleted and then called him an idiot. Acting like that only serves to push you in a weaker position, and drags AT down to the level of places like wccftech. Anyway, I will now kindly F off. Reply
  • Murloc - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    lol what he says puts "his brand of choice" in negative light'

    guys please get a grip
  • D. Lister - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 - link

    Yeah, complicated, but you'll figure it out once you're done laughing out loud. :) Reply
  • Mode+ - Thursday, June 30, 2016 - link

    Standard 12V 6 pin connector is rated up to 192W without the HCS terminals. The specification is for 150W. It's a guideline, not a rule. Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Thursday, June 30, 2016 - link

    And my car is rated to go up to 120MPH. Doesnt mean that it will work well for long at that speed. Reply
  • Rumpeltroll80 - Monday, July 4, 2016 - link

    That is why many are releasing the RX 480 with a 8 pin instead of 6 pin. 150 Watt on a 8 pin, only 75 watt on a 6 pin.
    So problem seems to be solved then right? Here is one card with the change
  • komplik - Thursday, June 30, 2016 - link


    In average... slower than single 1070
  • erple2 - Friday, July 1, 2016 - link

    I didn't see that from the charts - I saw it to be faster. Personally, I ignored resolutions below 1440p, as buying 2 of these for those resolutions seems pointless.

    In the aggregate including games where there was no crossfire scaling, the 1070 was competitive, and slightly faster.

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