Following up on this weekend's statement from AMD about a potential power issue with the reference Radeon RX 480, AMD has just sent over their previously promised update on their progress dealing with the issue.

In short, they are nearly finished preparing their updated driver, 16.7.1, which will be posted "within the next 48 hours" (which at this point is late Thursday). The new driver will offer two solutions to the power problem.

The default solution: shift some of the power load off of the PCIe Graphics (PEG) slot connector, presumably in order to bring power consumption within PCIe spec. Note that AMD doesn't say anything about reducing the total power consumption, and given option #2, it's reasonable to assume that this involves holding the power requirements as-is and shifting the load to the external 6-pin power connector. Based on earlier data this would potentially put the 6-in connector further over spec, but the vast majority of PSUs are very tolerant of this going out of spec.

The optional solution: a toggle that reduces the total power consumption of the card, presumably ensuring both the PEG slot and 6-pin power connector stay below their respective limits. Since the RX 480 is already throttling at times due to power limits, this would further hurt performance, but it's also the most standards-compliant solution (and aptly named "compatibility" mode). AMD notes that this option will have "minimal performance impact", and while we'll have to see the results in the benchmarks, it's worth noting that power consumption is cubic - that is, roughly to the 3rd power of frequency - so a small reduction in frequency can significantly reduce power consumption, as we've seen in the case of the Radeon R9 Nano.

Along with this, AMD is also touting some slight performance optimizations in this driver that they hope will offset any performance loss (though I'd note that these optimizations would have come anyhow). We'll have more on this when AMD ships their driver.

In the meantime AMD's full statement is as follows:

We promised an update today (July 5, 2016) following concerns around the Radeon™ RX 480 drawing excess current from the PCIe bus. Although we are confident that the levels of reported power draws by the Radeon RX 480 do not pose a risk of damage to motherboards or other PC components based on expected usage, we are serious about addressing this topic and allaying outstanding concerns. Towards that end, we assembled a worldwide team this past weekend to investigate and develop a driver update to improve the power draw. We’re pleased to report that this driver—Radeon Software 16.7.1—is now undergoing final testing and will be released to the public in the next 48 hours.

In this driver we’ve implemented a change to address power distribution on the Radeon RX 480 – this change will lower current drawn from the PCIe bus.

Separately, we’ve also included an option to reduce total power with minimal performance impact. Users will find this as the “compatibility” UI toggle in the Global Settings menu of Radeon Settings. This toggle is “off” by default.

Finally, we’ve implemented a collection of performance improvements for the Polaris architecture that yield performance uplifts in popular game titles of up to 3%1. These optimizations are designed to improve the performance of the Radeon RX 480, and should substantially offset the performance impact for users who choose to activate the “compatibility” toggle.

AMD is committed to delivering high quality and high performance products, and we’ll continue to provide users with more control over their product’s performance and efficiency. We appreciate all the feedback so far, and we’ll continue to bring further performance and performance/W optimizations to the Radeon RX 480.

1: Based on data running ’Total War: Warhammer’, ultra settings, 1080p resolution. Radeon Software 16.6.2 74.2FPS vs Radeon Software 16.7.1 78.3FPS; Metro Last Light, very high settings, 1080p resolution, 80.9FPS vs 82.7 FPS. Witcher 3, Ultra settings, 1440p, 31.5FPS vs 32.5, Far Cry 4, ultra settings, 1440p, 54.65FPS vs 56.38FPS, 3DMark11 Extreme, 22.8 vs 23.7  System config: Core i7-5960X, 16GB DDR4-2666MHz, Gigabyte X99-UD4, Windows 10 64-bit. Performance figures are not average, may vary from run-to-run.

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  • Michael Bay - Friday, July 08, 2016 - link

    AMD stock is literally pond scum at this point. Nobody cares if it goes up a little. Then again, if "AMD's business is nothing to AMD", that is how it should be.

    And they wish they invented this founders whatever thing. Unfortunately, you first have to have something people will want to buy.
    Reply
  • hedon - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    I mean when there are no competitor or less competition, the leading would have less effort to make improvement/inovation. Reply
  • KateH - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    Ouch. Even if the performance losses are minimal with the new driver, this is putting a big damper on the launch of what is otherwise looks like a good card. And this all could've been avoided if AMD had put a dang 8-pin power connector on the reference design- c'mon, what were they thinking going with 6 leads? Think the last time I saw that on an enthusiast card was the 8800GT Reply
  • Weyoun0 - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    AMD was pretending to be power efficient, but that has always been their weakness, so it came back to bite them in the ass. Reply
  • KateH - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    Hopefully the OEMs are scrambling to revise their PCBs to use 8-pin power. Will be a very easy thing to do, astounding that this slipped past Q&A. My guess is that management forced it on the engineers :( Reply
  • T1beriu - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    The 6pin used on the RX480 is pimped-out by AMD to be used as an 8pin. It can feed 250W to the GPU just by itself. Reply
  • KateH - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    I have serious concerns about this statement being put out there... 6 pins is 6 pins, period. Now, perhaps AMD sourced GPU side ("female" plug) power connectors that are rated for 250W, and perhaps AMD ensured the trace width between the connector and the VRMs is sufficient for 250W, but AMD cannot guarantee that any power supply used with an RX480 is designed to handle any more than the 75W spec being pushed thru a single 6-pin lead. Reply
  • bill4 - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    Power efficiency is somer fake made up thing by Nvidia fanboys, because Nvidia has a lead in that area. Doesn't matter. Unless you are a grandma or a nun. Oh no, a 480 draws 30 watts more than a 1060...who gives a flying sh*t.

    Funny thing is all the nvidia fanboys talking about power efficiency are all overclockers. The worst thing you can do for your "power efficiency" (such a fake word).

    Also the 480 has 5.8 teraflops at 150 watts, the 1060 has 4.4 at 120. Plus 480 has a larger memory bus, more VRAM, more TMU's, etc. So technically AMD is more efficient.
    Reply
  • Scali - Thursday, July 07, 2016 - link

    Almost correct :)
    The 1060 is more efficient because it gets better performance than the RX480 while having a smaller bus, less VRAM, less TMUs, and a lower TDP.
    Reply
  • blzd - Sunday, July 10, 2016 - link

    "Power efficiency doesn't matter".

    lol nice try AMD.
    Reply

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