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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  • artk2219 - Tuesday, July 12, 2016 - link

    Nope, someone is forgetting the GTX 200, 400, and 500 series with their blow dryers, overheating, and high power consumption. Granted Nvidia learned from these designs, and introduced the wonderful cards we have today. But at the time AMD was the more efficient brand, and Nvidia really didnt reach parity until the 600 series. Its funny how people seem to forget things from only 4 years ago. Reply
  • TrantaLocked - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    What are you talking about? There will be no performance losses; they're transferring power from PCI-E to 6-pin. The nvidia shills in this thread are fucking ridiculous. Reply
  • StrangerGuy - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    I didn't knew violating existing standards or lowering release performance as a shipped product or as a "fix" would be remotely considered as acceptable practices in any industry, and demanding a baseline QC is called shilling for NV. Reply
  • Michael Bay - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    I wonder how many of AMD clients are explicit leftists and bern victims.
    Same rhetoric patterns.
    Reply
  • atlantico - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    All the people whining about "regulation" and "standards" are nvidiots, and leftists and bern victims. AMD is all about, screw overbearing regulation, as long as it works. If it doesn't work, the market will take care of itself. Commie. Reply
  • Michael Bay - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    Oh, the market is taking care about AMD, indeed. Reply
  • Macpoedel - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    I'm guessing you have never overclocked because you want all of your parts adhering to an overly strict standard. If RX 480's start burning down pc's, that'll be AMD's problem, but otherwise I don't see how any hardware enthusiast makes problem out of this, other than for the fun of throwing some rocks at a company. Reply
  • K_Space - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    First off thanks to KateH & blahsaysblah for the awesome comment/analysis on power routing through the 6 (+2) connector; it's these kinda of comments that really add flavour to AT. However I am curious as to why you think this is dampner on the launch. Technically the card is a 1080 muncher (resolution not NV card) so even with compatibility option enabled, a game at that resolution won't suddenly become unplayable. Certainly a marketing disaster (and food for fanboys from both sides) but I'd argue discerning gamers/technology nerds shouldn't be concerned. Looking forward to the updated benchmarks with both options. Ryan, will you enable rail testing for this particular scenario? Reply
  • bill4 - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    the performance losses will be zero actually, the default solution is just shunting some power draw away from the slot onto the plug (supposedly more equipped to handle it). Alternately, AMD are offering a "compatibility" toggle that ensures neither slot nor plug will run out of spec (this is the one that likely requires some slight power tuning/performance loss). I'm sure about 1% of people will opt in to that...most will opt for higher performance.

    As Anand notes, power draw is related to frequency by a cube function, so it takes very little downclocking to reduce a lot of power. So I'm going to guess the performance losses in compatibility will be like 3-5% (AMD is PRing that loss by claiming the new driver increases performance by 3% with per game optimizing, making up for it). Personally I wont opt in to compatibility mode.
    Reply
  • StrangerGuy - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    Either choice, RX480 users are entirely justified to demand a refund for out-of-spec 6-pin operation and downclocking after launch, there is no weaseling out of this one for AMD. Reply

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