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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  • TrantaLocked - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    Did you not read the article? There will be a toggle to limit power for people who want within spec power usage in this driver. Reply
  • miribus - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    You're right that they are justified, it is a mistake after all, I won't disagree with you there. That said it is still an objectively good card even if it suffered slightly slower clock speeds. It is embarrassing, but is it suddenly not a good card? It's just a marginally (I assume, who knows for sure yet) slower one. If we're literally talking the difference of a few frames I'm still buying the $200 card, even underclocking is somehow my only option. It would still be the right card for me at that price. The GT1060 is faster than the 8GB at $250! (according to leaks).... fine, but I'm not buying that card though. I'm buying the $200 one, that's my budget, as soon as I can, giving it 8-pins, and overclocking it. Reply
  • Peter2k - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    There are reports that 4gb rx480's are actually 8gb versions
    Can be unlocked as well
    Reply
  • Macpoedel - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    Well that is very debatable because the card isn't downclocking at all. The RX 480 has a boost clock of 1266MHz and a base clock of 1120MHz, both of which remain the same. AMD doesn't have to change any of the official specifications, so all what's on that box still applies.

    The default option is out of spec, yes, but the fact that there's an option in the drivers to force this back in spec, should be sufficient.

    Anyway, we've all been overclocking our parts for years, no one has cared at all about a few mA more or less on the board power, but all of a sudden this is a problem. Haven't seen any hard proof of anyone frying their motherboard over this, and even if this has happened, that would be as much the motherboard maker's fault as it would be AMD's.
    Reply
  • Michael Bay - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    "Choose your fix" is never a good approach.
    Seriously, how could they miss this stuff in the first place? It should be in basic internal testing.
    Reply
  • Weyoun0 - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    It was not missed. AMD was trying to pull a fast one. Unless AMD is hiring HS drop outs as engineers, which is just as likely due to AMD rapid decline in recent years. Reply
  • Drumsticks - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    I'm not sure I believe this. I don't really see any benefit for them. What "fast one" can they pull and benefit from by routing extra power through the motherboard? It certainly doesn't grant more performance than sending it through the 6 pin. Reply
  • vladx - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    By using only 6 pin AMD tried to hide how much more inefficient their card is compared to Nvidia ones. AMD's newest tech Pascal barely keeps up with Nvidia's last generation Maxwell. Of course it backfired quite spectacularly as deserved for all their deceptive marketing at every product release in the last 10 years. Reply
  • vladx - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    *AMD's newest tech Polaris I mean.

    That's what happens when both AMD and Nvidia use somewhat similar names.
    Reply
  • Drumsticks - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    Second comment/edit: It's worth noting, for whatever reason, AMD has stated that the 480 is supposed to be around 2x perf/watt, but the 470 should be about 2.7x. If that's true, it does in fact bring them pretty close to Pascal, maybe even on all products going forward. It still has to be true, but we'll see soon enough. Reply

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