In what’s hopefully the final chapter on AMD’s saga over the last week with the Radeon RX 480’s power consumption, AMD has posted the previously promised 16.7.1 driver set on their website.

As a reminder, 16.7.1 is being released first and foremost to address RX 480’s power consumption issues, in which reviewers found that it was drawing too much power from the PCIe graphics (PEG) slot, and that the total power consumption of the card was at times exceeding 150W, which is the technical limit for a card with a 6-pin power connector. Of the two issues, PEG power consumption is arguably the greater of the two, as the external power connectors are far more forgiving.

To that end, 16.7.1 rolls out a two tier solution to the problem.

  1. Shift some of the power load off of the PCIe Graphics (PEG) slot connector in order to bring PEG slot power consumption within the PCIe spec. This doesn’t reduce total power consumption and performance is unaffected; power delivery is merely shifted. Based on earlier data this will put the 6-pin connector further over spec, but the vast majority of PSUs are very tolerant of this going out of spec.
  2. Because total power consumption of RX 480 can still exceed 150W – and as a result also exceed the limits for the 6-pin connector – AMD has also implemented an optional a “compatibility” toggle that reduces the total power consumption of the card. This is to better ensure that 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 does hurt performance (more on that below), but it's also the most standards-compliant solution.

Along with the power changes, the driver also incorporates some previously scheduled bug fixes and performance improvements. This includes fixing GTA V stuttering, and small performance boosts for a limited number of games that AMD states should improve performance by up to 3%.

Finally, the 16.7.1 driver can be found on AMD’s website. Note that the driver itself is not WHQL certified, but given AMD’s rush to get it out ASAP, I don’t imagine they were interested in waiting for WHQL certification to come back before releasing them.

Diving into matters then, PC Perspective has already taken a look at the new driver and done individual power rail measurements, finding that AMD’s fixes work more-or-less as advertised. They have found some edge cases where the card is still drawing a watt or two more power from the PEG slot than the specification allows, though at this point we’re arguing over inches. It should be noted however that even in compatibility mode, PC Perspective is still finding that power consumption is technically exceeding 75W on the 6-pin connector, though like the PEG slot by notably less than when not using compatibility mode.

Meanwhile to look at the performance impact of the new driver, I quickly ran our RX 480 through a selection of games at 2560x1440, both with and without compatibility mode.

Radeon RX 480 8GB Performance: 16.6.2 vs. 16.7.1

In standard mode where power consumption isn’t curtailed, performance is essentially unchanged outside of Tomb Raider, which is one of the games targeted for optimization. Essentially this proves that there’s no performance impact from merely shifting power consumption off of the PEG slot to the 6-pin power connector.

Meanwhile in compatibility mode, there is a very small performance hit, though it varies with the game. Compared to standard mode, we’re looking at no more than a 1fps performance drop (~3%), with some games losing only a fraction of a frame per second. That there is a performance drop is consistent – so compatibility mode isn’t free – but overall the performance change is within the +/- 2% margin of error for these benchmarks.

Radeon RX 480 8GB Power Consumption: 16.6.2 vs. 16.7.1

Finally, when it comes to power consumption, measurements at the wall back up our earlier findings. In standard mode, power consumption at the wall bobbles by a couple of watts compared to the 16.6.2 drivers. With compatibility mode on, we see power consumption drop by 18W under Crysis 3, and 13W under FurMark. The average GPU clockspeed in both cases is similarly reduced, with Crysis 3 shaving off around 50MHz.

Anyhow, we’ll have a bit more on the subject in next week’s full Radeon RX 480 review. But in the meantime it looks like AMD has been able to get a handle on their power problems and largely rectify them within the span of a week, making for a fairly quick recovery on the RX 480’s launch fumble.

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  • K_Space - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    So hardly a drop in performance even with compatibility mode.... sheesh, a storm in a teamcup and all those fanboys from both sides make it sounds like the world is about to end.
  • K_Space - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    that would be a tea cup*. Edit mode by xmas anyone?
  • Wreckage - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    That's because they didn't fix the issue. They just transferred the over power draw from the motherboard to the 6 pin. They are still out of spec. Risking their customers systems just to cheat on benchmarks. Thankfully the 1060 is coming and people can upgrade to a safe reliable card.
  • Meteor2 - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    Or, you could say that AMD have cut power draw by 10% with less than a 3% cost to frame rate to deliver a safe reliable card. That's pretty impressive.
  • BurntMyBacon - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    @Wreckage: "That's because they didn't fix the issue. They just transferred the over power draw from the motherboard to the 6 pin. They are still out of spec."

    Did you read the article? They did fix the issue. It cost a grand total of 3% or less performance. They also allowed for a safer (than before) "Out of Spec" operational mode by transferring some of the load to a more tolerant in practice connector.

    As for reliability, this is not the first card released out of spec. People overclock their card to out of spec power consumptions frequently. Even factory overclocks from card manufacturers sometimes go out of spec. This one was more concerning because it was a reference design, but the problem has been rectified. By the way, that extra 1 or 2 watts (Do we seriously not know which it is?) could easily be accounted for by the test setup. I haven't checked, but I'll wait for some more sites to review it and confirm before worrying about 1W.
  • fanofanand - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    Stop being so moderate, everyone needs to be aggressively in one camp or the other. AMD is going to burn everyone's house down and murder their first born! Nvidia is the only safe way to game! Nvidia is gouging everyone, only AMD can save us from the tyranny of Intel/Nvidia! Please, work on it so you can be irrational like everyone else here (looking at you Wreckage).
  • BurntMyBacon - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    @fanofanand: "Stop being so moderate, everyone needs to be aggressively in one camp or the other."

    I'm sorry. :(
    I'll try to work on that. Here goes.

    Here's an article from Tom's for some more perspective (pcper posted below):

    You'll have to do some reading to find this detail, but it appears that compatibility mode pulls 5.6A heated and 5.4A cold. Spec is 5.5A for reference. IF ONLY AMD HADN'T SKIMPED ON THE COOLER, THEY MIGHT HAVE AVOIDED RUNNING OUT OF SPEC AND BURNING DOWN THE HOUSES OF THE POOR, ELDERLY, AND VETERANS (should I throw children in as well?).

    Was that better?
  • fanofanand - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    MUCH better. :) Thank you for contributing to the zealotry!
  • nick85er - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    this was beautifully stated.

    On that note, the wife's system will have an RX490 (soon), and my monster will have a GTX1080 by Christmas. Hope VR is as uber as they make it out to seem - although the wife will be a bit jelly of my 28" 4Ks Hooray PC master race
  • GingerTea - Sunday, August 7, 2016 - link

    1080Ti, save your money, we don't want to end up like last generation stuck with 980's because we were too impulsive to wait for the ti.
    Given that the Titan X is out, they're honestly probably just waiting for the 480x 490x to come out so that they will be able to release an hbm2 part to compete. (I know it doesn't matter but it will matter to me, the consumer, since if I'm blowing $1500 CDN I want hbm2 so I don't feel bad when cheaper hbm2 cards come out next year).
    For real tho, wait 2 months past Christmas and I bet 1080 ti $800 USD MSRP, Titan XP performance.

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