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AMD Radeon RX 480 review

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Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Excellent 1080p performance
  • Decent 1440p performance
  • Cheapest VR-ready GPU

Cons

  • Slightly noisy under load
  • Not that much faster than a GTX 970

Best Deals for AMD Radeon RX 480

  • amazon
  • ebay

Key Features

  • GCN 4 “Polaris” architecture
  • 8GB GDDR5 memory
  • 2,304 stream processors
  • 1,120MHz base clock speed
  • 4GB models available for £180
  • Manufacturer: AMD
  • Review Price: £215.00

What is the AMD Radeon RX 480?

The RX 480 represented a massive shift in the world of VR gaming, managing to become the cheapest graphics card that reaches the Recommended specification for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

However, since our original review, the market has changed somewhat. We've seen the arrival of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 and the AMD Radeon RX 470, which closely match the RX 480 in terms of performance and price.

What hasn't changed is its performance: this is a stonking Full HD and 1440p card for around £215.

Below is our original review:

AMD Radeon RX 480 – specs and technology explained

AMD has moved from its GCN (Graphics Core Next) 3 architecture to GCN 4, codenamed Polaris. It’s a fairly big shift in terms of the chip’s physical design. Gone is the 28-nanometer process used in the previous generation, to be replaced by a 14nm process. This allows for a greater number of transistors on any given piece of silicon, but without resulting in an increase in power consumption and heat.

The 14nm process is more dense than the 16nm process of Nvidia’s Pascal architecture, used in the GTX 1070 and 1080, but since AMD hasn’t yet launched a GPU to rival either of these cards, direct comparisons on the effectiveness of this denser arrangement remains to be seen.

Video: AMD Radeon RX 480 review

Still, it means AMD has been able to pack a huge amount of power into a GPU that will suit many smaller budgets.

It’s important to temper your expectations, though. This is firmly a mid-range graphics card, so any fancy new technologies are unlikely to be found here. Instead, specs-wise, the RX 480 is merely solid; not extraordinary. There are 36 compute units and 2,304 stream processors running at a base clock speed of 1,120MHz and a boost speed of 1,266MHz.

All this without a huge power draw; the RX 480 is rated at just 150W.

It’s capable of up to 5.8TFLOPs (trillion floating-point operations per second), which puts it very much ahead of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, its closest rival at this price. However, TFLOPs figures don’t reveal the whole story and, as you’ll see from the benchmarks, a greater number of TFLOPs doesn’t equal superior performance.

Related: Best Graphics Card 2016

AMD Radeon RX 480

The RX 480 is supported by GDDR5 memory, with some cards including 4GB and others getting 8GB. 4GB models cost £185, while 8GB units will be £215. The differences don’t end here: 4GB units will have memory capable of 7Gbps (gigabits per second) speeds, while 8GB will have up to 8Gbps.

Third-party manufacturers might choose a different GDDR5 specification in order to save money, but AMD guarantees that no card will ship with a throughput that’s less than 7Gbps. It’s perhaps a little confusing, but isn’t a cause of worry; pricing and specs sheets will make it fairly clear what you’re buying.

Buy Now: AMD Radeon RX 480 at Amazon.co.uk (£229.99) | Amazon.com ($349.99)

We were supplied with an 8GB, 8Gbps card, and as a result can’t comment on the performance of the lower-specification models with any firm numbers.

The RX 480 also features asynchronous computing, meaning developers can assign tasks to the GPU with differing levels of priority, but have them all undertaken at the same time. This results in less stutter in games running in the latest DirectX 12 framework.

Watch: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 video review

AMD Radeon RX 480 – Design and Ports

There isn’t anything particularly notable about the RX 480’s design, but it’s a cut above the cheapest graphics cards around. There’s matte-black plastic around the sides and a dotted plastic finish along the bottom of the cooler. There’s no fancy backplate, but I wouldn’t expect that from a card at this price.

The cooling system consists of a single fan, which spins up to a decent whirr when under load. You’ll probably want a fairly well-insulated case to keep noise at bay, but it’s far from the loudest I’ve heard.

AMD Radeon RX 480

The RX 480 gets its juice from a single six-pin PCI Express power connector. There are three DisplayPorts and an HDMI port at the rear. The DisplayPorts are of the 1.4 specification, meaning that they’re ready for HDR gaming when titles and monitors begin to support the standard.

Best Deals for AMD Radeon RX 480

  • amazon
  • ebay

David Cole

June 29, 2016, 7:18 pm

Not sure how you can give this card 4.5 out of 5. It is basically GTX 970 over-clocked. With the 8 Gig Model running $249 and you get GTX 970 ASUS Turbo for $259 not much of a difference. Except GTX 970 is 2 year old card and this is brand new. Think GTX 1070 is much better Value. It is built for the future and not just today.

stefanakisgr

June 29, 2016, 7:22 pm

How come no one tests VR capabilities ? It's on par with or beats the GTX 980 in VR content. This card is marketed as a VR entry card, and should be tested as such imho.

archimedes

June 29, 2016, 7:35 pm

I recently switched from AMD to Nvidia. I'm so unhappy now with the Nvidia in a lot of small ways which these reviews never cover.

1) AMD has better 2D VSync, so ordinary web video looks better on AMD. With the Nvidia card, I get "tearing" (an ugly horizontal line break in the image) on Netflix and Youtube. And yes, I have the latest drivers and have tried every possible VSync mode and setting. There is no solution for this, Nvidia's VSync is only for gaming.

2) AMD's drivers gave better resolution and display switching - with the AMD card, resolution changes and display switching could be done easily and reliably using hotkeys, you could also activate pre-set profiles from the taskbar icon. Nvidia drivers have no hotkeys, there is an add-on display manager which has hotkeys but it is not reliable (use it once and it can't be used again).

3) My PC started faster with AMD than with Nvidia.

4) The actual Nvidia driver software is sucky, it's bloated, with a slow and non-intuitive user interface.

5) Older games - for example Minecraft which my kids play - look terrible on Nvidia, a lot of on-screen artifacts (visible lines between blocks).

6) My PC feels less stable with Nvidia drivers, I have to restart it every couple of days. With AMD drivers it was rock solid stable, could run for 1 month or longer without restarts.

Russel

June 29, 2016, 9:06 pm

It's funny you say that, because years ago I switched from AMD to nvidia because of AMD's terrible drivers! My last AMD card was an X1950XTX, and I was fed up with the bloat and sluggishness of Catalyst Control Center. It slowed down my PC and made it less stable. On top of that it was unintuitive and ugly. I guess they've improved over the years. Ultimately, my experience with AMD's software put me off AMD to such an extent that I've been an nvidia user for the last decade.

Anatolian Hittite

June 30, 2016, 8:23 am

bloody fanboy you know AMD failed so you're putting dirt on Nvidia but hey I only go with facts. What you pay what you get.

Placebo

June 30, 2016, 11:17 am

Yep I switched from AMD to Nvidia for pretty much the same reasons, the terrible drivers and the lack of hardware Physx which was more important then that it turned out to be. Bought a GTX 770 4gb and was pretty happy with it until Nvidia moved onto newer generation cards and other than new drivers that didn't affect performance did nothing for the older cards, added a second 770 and some games had terrific SLI performance (Far Cry Primal a recent example) but then something like The Division has terrible SLI performance and I'm better off using a single 770. So I see a single 480 as a good upgrade over my 770s as it's about double performance 1 card v 1 card, in the future if Crossfire is well supported I'll consider adding a second one.

truthify

June 30, 2016, 11:22 am

The future is DX12/Vulkan... so, need to keep that in mind as well.

Ulrik Digerud

June 30, 2016, 12:25 pm

What's the point in lying about a company you dislike, really hope this behaviour isn't something you teach your kids to do

Ulrik Digerud

June 30, 2016, 12:34 pm

"The RX 480 came remarkably close to overhauling the GTX 970 in this benchmark, managing an excellent 83.6fps at 1080p and a very playable 57.2fps at 1440p. This put it around 2% slower than the GTX 970 in both cases."
According to the graph the 970 had a lower fps and only gave 97,6% of the performance the 480 did. Why do you say the 480 was 2% slower?

Bharath

June 30, 2016, 1:08 pm

i already have a gtx 970, its worthless to upgrade to this...so i will wait for Vega and also build a new rig by the time it comes out

Paul

June 30, 2016, 1:45 pm

That was always the case even before the RX480 was released, we knew it would be a bit faster than the 970 and likely will get faster with more matured drivers but it was never really going to be a big enough upgrade from the 970 angle, best bet is to wait till Vaga, AMD will have a few options and Nvidia might have a 1080TI but AMD seems to be going in the right direction to me.

Zee Ali

June 30, 2016, 1:47 pm

What were the clocks on the gtx 970? I swear if it was running stock in gonna kill someone. Fucking overclock the 970 past 1450mhz no one with a real gtx 970 don't overclock. So its retarded to test stock

Domaldel

June 30, 2016, 11:10 pm

A friend of mine plays with a 970 at stock... ><

Domaldel

June 30, 2016, 11:20 pm

@article author (do anyone know his disqus account name?) Regarding the 480 dx 11 vs dx 12 performance in ashes.
What settings did you use?
From what I've heared the 480 only pulls away in DX12 when you use the highest possible settings as that allows more utilization allowing it to beat itself (in dx11) handedly as well as the 970.
At just "high" there's little difference.

Domaldel

June 30, 2016, 11:21 pm

Because there's a lack of suitable vr benchmarking software with the only one out there right now favoring the 970 over the 480.

Domaldel

June 30, 2016, 11:26 pm

Depending on the benchmarks this one does at times quite a bit better then the 970 and it has a few neat new features that might play a part in the future.
Also the 970 is likely to leave the market soon and the 1070 costs *a lot* more money.
This card is a better buy then the 970 new and probably a old 970 too if they're the same price although I'd probably go for a user 970 if it was cheaper and I trusted the seller (although losing the warranty is kind of scary)
But the real question is how the 1060 will perform.

Michael Passingham

July 1, 2016, 12:38 pm

Hi Domadel, it was tested at High. I'm still exploring the possibilities of Ashes so I will be revisiting this and updating the review.

Michael Passingham

July 1, 2016, 12:40 pm

Apologies Ulrik, you're right. It was 2% slower at FHD and 2% faster at 1440p. I'll correct that.

Michael Passingham

July 1, 2016, 12:43 pm

This was an interesting one. I did make the point in my conclusion that a 970 could be better value now it's reaching the end of its life, especially when you consider third-party overclocked versions.

However, looking to the future the RX 480 will be a better bet with more memory and if DX12 lives up to its promise, the 480 will shine here too.

But yes, right now it is very close between the two.

Michael Passingham

July 1, 2016, 12:44 pm

I will be updating this review with VR performance. As Domaldel said there's no useful benchmarking software available (aside from Steam VR benchmark) so it all has to be done on personal judgement, which takes a lot more time. I will be looking at this soon, though.

Brian Thorp

July 1, 2016, 2:25 pm

Funny I went the other way due to drivers.

Domaldel

July 1, 2016, 7:15 pm

Good, I think you'll be impressed by the 480 at higher settings.
I'm also looking forward to AiB cards as the card seems to primarily be power limited with Temps only being a secondary bottleneck.
Both of those should be fixed in AiBs and some (potentially unreliable) rumors put some of them at about 1400 mhz OC.

Btw, would you mind letting me know if/when you make a change in the article with regards to Ashes?

Rabih Halik

July 4, 2016, 8:46 am

Unfortunately, not everyone has PSUs to sustain the wattage of overclocking their components. Besides, if the GTX 970 is overclocked then the RX 480 will be too. On top of that, they tested with a reference card. An aftermarket card would be a better comparison because better cooling and higher factory overclocks will push the RX 480 even further forward.

Fasic

July 4, 2016, 9:03 am

Serbia:
480 --> 310e
970 --> 290e
So not so good right now...+ with all problems at launch (yea and 970...i know but...), this is not so good for AMD, with all the excitement on launch and nothing...

this is bad for us! really bad!

Zee Ali

July 6, 2016, 7:40 am

Its all but confirmed rx 480s overclock like shit, so they arent going to be pushing beyond 1350mhz i can tell you that much. Its not happening, people are doing insane things like liquid nitrogen to get their reference models with max voltage to try to sustain past 1450mhz and it crashes... LOL so much for those 1600mhz "rumors". And it gets rediculously hot at those clocks and voltages if it was running an air cooler. So its very safe to compare a 1300mhz 480 to a 1500mhz 970 at this point

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