Home Gaming AMD RX 480 Review Round-Up–The new price to performance king

AMD RX 480 Review Round-Up–The new price to performance king

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AMD RX 480 review round-up feature

AMD has been so quiet for so long, that its new architecture, Polaris, really needs to make a splash. The company has been losing market share to Nvidia steadily since Maxwell, and Polaris is meant to be the phoenix rising from the ashes. Price to performance is the name of the game when it comes to AMD, and that only makes their first Polaris release – the mid-range RX 480 – make a lot of sense.

While Nvidia is pushing boundaries in the top-tier of enthusiast cards. AMD is instead choosing to set the tone for the market where most sales take place. Midrange cards are what make or break companies at times, as is evident with the GTX 970 and the success it brought to Nvidia. At the time the 970 was simply ahead of itself in terms of frames per dollar, but the RX 480 is redefining those boundaries for the next generation before the team in green has a say.

AMD RX 480 review round-up 1

And generally, that’s what critics seems to be agreeing on, with the review embargo on the RX 480 dropping late yesterday. Performance wise the debut of Polaris plays out – sometimes –  just a touch above the GTX 970 and AMD’s previous R9 390, which make it a compelling purchase at only $200 (or $240 for the arguably better 8GB version). Anandtech gave the card a glowing first view, praising it’s attention to pushing the VR market.

Because AMD is launching with a mainstream part first they don’t get to claim to be charting any new territory on absolute performance. But by being the first vendor to address the mainstream market with a FinFET-based GPU, AMD gets the honor of redefining the price, performance, and power expectations of this market. And the end result is better performance – sometimes remarkably so – for this high volume market.

AMD RX 480 review round-up 2

Tom’s Hardware agrees too, pointing out the increased power efficiency and decent cooling that the reference design seems to offer. They do mention that temperatures are still a bit bothersome (with the card sometimes not able to reach its advertised Boost Clocks), but overall there isn’t a card out there this good, this cheap.

In the end, we get performance somewhere between a Radeon R9 290 and 390 at dramatically lower power and a $240 price tag. Compare that to GeForce GTX 970 with half as much memory for ~$280 and Radeon R9 390 8GB in the same neighborhood. It’s hardly what we’d call the cusp of a revolution, particularly since you still have to pay $600 for a Rift or $800 for the Vive. But we certainly appreciate the combination of smaller, faster, cooler and quieter, all for less money.

Ars Technica were disappointed by the apparent lack of any real evolution and relegating the RX 480 to a standard release, but still praised the card for achieving what it promised to be.

If we widen the scope to include Nvidia, AMD perhaps does a little better. AMD has always had the better value graphics cards at the low- to mid-range end of the market, particularly with recent parts like the R9 380X and R9 390. With the RX 480, AMD has not only killed off the GTX 960, but the far more expensive GTX 970, too.

AMD RX 480 review round-up 3

They also note that Nvidia has a competitor waiting in the wings, meaning the real impact of the RX 480 won’t really be known until Nvidia show their hand.

But with Nvidia being ballsier than ever with its product releases—skipping not one but two product generations with the GTX 1070—it may dare to go further still. I just wish AMD had dared to go further with the RX 480, too.

Ultimately though, that’s some pretty positive praise for the RX 480, which proves AMD still knows what it’s doing with the mid-range market. In a way, this is really where AMD need to thrive. There’s no point in them going toe to toe with Nvidia in the enthusiast market when most of the money is here. And if RX 480 is anything to go by, AMD still has some fight.

Last Updated: June 30, 2016

54 Comments

  1. AMD cards do get better over time with driver updates. My low-end R7 260X can easily play modern games at 1080p on medium settings. DX12 Forza 6: Apex plays well at 1080p/60fps on high!

    Reply

    • Paul

      June 30, 2016 at 15:53

      Yeah you are right, I remember not so long ago I read up about this where they tested a AMD 7970 vs GTX 680 on release and years after, what they found is that the the 680 on release was around 7% faster than the 7970 but after a few years they found the 7970 to be 19% faster than the 680, that’s a swing of around 25%, now we don’t know if that was Nvidia deliberately slowing older gen cards down or that AMD got much better with drivers but a 25% swing is quite big.

      Reply

    • chimera_85

      July 1, 2016 at 15:54

      Really? I can’t get a stable 60fps @ 1080 with a 960.

      Reply

  2. VampyreSquirrel

    June 30, 2016 at 10:16

    Not going to get a new card for a while, got my GTX970, running games at 1080p on maxed settings and very happy. I used to be an AMD (ATI) fan boi, but no longer.

    Reply

    • Kromas GG

      June 30, 2016 at 11:19

      I am not so much an AMD fan boi as I am completely anti-Nvidia with their baseless tactics and scaremongering as well as closed dev system that hurts both devs and gamers as well as reluctance to join open source apis unless forced to like what happened to Vulkan. Nvidia is rotten to the core unfortunately.

      Reply

      • Pariah

        June 30, 2016 at 11:23

        AMD really is no better. Look at how they’re trying to cover up the shit that’s happening with the RX480

        Choose your poison. Nvidia tastes better.

        Reply

        • Kromas GG

          June 30, 2016 at 11:26

          I did not say AMD was clean. I am saying they are cleaner. I would rather play on an intel system than buy an Nvidia system specially since they added a new “you can’t sue me” clause to their driver software. (After they blew up like 10% of their 970 customers cards with shoddy drivers)

          Reply

        • Paul

          June 30, 2016 at 15:59

          In the end, AMD promised a card that can do VR, this card can, it’s also performing a bit faster than the 970 on release drivers, we already know it will get better with more mature drivers, what AMD have done here is a big win for them, performance that will likely get close to 980 once drivers mature, 8GB of vram and all for just slightly over $200, this has far bigger impact than what Nvidia is doing which is selling to a small market and as we know, a month after 1080 was release, stocks are still low, RX480 on the other hand in the UK at less there are lots of stocks, of the 8GB ones anyway.

          Reply

          • Pariah

            June 30, 2016 at 16:03

            Yes, AMD did deliver on what they promised. I cannot fault them for that.

            But they’ve lied about the TDP – it’s more than 150W, tested on both review and retail boards. It also far exceeds the max Power draw allowed from a PCIe slot – which could damage your MB. They’re also trying to cover it up.

            So my point stands. While each have achieved their own successes, they’ve both engaged in dodgy business practices. Nvidia just has better overall tech and a bigger market share.

          • Paul

            July 1, 2016 at 15:48

            From what I saw it was about 130 watts whiles gamers, you sure you are not looking at overclocked ones?, if that’s the case then AMD didn’t lie, have to go off the standard normal clocked ones.

            Nvidia could have some problems because you can hardly get 1070, 1080 cards yet and that’s a month after release, whereas the RX480 are fully in stock, well the 8GB ones anyway, AMD could steal quite a chunk of market share from Nvidia here.

            As for tech, AMD seems to have better tech for future proofing, there was a test done on 680 vs 7970, the 680 was about 7% faster than the 7970, they did the same test a few years later and found the 7970 to be 19% faster, that’s a 25% swinge, now whatever the reason are like if Nvidia deliberately slowed down older generation of drivers or AMD just got much better with drivers, doesn’t matter, also AMD looks a lot more promising with DirectX 12 and likely Vulcan, Nvidia needs to be careful or they could lose quite a chunk of that market share.

      • Raptor Rants

        June 30, 2016 at 11:37

        scaremongering? Examples?

        Reply

        • Kromas GG

          June 30, 2016 at 11:39

          Ah hell. Was a while back about a dev that was forced into getting gameworx. I will try to find the article later.

          Reply

    • ElimiNathan

      June 30, 2016 at 12:12

      This card is R5300 on Evetech at the moment and doesn’t beat the 970 in allot of stuff. So really not worth it

      Reply

  3. Kikmi

    June 30, 2016 at 10:16

    I wouldn’t worry about the 1070 if I were AMD. 1060 tho.

    Reply

    • Geoffrey Tim

      June 30, 2016 at 10:26

      The 1060 VERRRRY MUCH the card to watch right now.

      Reply

      • Ottokie

        June 30, 2016 at 10:40

        It will also have much better tech and driver support.

        Obligatory #TEAMGREEN

        Reply

      • 200380051

        June 30, 2016 at 14:54

        This new FinFET generation is exciting. Much fun to watch unfold.

        Reply

  4. Kromas GG

    June 30, 2016 at 10:17

    I will be getting the AMD enthusiast card just before ME:Andromeda hits to make full use of that sweet sweet Vulkan API.

    Reply

    • Pariah

      June 30, 2016 at 10:18

      Enthusiast AMD is a bit of a misnomer. AMD make mid-range cards.

      Reply

      • Kromas GG

        June 30, 2016 at 11:06

        Tell that to the R9furyX and the x2 and whatever they plan to call the new one.

        Reply

        • Pariah

          June 30, 2016 at 11:09

          They’re not making a new one. AMD have decided not to compete in enthusiast sector any more.

          Reply

          • Kromas GG

            June 30, 2016 at 11:15

            Not sure where you heard that but AMD will be releasing new cards Marked as R947X R949X and unnamed enthusiased. based on the new architexture

          • Pariah

            June 30, 2016 at 11:22

            Where did you hear that? Because every news thing I’ve read about AMD say they’re not going above the 480

          • Kromas GG

            June 30, 2016 at 11:33

            You are correct … for polaris. But Vega is their enthusiast architecture that will use HBM2 and will be the replacement for the Fury line.

            They are keeping details really close to the ground right now but last week or the week before their website got messed up and revealed some card names.

          • Kromas GG

            June 30, 2016 at 11:34

            Hell even this is outdated as they have shipped polaris and have moved on to even newer stuff called navi.

        • Deceased

          June 30, 2016 at 11:15

          Am still insanely happy with my R9FX running games smoothly at Ultra settings on 4K XD
          ( Just need that AM4 now :O )

          Reply

          • Kromas GG

            June 30, 2016 at 11:16

            Indeed. They really run like a dream.

          • Kromas GG

            June 30, 2016 at 11:41

            When it comes to CPU I prefer Intel still.

  5. Ottokie

    June 30, 2016 at 10:24

    All in all it’s not the best but not the worst, so bang for buck it’s great for mid range builds.

    Reply

  6. Spy Master Tokashi

    June 30, 2016 at 10:26

    be careful of the RX 480.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/Amd/comments/4qfwd4/rx480_fails_pcie_specification/

    Does not sound all good and true with the RX 480.

    Reply

    • Pariah

      June 30, 2016 at 10:33

      Wow. This isn’t good news at all.

      Reply

    • Admiral Chief Maximum Effort

      June 30, 2016 at 10:53

      What is the tl;dr version of this?

      Reply

      • Pariah

        June 30, 2016 at 10:55

        AMD made a boo boo that can make your motherboard break. It uses more than 150W of power without overclocking, uses more power from the PCIe slot than what the spec allows for, and can damage lower-end MB’s. Do not overclock.

        Also AMD are trying to cover it up.

        Reply

        • HvR

          June 30, 2016 at 10:58

          Even if you PCI-E setup can handle the over current draw it isn’t speced to do it continously; so year or 2 down the line you MB controller blows or solder joints and caps start popping without reason.

          Reply

          • Admiral Chief Maximum Effort

            June 30, 2016 at 11:09

            Einaaaaaaa

          • Raptor Rants

            June 30, 2016 at 11:09

            Yeah, people often think “Oh because it can handle it now, it’s ok”

            Long term effects on PC equipment is only felt when the critical failure occurs out of nowhere due to strain on the components

          • Kromas GG

            June 30, 2016 at 11:21

            And this is why Seagate > WD.

            I still have a 20gb Seagate drive working like a trooper. I have yet to own a WD for more than a year.

          • Raptor Rants

            June 30, 2016 at 11:35

            Seagate FTW dude. Have a ancient seagate Sata2.0 sitting in my machine that’s still going like a champ

          • Pariah

            June 30, 2016 at 11:36

            The Seagate 3TB HDD’s had a lower lifespan than WD. The 3TB HDD’s failure rate was really high though across all brands.

          • Raptor Rants

            June 30, 2016 at 11:36

            all 3TB were bad. I have a 2TB that won’t die. It’s amazeballs

          • Pariah

            June 30, 2016 at 11:37

            Yeah I need a new HDD soon – my WD is starting to get bad sectors 4 years on.

          • Raptor Rants

            June 30, 2016 at 11:37

            I’m on almost 6. No issues yet. Touch wood

          • Admiral Chief Maximum Effort

            June 30, 2016 at 11:47

            Year 11 here on one of mine, year 8 on the other, year 7 on the other…..probably need consolidation hahaha

        • Admiral Chief Maximum Effort

          June 30, 2016 at 11:09

          Eish

          Reply

          • Spy Master Tokashi

            June 30, 2016 at 11:33

            I feel sorry for all the AMD fanboi’s who used the over hype to troll team green but now I do not see any AMD supporter laughing …

            Hopefully for AMD it is just a firmware fix else it will be a very expensive experience to get all those cards back.

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          June 30, 2016 at 11:58

          Guess the new price performance king requires some King Price insurance!

          Reply

    • Greylingad[He Charges!]

      June 30, 2016 at 11:01

      Pulling that much power on the PCIe slot…ouch…

      Reply

  7. Dane

    June 30, 2016 at 13:53

    SA pricing up to R5.5k. I must say, I’m thoroughly disappointed given the sub $250 retail tag. I got a GTX950 about a year ago, due to finance constraints, for it’s price/performance ratio. I was hoping this would be a mighty fine replacement.

    Reply

  8. Ghost In The Rift

    June 30, 2016 at 21:54

    Ill just hold to my 960 and wait this “war” out but believe me, this RX 480 is very tempting, gotta control my self and wait on that Nvidia smarts with the 1060, so the wait begins.

    Reply

  9. Spy Master Tokashi

    July 1, 2016 at 10:00

    wait wait, they said that the RX 480 is best bang for bucks … well with this PCI crap what the RX480 causes …
    It will definitely bang your MOBO in the PCI and then you have to use some bucks to get a new PC 🙂

    Reply

  10. HairyEwok

    July 4, 2016 at 08:04

    If you purchase 2 of these and crossfire them, you get performance that closely resembles the 1080. That performance at just over half the price of one 1080 is huge.

    Reply

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