XFX Radeon RX 480

PC Advisor - - REVIEWS -

Based on AMD’s lat­est ‘Po­laris’ ar­chi­tec­ture, the Radeon RX 480 is de­signed not just for gen­eral gam­ing, but specif­i­cally to de­liver great VR per­for­mance with­out break­ing the bank. The least ex­pen­sive ver­sions come with 4GB of RAM, but you can also buy one with 8GB.

It’s usual for new graph­ics card tech­nolo­gies to ap­pear first at the high-and en­thu­si­ast end of the price range. But with Po­laris, AMD has taken a dif­fer­ent ap­proach, tar­get­ing first the af­ford­able mid-range sec­tor, where the ma­jor­ity of new graph­ics card sales are made. The RX 480 is de­signed to de­liver high per­for­mance at 1080p and 2560x1440-pixel res­o­lu­tions.

Price

At, £249 from Over­clock­ers UK, the XFX Radeon RX 480 8GB is close to the more af­ford­able end of PC gam­ing, but to­wards the higher end of the price range for a Radeon RX 480. We feel the best value for money is to be had from the less ex­pen­sive 4GB ver­sions of the RX 480. 8GB of RAM doesn’t re­ally add much to the gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at res­o­lu­tions like 1080p and 1440p where the RX 480 per­forms at its best. Nei­ther does this par­tic­u­lar XFX card add much in the way of en­hanced per­for­mance or cool­ing over a ref­er­ence RX 480. So if you can af­ford this 8GB board and you’re not al­ready tied to AMD (per­haps by own­ing a FreeSync mon­i­tor), we would rec­om­mend tak­ing a se­ri­ous look at a GTX 1060 first.

The Radeon RX 480, then, is an un­usual prod­uct in that it’s not pitting AMD’s lat­est tech against the new­est prod­ucts from Nvidia.

Fea­tures

Po­laris uses FinFET tech­nol­ogy to shrink the man­u­fac­tur­ing process from 28- down to 14nm, which al­lows for more densely-packed com­po­nents and re­duced power con­sump­tion over pre­vi­ous de­signs. This is even smaller than the lat­est 16nm de­sign from arch-ri­val, Nvidia, which also uses FinFET tech­nol­ogy.

The new de­sign means in­creases in clock speeds are pos­si­ble, with less heat pro­duced, re­sult­ing in greater ef­fi­ciency and less need for noisy cool­ing fans. It also brings with it sup­port for the lat­est dis­play in­ter­faces, and the XFX Radeon RX 480 8GB comes with 3 Dis­playPort 1.4 con­nec­tors and an HDMI 2.0 port.

The RX 480 sup­ports all of AMD’s ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies, such as FreeSync, Cross­Fire and Eyefin­ity, and adds im­proved sup­port for DirectX 12 as well as asyn­chro­nous pro­cess­ing, which al­lows mul­ti­ple tasks to be com­puted si­mul­ta­ne­ously at dif­fer­ent pri­or­ity lev­els. This gives a boost to DirectX 12 as well as VR.

The XFX Radeon RX 480 8GB sticks pretty much to AMD’s ref­er­ence blue­print, fea­tur­ing a stock cooler sit­ting to­wards one end of a plain rectangular box. This stan­dard cool­ing de­sign isn’t ex­actly noisy, but you’ll cer­tainly no­tice the fan dur­ing gam­ing and much qui­eter cards are avail­able.

There’s noth­ing flashy about XFX’s de­sign, although a full metal back­plate has been added, to pro­tect the card’s com­po­nents and as­sist with cool­ing. This board is also slightly over­clocked from AMD’s ref­er­ence spec, its 2304 stream pro­ces­sors run­ning with a boosted core speed of 1288MHz, up from the 1266MHz stock speed. The mem­ory runs at the stock 8GHz speed, which is, in­ci­den­tally, faster than the stan­dard 7GHz speed pro­vided on the ref­er­ence 4GB mod­els.

Per­for­mance

Per­for­mance-wise, the Radeon RX 480 cer­tainly lives up to its prom­ise of de­liv­er­ing high-end 1080p gam­ing. Frame rates are gen­er­ally quite com­fort­ably over the magic 60fps mark, with even higher frame rates avail­able to FreeSync and high­speed gam­ing mon­i­tors. Step­ping up to 2560x1440 is also fea­si­ble while main­tain­ing smooth gameplay.

Run­ning Thief at 1080p with Ultra qual­ity set­tings re­sulted in per­for­mance never dip­ping be­low 58fps, with an av­er­age frame rate of 81fps. The game was still per­fectly playable in High qual­ity at 1440p, with an av­er­age frame rate of 71fps. For some rea­son, switch­ing the game to Ultra qual­ity con­sis­tently caused the game to crash at this res­o­lu­tion, but step­ping up to 4K was fine at any qual­ity level, although the RX 480 is def­i­nitely run­ning out of steam at this point. The Alien Iso­la­tion bench­mark

re­turned even bet­ter scores right across the board.

AMD prom­ises de­cent VR per­for­mance from the RX 480 and this is largely borne out by our tests. The XFX card re­ceives a ‘High’ qual­ity rat­ing from the Steam VR Per­for­mance test, with an av­er­age qual­ity rat­ing of 6.7.

This is a good per­for­mance level for a graph­ics card at this price point and would be easy to rec­om­mend were it not for the lat­est GTX 1060 boards from Nvidia. The GTX 1060 costs a lit­tle more than an 8GB RX 480, but de­liv­ers no­tice­ably su­pe­rior per­for­mance, de­spite com­ing with only 6GB of mem­ory. It also achieves a su­pe­rior score from the Steam VR Per­for­mance Test, man­ag­ing a ‘Very High’ rat­ing and a qual­ity score of 8.3 points.

Choos­ing be­tween AMD and Nvidia here is go­ing to come down to the pric­ing and per­for­mance of the par­tic­u­lar board you’re look­ing at. Put a highly over­clocked RX 480 up against a highly-priced Nvidia GTX 1060 Founders Edi­tion (page 48) and the RX 480 comes out on top. How­ever, this XFX model comes with only a mod­est over­clock and not much in the way of en­hanced cool­ing or fea­tures, mak­ing the rel­a­tively small jump in price for an GTX 1060 seem like a bet­ter idea.

With only one re­view sam­ple avail­able, we were un­able to test the RX 480 in a twin-card ‘Cross­Fire’ con­fig­u­ra­tion, but other testers show per­for­mance ap­proach­ing that of a sin­gle Nvidia GTX 1070. Even though AMD cards are much eas­ier to set up in Cross­Fire mode than the equiv­a­lent Nvidia con­fig­u­ra­tion, multi-card set­ups are al­ways more com­plex than sin­gle card ones and re­quire spe­cific sup­port from games in order to take ad­van­tage of a sec­ond card ef­fec­tively. Fur­ther­more, to com­pete with a GTX 1070 on price, you would need to opt for two 4GB RX 480s which would leave you with less avail­able mem­ory.

So, we would ad­vise against buy­ing two RX 480s from the get-go, but it’s great to know that a rel­a­tively sim­ple and in­ex­pen­sive up­grade path is there should you need it. You can also feel smug in the knowl­edge that GTX 1060 own­ers won’t be able to do the same, as these cards have no multi-GPU ca­pa­bil­ity at all.

Ver­dict

The XFX Radeon RX 480 8GB is a rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive high­per­for­mance gam­ing card with great frame rates at 1080p. How­ever, its per­for­mance is bet­tered by the Nvidia GTX 1060 and the low­er­priced 4GB ver­sion of the RX 480 will of­fer bet­ter value for money for most gamers. Paul Mon­ck­ton

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