This week's news announcements include AMD AM4 Zen chipset naming (rumors, technically), NZXT's new RGB LED 'Aer' fans, and a pair of cases from Rosewill and Cooler Master.
AMD's initial AM4 chipset announcement was made at PAX, where the B350, A320, and XBA300 chipsets were announced for mainstream and low-end Gen 7 APUs. The high-end Zen chipset for Summit Ridge was concealed during this announcement, but is now known to be the X370 platform.
X370 will ship alongside the Summit Ridge CPUs and will add to the lanes available for high-speed IO devices, mostly SATA and new generation USB. Most of the IO with the Zen architecture will be piped through the CPU itself, with what remains of the chipset acting more as an IO controller than a full chipset.
The AMD Gen 7 APUs and AM4 platform have officially begun shipment in some OEM systems this weekend, primarily through OEMs at physical retail locations. AMD's launch includes entry-level and mainstream AM4 chipsets, promising the high-end Zen chipset (990FX equivalent) at a later date. AM4 platform shipment begins with the B350, A320, and X/B/A300 chipsets in accompaniment with the A12-9800 and down.
Let's run through the new Gen7 APU finalized specs first, then talk AM4 chipset specs. Note that the new AM4 motherboards are making major moves to unify the FM and AM platforms under AMD's banner, so Zen's FX line equivalent and the Gen7 APUs will both function on the same motherboard. The below table (following the embedded video) provides the specs for the A12-9800, X4 950, and other relevant chips:
We've been working with AMD since our RX 480 & RX 470 reviews to troubleshoot some driver-related screen hangs. In our July notice, we strongly encouraged that our readers on RX 400 series cards avoid the 16.7.3 drivers, following instability and file corruption on one of our test benches. Since then, we've been in correspondence with AMD on the issue, and finally have some good news for folks who've encountered the green / black / blue / yellow screen hangs with AMD drivers.
Despite AMD’s FreeSync arriving later than nVidia’s G-Sync, FreeSync has seen fairly widespread adoption, especially among gaming monitors. The latest monitor – and the 101st – to officially support FreeSync is Lenovo’s Y27f. This also marks the announcement of Lenovo’s first FreeSync monitor.
While Intel's Developer Forum is underway in San Francisco, not far from AMD in Sunnyvale, the x64 creators held a press conference to demonstrate Zen CPU performance. Based strictly on the presentation, AMD shows a 40% IPC (Instructions Per Clock) over Vishera. The demonstration used a 16T processor, the “Summit Ridge” chip that's been discussed a few times, which runs 8 cores with simultaneous multi-threading (SMT) for 16 total threads. For the non-gaming market, CPU codename “Naples” was also present, a 32C/64T Zen server processor in a dual-CPU Windows server.
AMD detailed more of the Zen architecture in an official capacity, commenting on new caching routines and branch prediction, accompanied by the SMT changes that shift AMD away from its modular Bulldozer architecture. AMD made mention of “fanless 2-in-1s” in addition to high-performance CPUs and embedded systems.
We recruited Libor “Buildzoid” Sadilek of Actually Hardcore Overclocking to assist in our latest coverage of AMD's RX 460 GPUs. The full review of the Sapphire RX 460 Nitro is located here, with a tear-down of the card over here. Today, we're focusing on the electrical component quality of the Sapphire RX 460 Nitro VRM, along with PCB quality in general.
The Sapphire RX 460 Nitro uses an overpowered VRM, but the cost of the end product is not necessarily offset by this. We'll see if prices stabilize as stock becomes more prevalent, though. NVidia and AMD have both been selling out of stock in short order with their new architectures.
This coverage is entirely video driven. You can find the video embedded below, but be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel for future “specials” like this one.
Following the Sapphire RX 460 Nitro 4GB graphics card review that we posted, we decided to send the card through a tear-down, as we did with the RX 470, RX 480, GTX 1060, and GTX 1080 (links go to disassembly articles).
The RX 460 Nitro uses a custom PCB and shroud. This is a step away from the reference coolers provided by AMD for the RX 470 and RX 480 cards. The Nitro is easily dismantled, done by removing a handful of rear-side screws to release the shroud & cooler, then four more screws to release the heatsink.
Let's run through some photos and discussion of the PCB. Here's a video of the process, for more perspective:
The theoretical end of AMD's Polaris desktop GPU line has just begun shipment, and that's in the form of the RX 460. Back at the pre-Computex press event, AMD informed us that the Polaris line would primarily consist of two GPUs on the Polaris architecture – Polaris 10 & 11 – and that three cards would ship on this platform. Two of the three have already shipped and been reviewed, including the ~$240 RX 480 8GB cards (review here) and ~$180-$200 RX 470 cards (review here). The next architecture will be Vega, in a position to potentially be the first consumer GPU to use HBM2.
Today, we're looking at Polaris 11 in the RX 460. The review sample received is Sapphire's RX 460 Nitro 4GB card, pre-overclocked to 1250MHz. The RX 460, like the 470, is a “partner card,” which means that no reference model will be sold by AMD for rebrand by its partners. AMD has set the MSRP to $110 for the RX 460, but partners will vary widely depending on VRAM capacity (2GB or 4GB), cooler design, pre-overclocks, and component selection. At time of writing, we did not have a list of AIB partner prices and cards available.
As always, we'll be reviewing the Sapphire RX 460 4GB with extensive thermal testing, FPS testing in Overwatch, DOTA2, GTA V, and more, and overclock testing. Be sure to check page 1 for our new PCB analysis and cooler discussion, alongside the in-depth architecture information.
AMD's fanfare surrounding CrossFire with the RX 480s demanded a test of the configuration, and we decided to run the architecturally similar RX 470s through the same ringer. We only have two RX 470s presently in the lab, and they're not the same card – but we'll talk about how that impacts testing in a moment. The cards used are the Sapphire RX 470 Platinum Edition ($200) and the MSI RX 470 Gaming X, tested mostly in DirectX 11 and OpenGL titles, with some DirectX 12 Explicit Multi-GPU testing toward the end.
The benchmark runs a performance analysis of two CrossFire RX 470s versus a single RX 470, single RX 480, CrossFire RX 480s, and the latest GTX cards (1070, 1060). We're looking at framerate and CrossFire power draw here, with no thermal testing. Read our RX 470 review for in-depth thermal and frequency stability analysis (and overclocking).
We recently posted a news item discussing issues with AMD's 16.7.3 driver update, pushed live a few days ago. Among other problems – mostly instability, crashing, and screen flickering – owners of AMD RX 480 cards noticed a reduction in memory overclock potential on their video cards.
The maximum permissible memory overclock mysteriously changed from 2250MHz to 2050MHz with the new drivers. In our news post and accompanying video, we advised users wait to upgrade drivers (for a number of reasons), and also noted that this 200MHz limit reduction didn't really impact gaming performance in any meaningful way – just the “fun” of overclocking. And so the issue was minor in the face of the driver's more severe crashing/flickering issues, as we saw it, though we did seek an explanation from AMD as to the GPU memory overclock change.