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.
We liked the RX 470 well enough, which, for our site, is certainly considerable praise; we tend to stick just with the numbers and leave most of the decision-making to the reader, but the RX 470 did receive some additional analysis. As we stated in the review, the RX 470 makes good sense as a card priced around $180, but not more than that. That's the key point: Our entire analysis was written on the assumption of a $180 video card, presently fielded only by PowerColor and its Red Devil RX 470. Exceeding the $180 mark on a 4GB 470 immediately invalidates the card, as it enter competition with AMD's own RX 480 4GB model (see: 4GB vs. 8GB VRAM benchmark). Granted, it's still far enough away from the RX 480 8GB & GTX 1060 that the 470 may exist in some isolation. For now, anyway.
But as seems to be the trend with both nVidia and AMD for this generation of graphics cards, the RX 470 has some pricing that at times seems almost silly. Take, for instance, the $220 XFX RX 470 RS Black Edition True OC card: it's $20 more than a 4GB RX 480, it's clocked to where we overclocked on our RX 470, and it will perform about 3-5% slower in AVG FPS than the RX 480 4GB reference card. And let's not start on the seemingly irrelevant $240 8GB RX 470 Nitro+, effectively an RX 480 8GB card (even in clock-rate) with four fewer CUs, fewer TMUs (from 144 to 128), and slower memory – though it does have a better cooling solution, to Sapphire's point.
AMD's RX 470 has been on our time table since May, when the pre-Computex press event informed us of a “mid-July” release. Well, it's mid-July – wait.
August 4th. It's August 4th. The RX 470 is available effective today, coinciding with embargo lift on reviews, and we've had time to thoroughly analyze the card's performance. The RX 470 is a partner card and will not be available as a reference model, though some partner cards may as well be reference models; they're using the reference RX 480 cooler, just with new colors, back-plates, or LEDs.
AMD has positioned its RX 470 in the sub-$200 market, listing its MSRP as $180. AIB partners will price their cards according to any custom coolers or pre-overclocks applied, though the floor has been set, more or less. That plants the 470 in a presently unchallenged market position: AMD's biggest current-gen competition in this price-range is its own RX 480 4GB card, the GTX 1060 being nVidia's lowest tier offering.
Before our deep-dive review on the Sapphire RX 470 Platinum, card architecture, thermal & endurance throttles, power, and FPS, let's run through the specs.
AMD's RX 480 Reference received our recommendation as a go-to for the $200-$300 market, but was immediately challenged by the release of the GTX 1060; the choice isn't so clear now, but both cards have appropriate use cases. Still, as with the Founders Edition card reviews, we recommended that our readers wait until AIB partner models of the RX 480 begin shipping, as the cooling performance will improve clock-rate stability on the Polaris 10 chip.
We finally received one of those AIB partner models. The MSI RX 480 Gaming X uses the Twin Frozr VI cooling solution – described in our Computex exclusive – and ships pre-overclocked to 1303MHz from ~1266MHz. The 8GB card's price should rest at $265, or $15 more than the reference RX 480 8GB ($250), and MSI will also be selling 4GB variants of the Gaming X. Our previous coverage of the RX 480 4GB vs. 8GB will help answer questions as to whether the lower capacity card is worth it.