Sapphire RX 470 Platinum Tear-Down: Worse VRM & Cooler, Same Price as 480 4GB

By Published August 04, 2016 at 6:56 pm
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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.

The Radeon series cards aren't alone here: ASUS' $330 GTX 1060 is easily picked on, and is exceptionally questionable in its value as it encroaches on GTX 1070 territory.

But we're focusing on a single card today: The Sapphire RX 470 4GB Platinum Edition.

We reviewed the RX 470 based on this card – the first we received – and didn't receive pricing information until after the review, when we found the card on Newegg. To reiterate, the RX 470 makes sense as a $180 platform, but Sapphire wants $200 for its RX 470 Platinum Edition.

Let's tear into the RX 470 components, PCB, cooler, and memory to see if that's a justifiable demand.

Sapphire RX 470 Platinum Disassembly

sapphire-rx-470-plat-4

The RX 470 disassembles easily. It's got a backplate – arguably a value add – that's mounted to the baseplate (through the PCB) with a handful of screws. Removing the spring-tensioned screws allows separation of the backplate and PCB, and pulling a few more screws from the expansion bracket opens the card.

For reference, here's our look at the reference RX 480 cooler and PCB. There's good reason to link this: The Platinum Edition, as stated in our review, essentially takes an RX 480 reference cooler and shroud and slaps it onto an RX 480 reference PCB, then changes the memory modules and GPU.

That results in this:

rx-470-sapphire-teardown-1

rx-470-sapphire-teardown-4

rx-470-sapphire-teardown-2

For comparison, here is the Reference RX 480 explosion:

amd-rx-480-teardown-3

There is only one difference in the cooling solution: The RX 470 Platinum Edition eliminates the circular copper coldplate (which instantly terminated into an aluminum heatsink), but is otherwise the same.

Looking at the PCB, we can tell it's clearly the RX 480 reference board. The VRM has been cut-down to a four-phase power design (notice that two inductors have been removed) as a cost-saving measure. The next most obvious item is the VRAM: On this Platinum Edition card, there are eight VRAM modules of SK Hynix make, model #H5GC4H24AJR. For the curious, this is not a card that could be “unlocked” to 8GB, as we did with the RX 480. The *AJR chips are 4Gb modules, so each set of two modules comprises 1GB of GDDR5 VRAM clocked at 1750MHz, or 7Gbps (1750MHz * 2 [DDR] * 2 [GDDR5] = 7000MHz).

rx-470-sapphire-teardown-3

These are slower chips than found on the RX 480, which uses Samsung's *-HC25 8Gb modules at 2000MHz (8Gbps). For the same price as an RX 480 4GB card, you could have a cooler that is effectively identical (copper removed), slower VRAM, and a weaker VRM.

The value argument is just not there. Sapphire might argue that this card comes “pre-overclocked,” but that pre-OC is approximately 10MHz when all is said and done. 1216MHz is the max push of this card, with the AMD specification sheet suggesting a 1206MHz minimum boost on RX 470 cards. 10MHz offers no value. Zero. There is nothing gained from that overclock that would ever be detected by a user; in fact, our Page 3 – Thermal Endurance results show that the clock can't remain stable >1200MHz, anyway:

rx-470-endurance-freq 

We stand by our original statement that the RX 470 is presently a good buy at $180, and we also stand by the statement that the ~$200+ cards immediately lose value to AMD's own RX 480. The $240 cards are ridiculous, and their existence should be ignored. That said, Sapphire's Platinum Edition card, now that we know the price, is not good value.

Editorial: Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke
Video Production: Andrew “ColossalCake” Coleman

Last modified on August 04, 2016 at 6:56 pm
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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