The final part of our AMD Radeon RX 480 Hybrid build is complete. We've conducted testing on the RX 480 with liquid cooling, successfully yielding additional overclocking headroom and reducing temperatures. We also ended up hitting 1.15V to the core when overvolting and overclocking, something we talk about more below.

The first part of this AMD RX 480 liquid cooling guide tore-down the video card, the second part built it back up with an Arctic Accelero Hybrid III and liquid cooler, and our new video and article explore the results. The short of it: Liquid cooling an AMD RX 480 significantly improves the temperatures, the noise output, and provides marginal extra overclocking room.

This video is a follow-up to our popular GTX 1080 Hybrid series, if you missed that.

We're putting the AMD RX 480 under water. Our GTX 1080 Hybrid project revealed significant improvements to overclock stability and lowered the 1080's thermals by 100%, an important boost versus the Founders Edition ($700). This endeavor opened our eyes to new means of testing component limits, and makes for a fun DIY project to push new hardware to its absolute peak performance – or make it die trying.

Following our RX 480 endurance and thermal findings, we believe it's possible to improve thermals, reduce overall power consumption (by eliminating the need for a fan spinning at 4000+ RPM), and significantly cut noise output. The overclocked RX 480 was able to sustain its 1340MHz core only because we ran the fan so fast, and by switching to a liquid cooler (powered externally, not by the video card), we'll free-up some power for the core and memory. This will also allow us to reduce overall fan RPMs on our mod's VRM fan, hopefully cutting noise levels to something lower than the ~55-60dB output experienced in our overclocking test. Our overclock, although reasonable, is entirely unbearable because of its high noise output and would be unacceptable for any real-world user or home.

We're fixing that.

Anyone who's already seen our exhaustive RX 480 review & benchmark is likely aware of our new noise testing and fan speed vs. time/frequency plots. The video was embedded in that review, but it's worth discussing in greater depth.

The test is a mix of subjective and objective noise analysis. The decibel testing was conducted prior to getting on camera, with a different setup than is shown, but we moved the bench for demonstration purposes (into the video set). Our noise testing methodology is detailed further below. As for the subjective testing – that's the new part.

Subjective noise analysis of cards is important, as our raw decibel output values do not tell the full story (and we don't presently have a good, data-hardened way to plot frequency spectrum analysis). Two fans that operate at 50dB may have completely different noises. One fan might be high pitch in nature – or maybe it's got a high pitched whine accompanying the normal low-frequency whirring – while another fan is low pitch. Depending on the user, the lower pitch fan (despite being equally loud in dB output) will likely be more bearable than an incessant whine.

And so we've spawned these noise tests. We're mostly looking at the new RX 480 8GB card ($240), but added the GTX 1070 FE while at it.

AMD's RX 480 launch introduces the Polaris architecture to the world, arranging an alliterative architecture assortment from both GPU vendors (Pascal, if you're curious, is the other). This is AMD's answer to the largest market segment, shipping in 4GB and 8GB variants that are priced at $200 and $240, respectively.

During the RX 480 press briefing, AMD strongly defended its stance on maturing and tuning its architectures to extract the maximum possible performance prior to an architectural shift. “We don't have a billion dollars to spend on a single architecture,” said AMD SVP & Chief Architect Raja Koduri, clearly referencing nVidia's boastful Order of 10 unveil. Koduri went on to praise his team for doing an “amazing job with existing products,” but welcomed the arrival of a new 14nm FinFET process node to usurp the long-standing ubiquity of 28nm planar process.

The AMD RX 480 8GB is on the bench for review today. In this RX 480 8GB review, we benchmark framerate (FPS) & frametime performance, overclocking, thermals, clockrate vs. time endurance, fan RPMs, and noise levels.

Just a quick consumer alert.

As many of you know, AMD's new RX 480 is slated to launch on June 29, with the RX 470 and RX 460 soon following. We've already seen some retailers posting the RX 480 at prices nearing $300. Lest these unscrupulous scalpers cash-in on pre-sale pandemonium, we'll avoid linking said sellers.

Here's the deal: AMD's list pricing for the RX 480 is $200 for 4GB, and $230~$250 (ish) for the RX 480 8GB. Unlike the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 launch, both of which have been hamstrung by limited availability of the actual product, AMD's Polaris chips should be flooding the market from the get-go. Polaris is not a limited-yield, limited availability chip. There will be thousands of RX 480 GPUs available for day-one purchase in North America alone.

In a recent story circulating the web, rumors of AMD's (confirmed) deference to AS Media for its Zen chipset design have pointed toward USB3.1 transmission speed degradation issues. The reports indicated a slow-down of USB3.1 speeds as ports are distanced from the chipset, resolvable by motherboard manufacturers with a separate controller for USB3.1. The reports have not presented numbers for the alleged speed degradation; we do not have a clear picture of how heavily – if at all – this rumor impacts USB device speed.

Should USB3.1 transfer speeds truly be impacted this greatly by circuit distance, motherboard manufacturers can opt for inclusion of aftermarket ICs that resolve the issue at increased BOM. There is also still some time prior to mass production and shipping – motherboard manufacturers and AS Media may find a remedy to this reported choke-point by then.

We've hit episode 20 of Ask GN – our video series is almost old enough to drink. The format has matured and the user questions have shaped discussion for months now. To contribute to the next episode of Ask GN, please visit the video page and leave your comment among the YouTube commenters – these are good ones, though; we promise.

This week, our Ask GN discussion moves along from the 1080 & 1080 Ti rumor discussion of past episodes and instead focuses on AMD's new RX 480, 470, 460, and potential higher-end devices (e.g. a “490,” should one exist). The questions, as always, are timestamped below.

AMD today followed-up its Radeon RX 480 Polaris announcement with the unveil of its RX 470 and RX 460 graphics cards. Quickly recapping, the RX 480 will ship with >5TFLOPS of compute performance (depending on pre-OC or other specs) and sells for ~$200 MSRP at 4GB, or more than that for 8GB – we're guessing $230 to $250 for most AIB cards. Now, with the announcement of the RX 470 and RX 460, AMD has opened up the low-end of the market with a new focus on “cool and efficient” graphics solutions. Coming out of the company which used to associate itself with volcanic islands, high-heat reference coolers (remedied with the Fiji series), and high power draw, the Polaris architecture promises a more power/thermal-conscious GPU.

AMD's 14nm FinFET Radeon RX480 was just announced at Computex, using the new Polaris 10 architecture. The AMD Radeon RX480 GPU uses Polaris 10 architecture to deliver >5TFLOPS of Compute for $200, at 150W TDP, and ships in SKUs of 4GB & 8GB GDDR5. We have not confirmed if the 8GB model costs more; the exact language was “RX 480 set to drive premium VR experiences into the hands of millions of consumers, priced from just $199.”

“From,” of course, means “starting at” – so it could be that the 8GB model costs more. Regardless, AMD's firmly entered the mid-range market with its 8GB RX480, landing where the R9 380X and GTX 960 4GB presently rest. (Update: We emailed and confirmed that the 4GB model is $200. The 8GB model is not yet finalized for pricing -- probably $250+).

 

AMD's is rumored to be skipping on the high-end market with Polaris architectures 10 & 11, likely aiming to fill that demand with Vega instead. Vega is on the roadmap for public delivery later in 2016.

AMD was first-to-market with Doom-ready drivers, but exhibited exceptionally poor performance with a few of its cards. The R9 390X was one of those, being outperformed massively (~40%) by the GTX 970, and nearly matched by the GTX 960 at 1080p. If it's not apparent by the price difference between the two, that's unacceptable; the hardware of the R9 390X should effortlessly outperform the GTX 960, a budget-class card, and it just wasn't happening. Shortly after the game launched and AMD posted its initial driver set (16.5.2), a hotfix (16.5.2.1) was released to resolve performance issues on the R9 390 series cards.

We had a moment to re-benchmark DOOM using the latest drivers between our GTX 1080 Hybrid experiment and current travel to Asia. The good news: AMD's R9 390X has improved performance substantially – about 26% in some tests – and seem to be doing better. Other cards were unaffected by this hot fix (though we did test), so don't expect a performance gain out of your 380X, Fury X, or similar non-390-series device.

Note: These charts now include the GTX 1080 and its overclocked performance.

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